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New Freightliner plant opens in Mexico

During One of the worst economic crises to hit North America, one truck builder has delivered a strong vote of confidence in the future of the trucking industry. Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has opened a new $300 million Freightliner plant in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico - about 320 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas.

The 1.3 million-sq-ft factory uses advanced lean manufacturing processes and techniques that incorporate continuous evaluation and improvement — along with best practices from other Daimler Trucks facilities around the world.

Lean manufacturing is a production system that focuses on achieving more with less resource by the continuous elimination of waste.

“Saltillo will be a showcase for our Global Excellence program,” said Andreas Renschler, head of Daimler Trucks and board member of parent Daimler AG, and serve as an “industry model for modern-day truck production worldwide. From Saltillo, we will not just export excellent trucks, but also the experience and expertise we've gained here.”

Located in northern Mexico, the Saltillo plant will produce up to 30,000 Freightliner Cascadia heavy-duty Class 8 trucks annually, for sale in the US, Canadian, and Mexican markets. The Cascadia will be introduced to the domestic market in Mexico in late 2009.

With the new factory, DTNA now has two heavy truck factories in Mexico. The other, in Santiago Tianguistenco near Mexico City, produces Freightliner-branded heavy- and medium-duty trucks for domestic Mexico sales, as well as for export to Latin America, the US and Canada. Western Star will join the product mix at the plant by July 2010.

Built on a 740-acre site that includes a test track, the Saltillo plant is expected to employ 1,414 plant workers and 186 management and support personnel, and to generate 1,100 jobs with local suppliers.

New yardsticks

Saltillo will set benchmark standards for the Daimler Trucks manufacturing facilities worldwide, said Mark Hernandez, plant manager. Lean operations at Saltillo are focused on getting it right the first time, and nowhere is that more evident than in the plant's goal of perfect first-time quality.

“Problems are solved within assembly stations, not sent down the line,” Hernandez said. “If a problem can't be solved, the line is stopped until the issue has been resolved.”

At the core of the plant's quality production is Daimler's Truck Operating System (TOS), which contributes to both operational and everyday excellence, and applies to every step on the production line. The system empowers each person at each workstation and provides an avenue for continuous feedback so the production process is always improving.

“The result is a culture at Saltillo that focuses on the problem and looks for ways to improve the TOS process while recognizing the value of employee initiative and insights,” Chris Patterson, said DTNA president and CEO. “The Saltillo employee is the DTNA employee of the future.”

The plant also reflects DTNA's focus on the environment, including a commitment to recycle 90% of all materials and a zero-waste/zero-landfill policy.

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