ArvinMeritor opens steer axle, gear plant in Monterrey

Sept. 1, 2008
Two Years passed since my last visit to Monterrey, Nuevo Len, and this Mexico city definitely had changed. An incredible amount of business development

Two Years passed since my last visit to Monterrey, Nuevo León, and this Mexico city definitely had changed. An incredible amount of business development occurred during that 24-month period.

New factories, warehouses, truck terminals, commercial equipment dealerships, hotels, and a multitude of retail operations line the roads from the airport to the heart of Monterrey and radiate out in all directions. New construction is proceeding at a dizzying rate.

ArvinMeritor Inc is putting the finishing touches on one of the newest factories to open in the Monterrey area. The truck component maker dedicated its new $30-million manufacturing facility in Ciénega de Flores (north of Monterrey) during a formal ceremony on August 26.

Carsten Reinhardt, ArvinMeritor president, Commercial Vehicle Systems (CVS), told the 100-plus guests at the ceremony that the new plant is a milestone for ArvinMeritor. He said the company has built what it believes is the most modern truck component plant in the world, and ArvinMeritor plans further investments in the facility.

“We are making a significant investment in our production capacity and our capabilities to support our customers' needs,” Reinhardt said. “We have designed this facility — the first, all-new commercial axle manufacturing plant in 19 years — with a variety of breakthrough technologies, that will help establish ArvinMeritor with a world-class capability in gear-cutting and axle assembly. It will also provide a competitive edge by increasing our production capacity, enhancing the quality performance, and giving us greater flexibility in the manufacturing processes.”

Special guests participating in the dedication ceremony included Alejandro Paez Aragon, Secretary of Economic Development for the State of Nuevo Leon; Miguel Angel Quiroga García, Mayor, Ciénega de Flores; and Bruce Williamson, US Consul General in Nuevo Leon.

Paez pointed out that more than six Mexico states vied for the plant, and that the competition was tough. “We believe Nuevo Leon was chosen because we are growth-oriented,” he said. “Nuevo Leon is growing 50% faster than the rest of Mexico, and it provides this nation with 70% of its manufactured goods. This state is truly a magnet for investment. We want the new ArvinMeritor plant to be productive and successful.”

Quiroga added that ArvinMeritor had made an important investment in Nuevo Leon and the city of Ciénega de Flores. He stressed that ArvinMeritor and the local governments have worked together to develop training programs at local colleges and trade schools to learn the skills needed to manage the plant and operate the highly specialized machinery.

Equipped with the latest manufacturing technology, the plant is a state-of-the-art component production operation offering greater efficiencies and the highest quality components. The 400,000-square-foot facility sits on 23 acres with plenty of room for expansion.

Completed in just nine months, the plant currently employs 146 workers. The plant should reach a full staff level of 500 workers by the end of 2009. Most, if not all, of those workers will be trained at the ArvinMeritor University, which is being developed in house.

“We're working with local universities and technical schools to develop the program,” Reinhardt said. “This is a company-paid program that takes about nine months to complete. We have good schools to work with in the Monterrey area. That was one reason for choosing this plant site.”

Initially, the plant will produce bevel gearing and front non-drive steer axle assemblies. Production is already underway, and shipments of some products have begun. The plant has a daily production capability of 600 steering axles and 800 gear sets.

The latest in gear-cutting technology has been installed, resulting in better quality and 40% higher throughput. Bevel and ring gears are machined at several computerized workstations that offer the latest in dry cutting processes. Each carbon steel blank can be machined to a finished gear in less than three minutes.

Heat treatment is one of the final steps in the gear production process. Machined gears are treated at 500 C to 700 C (932 F to 1,292 F) for strength and long life. Slow cooling gives the gears flexibility.

The last stop is a spiral bevel gear lapping machine that provides finishing touches to ensure a perfect match between the bevel and ring gears. “This is leading-edge technology that gives us the greatest accuracy we've seen when it comes to gear fit and performance,” Reinhardt said.

Moving on to steer axles, three production lines are planned for the facility. One is already operational, and the remaining two should be in place by October. The new plant will make all of the steering axles that ArvinMeritor offers, including those that were produced at a plant in Harden, North Carolina. The Harden plant is being closed.

The new plant will provide steer axle and gear products for most US and Canadian truck builders. The components also will be shipped to other US-based ArvinMeritor assembly sites. The facility will provide the infrastructure to support targeted growth areas in off-highway components and the commercial vehicle aftermarket.

Reinhardt stressed that the new plant is just the latest development in ArvinMeritor's lengthy involvement in Mexico. The company's commercial vehicle business also supplies customers from its aftermarket warehouse and distribution center in nearby Escobedo. The company's light vehicle operations also have production facilities in Queretaro, Puebla and San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

ArvinMeritor has a long-standing joint venture with Monterrey-based Sistemas Automotrices de Mexico (Sisamex), which makes axles, brakes, and drivelines primarily for the Mexican market. “Sisamex will remain the predominant supplier of ArvinMeritor products used in Mexican-built trucks,” Reinhardt said.