Hagerstown gets a facelift

Now that the $150-million makeover of AB Volvo's Hagerstown, MD, engine plant has been completed, it is gearing up to add full domestic production of the D-11, D-13, and D-16 engines for Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA). The facility has been manufacturing engines for Mack Trucks, VTNA's sister company, since 1961. Sten-Ake Aronsson, senior vp for Volvo Powertrain North America, understands that

Now that the $150-million makeover of AB Volvo's Hagerstown, MD, engine plant has been completed, it is gearing up to add full domestic production of the D-11, D-13, and D-16 engines for Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA). The facility has been manufacturing engines for Mack Trucks, VTNA's sister company, since 1961.

Sten-Ake Aronsson, senior vp for Volvo Powertrain North America, understands that fleets may wonder about the similarity between the Volvo and Mack branded engines produced in Hagerstown. “The truth is those two engine brands share a lot of components — engine blocks, crankshaft, pistons, etc.,” he explained during a press tour last month to show off the refurbished plant. “We don't split the [production] line into Mack and Volvo engines until late in the process.”

One particularly notable change is that robotic automated guide vehicles (AGVs) are replacing the traditional production line setup. Roger Johnston, Volvo's vp-manufacturing, explained that AGVs are programmed with all the details of the engine they are going to carry down the line, displaying each unit's specific characteristic on a computer screen and thus eliminating the need for paper instructions.

Johnston noted that since AGVs can rotate the engines completely, line workers don't have to bend over to work on the undersides. Special electronic guideposts installed on the plant's walls direct the AGVs where to go, with an accuracy of plus or minus two millimeters.

Johnston said that based on a two-shift operation, the plant can build 63,000 D-11 and D-13 engines per year on the new production line, with annual capacity of 23,000 for its big D-16 model.

In terms of the end users, however, Aronsson is convinced they don't really care how truck engines are built, whether they share similar components, or where those components come from.

“Fleet owners want an engine that provides good durability and reliability, with long service intervals and excellent fuel economy,” Aronsson said.

The other key is application. “What they want to know is if the torque outputs and horsepower ratings match the needs of the job they expect their trucks to perform,” he said.

While the green-painted Volvo engines will be built at the same Hagerstown factory, on the same line, by the same 1,770 UAW employees as their red-painted Mack brethren, it's the results those engines provide that should ultimately matter to the trucking market, according to Aronsson.

“It's about delivering the right engine,” he said. “A highway engine is going to need far less low-end torque than a unit destined for a refuse truck. Conversely, it needs more torque on the high end to sustain highway speeds at the most fuel economic level, somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400 rpms.”

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