CHATHAM, ONTARIO. International Truck and Engine Corp. highlighted for the media the massive changes the upcoming launch of its ProStar flagship tractor has brought to its Chatham Assembly Plant (CAP) here yesterday.
The aerodynamic Class 8 will debut early next year as an '07 model and is now being put through its pre-production paces at CAP. The plant will continue to assemble other International heavy-duty models, which will all benefit from the $270-million "transformation" of CAP put in place to help bring the ProStar to market as a best-in-class entry, according to Tom Baughman, vp & gm of International's Heavy Truck Group.
"We expect a flawless launch [of ProStar in January] because we have developed a truly great product using a great process to ensure we understand and deliver on our customers' buying motivations," said Baughman. "As the International ProStar represents a new standard for linehaul tractors, the Chatham plant represents the new standard for manufacturing heavy trucks."
Five years in development, the ProStar is online and in production runs with the OEM planning a "final quality review" soon to ensure the scheduled January launch.
Baughman pointed out that helping meet that schedule is the extensive modernization of the Chatham plant, including a complete reconfiguration of the assembly line.
International's Chatham investment includes new technology, state-of-the-art equipment, an R&D facility and advanced employee training at the plant, where the workforce is comprised of about 1,700 members of the Canadian Auto Workers union.
According to Baughman, the reconfigured assembly line accommodates the ProStar's more modular production process. He noted that modules for the battery box/air tank, fuel tank module, pre-assembled and pre-painted chassis skirts and bottom-hinged, pre-assembled bumpers are aspects of the new process design that improves line throughput and efficiencies.
The plant improvements include a new chassis spray paint booth designed to improve paint coverage while reducing paint usage and making environmental improvements. In addition, International has been working with ergonomic experts to identify and make assembly-line jobs "as productive, quality-conducive and ergonomically efficient as possible."
According to Baughman, CAP will "establish a workplace model for manufacturing long-haul and other trucks. All models built here will benefit from the ProStar's plant development process. He noted that International's product strategy calls for "rolling out ProStar and then launching derivatives [of that model] as well as our MaxxForce engine line."