The sprawling 164-acre plant off Route 100 is where every Mack truck built for the North American market gets its start on the cab and vehicle assembly line. The renovation project, dubbed “Reborn,” began with an initial initiative in August 2015 and was completed this past September.
The company’s vision through the project was to revitalize the facility’s infrastructure, equipment, systems and processes to create a more modernized “lean manufacturing environment,” Christopher Heffner, company spokesman, told lehighvalleylive.com.
Lean manufacturing has its roots in the Toyota Production System, developed by Toyota in the 1930s but the “lean manufacturing” term wasn’t coined until the 1990s. The basic concept, Heffner said, is to reduce waste from the manufacturing process.
“It is a never-ending process of continuous improvement,” he described.
Heffner noted there are various concepts, tools and techniques applied in “lean manufacturing,” such as pull systems, value stream mapping, fishbone factory layouts, visualization, and just-in-time inventory. Manufacturing waste can run the gamut from extra motion and excess inventory to underutilized talent, rework and overproduction.
The project was necessary to achieve these goals, Heffner said, noting the plant dates back to a 1975 opening. It included thousands of upgrades to the plant’s manufacturing operations, including a 300,000 square-foot expansion of the now 1-million-square-foot facility.
The expansion allowed for the improvement of material handling and flow; installation of new equipment and tooling; implementation of new manufacturing IT systems; and construction of a new audit building equipped with stalls and compressed natural gas test pads for quality checks on completed vehicles.
The site additionally added a new 20,000 square-foot building, which will become a Customer Adaptation Center.
That center will allow customers to add additional features and equipment to trucks that cannot be installed on the vehicle assembly line, as well as supports the production of the company’s Mack LR Electric model. The Mack LR Electric refuse model will be equipped with what the company calls a fully electric integrated Mack drivetrain. Orders for the LR Electric will open in the fourth quarter of 2020, with deliveries beginning in 2021.
There’s also a new lobby and welcome center, as well as a refreshed Mack Shop merchandise store, more modern cafeteria and upgraded office spaces. The employee cafeteria, where Mack held its town hall meetings prior to the coronavirus pandemic, was finished in January 2019, Heffner said.
The amount of restrooms was doubled, the parking lot was extended, and a logistics building also was added. The entire facility received a fresh coat of paint and new lighting fixtures.
Martin Weissburg, president of Mack Trucks, said the investment in the plant, its people and new processes will allow the company to continue delivering on Mack’s “legendary durability through integrated, modern manufacturing.”
A major component of the project, he said, was the insourcing of complete chassis assembly to better manage and streamline the manufacturing process. Adopting the “lean manufacturing principles” supported the Lehigh Valley Operations’ leadership’s goals of increased productivity and consistent product quality, as well as safety for the entire team in all areas of the facility, Weissburg added.
Rickard Lundberg, vice president and general manager of Lehigh Valley Operations and leader in the renovation, said the project allowed the openness for employees to learn together and embrace the “lean manufacturing” approach.
“Without the great people who are part of the LVO team, we could not have created this culture, this spirit of Mack Trucks that is reflected in each vehicle that rolls off the assembly line,” he said.
Mack Trucks has provided purpose-built transportation solutions for more than a century. The company is part of the Sweden-based Volvo Group, which helps to drive prosperity through transport solutions by offering trucks, buses, construction equipment, power solutions for marine and industrial applications, financing and services that increase customer uptime and productivity. The Volvo Group employs 104,000 people and serves customers in more than 190 markets. The company’s net sales last year amounted to about $45.7 billion.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at [email protected].