Kenworth’s Chillicothe plant begins $140M high-tech expansion

New facility will increase paint capacity by 50% and include state-of-the-art robotics.

CHILLICOTHE, OH – Kenworth Truck Company celebrated the start of construction on a state-of-the-art $140 million, 120,000 square-foot paint facility addition to its Class 8 truck assembly plant with a ceremonial groundbreaking here in southern Ohio.

The new, environmentally friendly facility is expected to open in 2021, beside the current plant. The expansion increase by 25% the current 502,000 square-foot plant, which is on a 120-acre site an hour south of Columbus.

“When ready, this facility will be the most modern truck-based facility around the world,” said Harrie Schippers, PACCAR president and CFO. “It will have all the latest technology, all the best practices incorporated.”

The facility will use those technologies to increase paint capacity by 50%, while also enhancing the plant’s industry-leading product quality, and award-winning environmental stewardship programs. Advanced technologies integrated into the new facility include state-of-the-art robotic paint application systems and the latest in emissions control systems.

“The Chillicothe operation is the foundation of, certainly, Kenworth’s manufacturing. Seventy percent of Kenworth’s overall production is based out of this facility -- and that’s when you consider heavy- and medium-duty,” Mike Dozier, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice president, said during a press conference held after the ceremony. “

Complementing the investment in the new Chillicothe paint facility, and scheduled for completion this summer, is the installation of a new $33 million robotic cab assembly cell. The cell will occupy 40,000 square feet on the existing production floor and will support the continued market share growth of Kenworth’s innovative T680, T880, and W990 models.

“Our investment in this outstanding new facility highlights Kenworth’s focus on leveraging technology to continually enhance the quality of the products we provide our customers, while also reinforcing Kenworth’s commitment to the production of industry-leading Class 8 trucks by the more than 2,000 outstanding employees at our Chillicothe plant,” Dozier said before the groundbreaking.

Along with Dozier and Schippers, the ceremony held beside where work has already began on the foundation of the new facility, featured Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), as well as Judy McTigue, Kenworth assistant general manager of operations; and Rod Spencer, Kenworth Chillicothe plant manager. Federal, state, county and local officials from Ohio also participated in the groundbreaking.

Earlier this year, the Kenworth Chillicothe assembly plant received a 2019 Manufacturing Leadership Award from the Manufacturing Leadership Council of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The award recognized the Chillicothe team’s development of innovative material handling systems that protect paint quality throughout the assembly process.

The plant also earned the 2018 Encouraging Environmental Excellence “E3” Gold Award from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The award recognizes businesses, nonprofits and government agencies in Ohio that demonstrate the commitment to exceed regulatory compliance and deliver exceptional achievements in environmental stewardship.

Kenworth’s plants in Chillicothe and Renton, WA, hold the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001:2015 certification for effective environmental management systems established to help build Class 8 trucks in an environmentally sustainable manner. Kenworth’s medium-duty trucks are produced at the PACCAR Ste. Thérèse, Quebec, assembly facility, which also achieved ISO 14001:2015 certification.

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