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Wind Turbine Production: Lessons from Across the Pond

  Government incentives such as tax breaks and grants, the decline of commodity-based manufacturing and a general push toward large parts that require considerable machining expertise are just a few of the factors that might make the wind energy sector attractive to U.S. manufacturers.

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Government incentives such as tax breaks and grants, the decline of commodity-based manufacturing and a general push toward large parts that require considerable machining expertise are just a few of the factors that might make the wind energy sector attractive to U.S. manufacturers. However, competition for this work is fierce—and global. For U.S. manufacturers seeking to be competitive, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few lessons from counterparts across the pond. 

Lakber, based near Pamplona in northern Spain, is a good place to start. The company was founded in 2008 by an iron casting firm that was asked by its OEM customers to take on more aspects of the production process for turbine hub and frame components. Despite having zero experience in machining, Lakber has risen to become one of Spain’s success stories in the wind power arena in only two short years. 

The company’s story, outlined here, brings to mind a few larger points. First, providing turnkey production of wind energy components can enable more flexibility to respond to customer demands, reduce transportation and other costs, improve reliability and shorten delivery times. Second, the company’s experience emphasizes the considerable role suppliers can play beyond just providing equipment, especially for companies moving into new types of work. In fact, without leveraging the expertise of boring mill manufacturer Soraluce, it’s probably safe to say that Lakber would never have gotten off the ground.  

Lakber represents a model that could—and perhaps should—be replicated in the United States. Do you think the company’s turnkey model would be viable in this country? What additional incentives could we take to encourage the type of significant investment required to start an operation like this? Remember, part of Lakber’s success was due to its relationship with Soraluce. What experiences have you had with machine tool builders that have helped you beyond just obtaining and servicing equipment?