Haslam Tours MAHLE

From left, Tom Weaver, Director of Automotive Production at MAHLE, leads Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and  Iliff McMahan Jr., regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development on a plant tour Thursday.

From left, Tom Weaver, Director of Automotive Production at MAHLE, leads Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Iliff McMahan Jr., regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development on a plant tour Thursday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam reviewed MAHLE’s expanded facilities and their further plans for expansion in Morristown Thursday. The $156 million expansion will bring roughly 100 jobs between now and 2018, company officials say.

The governor viewed MAHLE’S new processes, the expanded facility and learned how new MAHLE parts will help auto manufacturers reach impending higher fuel mileage requirements.

“MAHLE is important to us for a couple of reasons,” Haslam said. “One is they’re a large employer in Morristown and Hamblen County and are really important to Tennessee. And second, they a proven track record of growing.”

MAHLE, which came to Morristown in 1977, was at the forefront of a movement that has grown over the ensuing three decades that saw auto manufacturers and suppliers turning to Tennessee to locate their facilities.

“I think maybe the critical reason we’re here, automotive manufacturing and all the components of it have become increasingly important to Tennessee. We’ve become one of the leading automotive manufacturing states in the country,” Haslam said. “You think about the Volkswagens, the Nissans, the General Motors, but all of the suppliers to those companies are just as, if not more, important to our employment growth; these guys are a great example of that. We’re proud to have them as our partners.”

Haslam was joined by local and state representatives and members of Haslam’s regional economic team prior to his appearance at the Sullivan County Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner.

Roland Zitt, president of MAHLE Industries, Inc., told the governor that when MAHLE needs leading technology produced for the U.S. markets, the company relies on Morristown.

“This new product is one where there are two locations in the MAHLE world; this is the second where it will be produced. It’s high tech, high risk and this location was chosen as the one who can do it. I think that says it all in a nutshell,” Zitt said. “If there are new products coming on board for the United States, they typically will start out here. … This is the lead technology center.”

The product itself is state of the art technology designed to help auto manufacturers improve fuel economy.

Jim Sexton, senior director/plant manager explained the broad details to the group.

“”It’s a lighter weight camshaft where you actually assemble the components onto the tube,” Sexton said. “And that’s roughly 40 percent lighter than a traditional cam.”

“The reason the industry is going to this is fuel economy. You’ve heard about the push for 2025, the 54.3 miles per gallon,” he said. “Well, this is going to help some of those manufacturers get there because it’s lighter weight and lighter weight means more fuel economy.”

The camshaft production will account for roughly half of the space of the expanded facility with two production lines. The cost of each line is between $13 million and $15 million.

Also in the same building MAHLE will be adding a mono-weld process which is for heavy duty, Class A trucks as well as earth movers.

“It’s actually a two-piece steel forging that we bring together to actually weld them together,” Sexton said.

Haslam and the group also toured the main plant, observing production in progress and toured the MAHLE training facilities as well where company leaders advocated for higher education standards (see sidebar).

“We very much appreciate them being advocate for higher standards in our schools,” Haslam said. “It helps to have somebody who is directly involved in producing high quality products to be advocating for us out there.”

-By John Gullion, Tribune Managing Editor

Posted on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm