CHILLICOTHE, OH. Kenworth's nearly 500,000 sq. ft. assembly plant in Chillicothe, OH, expects to complete a major, technology-rich expansion in November. The "building on top of our building," as Plant Manager Judy McTigue referred to it, "speaks to our industrial engineers' ingenuity," and editors got a chance to see why on Wednesday.
The addition will be a fully automated area for storing parts like cabs and painted panels, for instance, which now have to be stored in limited available space at the plant or outside at certain stages. With southern Ohio's weather, that's often "a real challenge," McTigue said.
Inside the plant, two separate elevator systems will bring parts up for storage or down as they're needed for assembly. It'll all be done by robotics and computers in a sending-requisitioning inventory system, according to McTigue, representing a significant efficiency improvement vs. current processes.
The addition to the Kenworth plant is
slated for completion in November.
It's a $17 million project for the plant, and "we're excited about the investment," she noted. While a release from the company states the new facilities add 25,000 sq. ft. to the plant, McTigue told Fleet Owner it's considerably more than that, especially since the addition is three stories high.
"We'll be twice as tall as we are today," she said. Meanwhile, she added, the facilities expansion had to be planned and executed "while we continue to produce on both shifts." This has been a big year for the plant, which just rolled its 500,000th Kenworth off the line three months ago.
On that note, as a good indicator for Class 8 sales, the Chillicothe plant is now churning out 80 trucks on the day shift and 48 every night, according to McTigue. So it's a slightly dialed-down — but still high — production rate following market demand, and the company "did a good job feathering it down," she said, from 2015's higher production levels.