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Navistar cuts ribbon on advanced manufacturing truck plant in Texas

San Antonio plant designed with natural light and energy-efficient wall paneling

Navistar San Antonio plant director Rod Spencer, flanked by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg (L) and Navistar CEO Mattias Carlbaum, cut the ribbon Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Navistar's $250 million assembly plant. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

SAN ANTONIO — Navistar International cut the ribbon on a 920,000-square-foot assembly plant on Wednesday designed to connect digital and physical technologies that will serve as a model for the truck manufacturer’s network of operations in the U.S. and Mexico.

The $250 million facility near Interstate 35, off U.S. Highway 281, is building three vehicles a day as it ramps to full production of 52 vehicle a day by the end of July, adding 125 jobs to the current workforce of 500. The first vehicle off the line was an International eMV electric medium-duty truck. Navistar broke ground virtually in June 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.

An International eMV on the assembly line at Navistar’s new plant in San Antonio. (Photo: Navistar)

“The San Antonio manufacturing plant was meticulously planned and constructed to highlight our many manufacturing strengths and build toward future manufacturing goals surrounding Industry 4.0 technologies, quality and sustainability,” said Mark Hernandez, Navistar executive vice president of global manufacturing and supply chain.

The site covers 428 acres, which means Navistar could double the plant size in the future if demand warrants.

Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution focused on increased interconnectivity and smart automation. Navistar’s German parent company, Volkswagen’s Traton Group, helped design the plant.

Model for Navistar network

The facility includes a body shop, paint shop, general assembly shop and logistics center to produce Class 6-8 vehicles through sustainable practices. That includes a 20% reduction in energy intensity by 2030 in San Antonio; a medium-duty truck assembly plant in Springfield, Ohio; a bus assembly plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and a powertrain facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

Watch now: Navistar’s ribbon cutting for Industry 4.0 plant in San Antonio

The assembly process is familiar. 

Materials and components are delivered, stored and distributed from a logistics center. Truck assembly begins at the same time in the body shop and on the general assembly line. In the body shop, prefabricated components are welded to construct the cab. The frame and chassis are built at the beginning of the general assembly line and later mated with the cab and engine.

LEDs illuminate the new plant, using 75% less power than conventional lighting. Translucent panels allow natural light to brighten the indoor space, supplementing the lighting system. The building also includes energy-efficient wall paneling to better regulate indoor temperatures.

Navistar is following lean manufacturing principles to eliminate waste. For example, no paper-based operations are used. Every operation is managed on computer screens, connecting digital and physical technologies for a data-driven digital factory including connected machinery and cloud analytics.

Navistar’s new assembly plant in San Antonio uses no paper in the process of building vehicles. All functions are tracked on computer screens. (Photo: Navistar)

An advanced technology center on site will test emerging Industry 4.0 technologies for commercial trucking with a focus on future research and development for zero-emission components, software and autonomous technologies. Currently, the center is being used for a two-week onboarding process for new employees, compared to an industry standard of one to two days.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.