By Jolene Craig
Sepcial to the Times
WILLIAMSTOWN -Hino Motors Manufacturing USA in Williamstown soon will be up to full production with five-day work weeks as parts needed to build its trucks have become more available since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, an official said Thursday.
"We have gone back to five-day work weeks with three days of production, but will be upping production soon," said Sandy Ring, Hino's general manager of external and legal affairs at the company's home office in Michigan.
The Williamstown plant will go to four days of production a week in October and will be back to five days with full, predisaster production in November.
The cut in production at the local plant on West Virginia 14 began in April when the Japanese-based company dropped production from five to four days a week. In May production was again decreased to a three-day week as parts for the trucks had become scarce after the natural disasters.
As the team members made trucks three days a week, they still worked four days a week with the fourth day used as training and process improvement.
"Once we get back to five-day work weeks, we will see an increase in production volume from there and hope to be above pre-tsunami numbers not long after," Ring said.
The tsunami and earthquake destroyed parts factories in northeast Japan and caused severe shortages for Toyota and other automakers. A nuclear power plant crippled by the tsunami forced other parts plants offline, which created an electricity supply crunch in the Tokyo and neighboring areas that is expected to continue for months.
The parts crunch was felt around the world, from Malaysia to the United Kingdom to the United States. The auto plant shutdowns caused shortages of some models, especially small and midsize cars.
Last week, Toyota Motor Corp. announced it was back to 100 percent production since the tsunami and earthquake in all North American auto-assembly plants after it temporarily halted all production following the March 11 disasters. Hino is a member of the Toyota family, which gets more than 90 percent of its auto components in Japan.
Hino Japan is back to 100 percent production and we are hoping to get back to that as soon as possible, Ring said. They are working hard trying to get everybodys parts numbers back to full production.
Before the disasters, the Williamstown plant had produced 25 trucks a day in one shift. During the scaling back of production, they cut to as few as 22 trucks a day.
We are in the process of returning to pre-earthquake/tsunami numbers, Ring said. In fact, for the foreseeable future, we will be at volumes slightly higher.
Over the longer term, we hope volumes will continue to increase and our investment in Williamstown will continue to grow, he added.