The first Volvo excavator to be built at the Volvo Construction Equipment manufacturing facility in Asheville, N.C., rolled off the production line Nov. 9.
The rollout event in Asheville was attended by several hundred city, county, state and Congressional officials, private industry executives, company management, dealers, customers and personnel and members of the Swedish embassy from Washington, D.C. It also marked the initial unveiling of the results of a $25 million to $56 million investment dedicated over the next several years to the expansion of the company’s fabrication and assembly capabilities to meet growing requirements in the excavator market in North America.
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) announced in June 2006 that it would make a significant investment in the Asheville plant expansion and more than double its number of employees to meet the growth of its construction equipment market. The expansion of the plant and its manufacturing capabilities was made possible in part by grants and incentives from the state of North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Community College System, N. C. Department of Transportation, Buncombe County, the city of Asheville, the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe and Advantage West.
Dave Million, vice president of Volvo Construction Equipment and the plant’s general manager, paid tribute to the organizations that made the continuing development of the manufacturing complex possible. Million credited the support of the state, county and city government agencies with the decision to expand the company’s Asheville construction equipment operation. The new production program will add between 250 and 300 new employees at the company.
The Asheville plant, a 400,000 sq. ft. facility, is now building four of Volvo’s 11 excavator models — the Volvo EC160C, Volvo EC210C, Volvo EC330C and the Volvo EC360C. A Volvo EC160C hydraulic excavator was the first machine off the production line on Nov. 9.
The company will continue to produce five models of the 10-model Volvo wheel loader product line and also has begun production of excavator and wheel loader cabs.
Initial deliveries of the excavators will be made to markets in the United States and Canada.
Since the beginning of Volvo’s development of its excavator line in 1998, the company has established major production and delivery operations in key markets around the world, first in Korea and China, then Germany and now North America. Production of excavators by Volvo CE has more than doubled during the ensuing nine years, demonstrating the company’s increasing strength in the market and, with the addition of the new manufacturing operation in Asheville, its commitment of long-term dedication of service to its customers.
Volvo officials said Asheville will give customers and dealers several advantages in the marketplace. These include shorter product delivery lead time and greater customization flexibility. Company officials have estimated that delivery time of these machines can be reduced by as much as 50 percent from present-day schedules.
Denny Slagle, president and CEO of Volvo Construction Equipment North America, the Volvo CE sales, marketing and customer support company for North America, said at the product launch that, “today is very special to us as we begin the delivery to market of our fastest growing product line and demonstrate to our customers our dedication and commitment of manufacturing excellence. And it also shows to our community our faith in hardworking, well-trained workers who can produce Volvo equipment.”
Volvo CE’s history of building construction equipment in Asheville goes back to the late 1970s, when Clark Equipment, which began building for the construction industry there in 1977, and Volvo CE merged to form VME in 1987. Volvo CE acquired the Clark interest and the company was re-named Volvo Construction Equipment in 1995.
Close proximity to major shipping routes has simplified distribution and streamlined the supply chain for the production process.
In October, the manufacturing facility in Asheville was awarded the North Carolina Shingo Silver Prize for Manufacturing Excellence. The Shingo Prize is named for the Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo, who helped create many aspects of the revolutionary manufacturing practices of the Toyota Production System. It is given to organizations that have positive improvements trends in their business functions. The award was given to Volvo Construction Equipment for its continuous improvement in total cost reduction and quality practices.