LG Celebrates Opening of $360M Clarksville, TN Appliance Factory
LG Electronics last week officially cut the ribbon on its already up and running, million-square-foot, home appliance “smart” manufacturing facility in Clarksville, Tenn., dedicated to the production of LG top- and front-load washers. The factory represents a $360 million investment by LG, and employs 550 Tennessee workers who work synergistically with the automated processes in place, and are helping to accelerate the continued production ramp-up.
“We are proud to bring state-of-the-art home appliance production technology and even more U.S. jobs to the great state of Tennessee. Thanks to the support of local officials and the Montgomery County community, LG is expanding our business investments in the United States to better serve our customers and, ultimately, American consumers seeking the best washing machines in the market,” said Dan Song, president of the LG Home Appliance and Air Solutions Company, at the opening event.
John Taylor, LG’s senior vice president, public affairs and communications, noted for Dealerscope the amount of high-level automation and robotics at the factory. “There’s the fact that we’re making so many of the parts right on site there – injection molding for plastic parts, fabrication of metal, painting and automated sub-assembly and assembly…. There are hundreds of robots and they all communicate with each other, every major part is tracked with QR codes through the process, and there are AGVs (automatically guided vehicles) that can do material handling and move parts around.”
Taylor said that “the ramp-up is well under way to get us to full capacity, which will allow us to build 1.2 million machines every year.” He also noted that “we’re pretty close already to 600 employees, and it looks like we may be close to 700 by July... Normally, for a plant of this type, it could take years to stabilize all of the production processes, and this was done in record time.
“It’s a tribute to both the smartness of the factory, and to the smartness of the people,” Taylor added. “There’s a terrific management team, but also a very enthusiastic and well-trained hourly workforce in Tennessee.”
The streamlined processes in the factory, including engineered systems integration, allows LG to change between models in a matter of minutes. On the two main assembly lines, one for top-load and one for front-load models, highly trained American workers assemble the finished washers. All parts production, sub-assembly, and main assembly processes include integrated quality system checks along the way.
Taylor made note of the factory’s Control Center, which monitors every aspect of the plant through dozens of screens lining the walls deployed throughout, at every point of the manufacturing process. “There are very detailed dashboards that show the production progress and are monitoring quality. I’ve seen lots of factories in my career, but I’ve never seen this level of integration, and the fact of the quality checks at every step.”
An in-house warehouse stages the completed units that are ready for shipment to LG distribution centers and dealers’ warehouses. “Shortening our supply chain will generate significant operational benefits like increased speed to market and more nimble responses to changing market conditions,” said Song.
'After constructing the factory in record time, the company began initial washer assembly last fall and has since been ramping up full-scale production of LG’s front- and top-load washing machines.
LG’s decision to increase its dollar investment in the factory from the originally stated estimated figure of $250 million in 2017, when plans for the plant were announced two years ago, explained Taylor, had to do partly with an incentive to accelerate the ramp-up. “We were on a tighter deadline than originally planned because of the tariffs we were paying on washing machine imports,” he told Dealerscope. “Every washer imported last year carried a 20 percent import duty. That was an incentive to move faster.”
No additional appliance categories beyond washers are being made at the Clarksville plant, but there are 200-plus acres available allowing for the possibility of future expansion.
LG’s new Tennessee factory joins other major LG U.S. business and jobs initiatives throughout the country – including an advanced electric vehicle components factory in Hazel Park, Mich., and an expanded R&D center in Troy, Mich. LG is ramping up production at its new $28 million solar module assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala., where it can produce more than a million solar panels a year.
And in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., construction is progressing on LG’s $300 million North American Headquarters campus, which Taylor said is expected to be completed in early 2020.