Just more than three years after it began operations in Franklin, German-owned Fritz Winter North America is adding a third shift and about 50 jobs to its manufacturing plant in the Wilkey North Industrial Park.

The 340,000-square-foot plant, which now operates two shifts and has a workforce of about 280, opened in June 2017, making disc brake rotors for the automotive industry.

Darryl Konsler, chief executive of Fritz Winter North America, said taking the plant to a 24-hour operation on weekdays is a response to growing demand for its products even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite COVID-19, we’re doing well,” Konsler said. “Some of our customers were slightly down in the beginning (of the pandemic), but we now have new work coming in.”

Konsler said the Franklin plant’s biggest customers are the Daimler AG plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that makes Mercedes-Benz automobiles and the BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

The Franklin plant is also a supplier for brake pad manufacturer Akebono and ConMet, which makes products for the commercial vehicle industry.

With business growing, Konsler said it was time to add the third shift and increase the plant’s capacity.

He said Fritz Winter isn’t expanding the plant itself, but he said the company has preliminary plans to do that in the future.

The German company invested $110 million to build the plant in 2016 for a 2017 opening. At that time, Fritz Winter executives said a planned expansion could bring the total investment to $194 million and employment to as much as 300.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in December 2015 approved Fritz Winter for tax incentives up to $5 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.

Additionally, KEDFA approved Fritz Winter for up to $690,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

Gary Broady, chairman of the Franklin-Simpson Industrial Authority, welcomed the boost in employment.

“This is great news for our community,” Broady said in a news release. “Fritz Winter is one of our premier industries. We’re very excited about the additional jobs they are bringing to the area.”

Konsler said the addition of a third shift will create “a pretty good variety of manufacturing jobs and some support staff.”

The Indeed.com employment website has a number of listings for job openings at the Franklin Fritz Winter plant, with pay starting at $16.50 per hour.

Founded in Stadtallendorf, Germany, in 1951, Fritz Winter is a world market leader in the production of cast iron engine blocks and heads, brake rotors and drums, flywheels and hydraulic housings. It serves the international car and truck industry and specializes in lightweight and material-specific design. The family-owned company began exporting to the U.S. in 1966 and currently employs 3,700 people worldwide.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.