NORMAN, OK— The Johnson Controls commercial HVAC fabrication and assembly plant launched in 1972 under the Westinghouse name. Johnson manufactures systems for various facilities, from retail stores and fast food restaurants to large industrial facilities. In 50 years, Johnson Controls in Norman has grown from 50 employees to more than 1,100, and management intends to add 300 jobs over the next year.
Since the early '70s, the plant's been in a constant state of growth. Perhaps the most significant upgrade came in 2019 when the plant nearly doubled its size. By expanding from 500,000 to 900,000 square feet, Johnson became the flagship location for industry research, manufacturing, and testing of rooftop HVAC units. The plant conducts performance and safety testing of 150-ton units in temperatures ranging from sub-zero to 130 degrees.
In April, Johnson Controls invested $7.5 million into automation technology at the plant. Doug Schuster, facility vice president and general manager said the addition of a metal fabrication area made it possible to ramp up capacity ahead of a forecasted increase in demand for commercial HVAC systems coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Equipment upgrades included automated press brake machines – robots that bend metal – and laser and turret machines.
ASSEMBLY Magazine spoke with Schuster in June 2022 for "A View Inside JCI's Assembly Plants in Wichita, KS, and Norman, OK." Listen to ASSEMBLY Audible's 20-minute podcast with Schuster for an additional resource.
Schuster described the Norman facility as the center of the commercial production universe for Johnson Controls. He said heat pump technology is evolving as much of the planet looks to reduce carbon emissions. He said a recent focus at the Norman plant has been researching and developing systems.
In 2025, Schuster said they will launch a new product that reduces global warming potential using alternative refrigerants. The immediate future will hold more employment opportunities as Johnson Controls aims to increase production volume by 50% in the next year.
"We're going to be hiring about 30 to 35% more people than we have now," Wachter said. Coming out of the pandemic, Schuster said they saw an "enormous" number of orders as schools received money to improve airflow in buildings. "It was an interesting process but something we felt really good about," he said.
Johnson Controls has produced around 60,000 units this year. They look to make 83,000 in 2023. At a 50-year celebration for the company, Scott Martin, president, and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said Johnson Controls has contributed considerably to the local workforce and has a heart for the community. "We pause today just to celebrate their first 50 years, but really look forward to the next 50 as Johnson Controls continues to set the standard," Martin said.