GM upgrade ongoing, on schedule

April 13th, 2016

News Coverage:

April 13, 2016

GM upgrade ongoing, on schedule

Sherry Slater | Journal Gazette

Steve Andreen’s priority is ensuring that construction at GM’s Allen County assembly plant doesn’t interfere with pickup truck production.

On Tuesday morning, General Motors’ manufacturing engineering manager had an added responsibility: Ensuring that visiting economic development officials didn’t interfere with either construction or production.

Hundreds of construction workers were on site Tuesday, part of the crew needed for GM’s $1.2 billion investment in the plant, which was announced in May 2015. GM officials described it as one of the biggest investments the Detroit-based automaker has ever made.

Construction began the following month on a new paint shop and expanded body shop. Work is on schedule and on budget, Andreen said as he led a tour through the 420,000-square-foot facility that will be used to apply pre-treating, sealing and sound proofing to new trucks before they enter the paint shop.

The project is expected to take about four years to complete. New equipment will include updated technology for vehicle pretreatment and painting. Various upgrades, including the air-handling system, will be more energy-efficient, Andreen said.

The ongoing assembly operation employs about 4,000 hourly and salaried workers who build about 1,475 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups each day in three shifts.

Hundreds of short-term construction jobs are being created, but no long-term jobs are expected to be created as part of the current project.

Shaun Pontsler, a GM facility engineer, said workers inside the cavernous new pre-treating and sealing building sweep and scrub the concrete floors routinely to reduce the chances of someone slipping and falling on the job.

Ashley Alexander, a GM construction coordinator, said keeping the space free of dust from the beginning helps minimize dirt in the air that could someday mix with treatments applied to truck cabs and beds.

Stephanie Jentgen, GM’s local spokeswoman, noted that pickup truck buyers have different expectations for the vehicles now than a decade or two ago, when utility was their biggest concern.

“Now they want them to be quiet,” she said, “with all the bells and whistles and infotainment.”