On October 25, 2013 members of Operation Club received a great opportunity to visit Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. (SIA) manufacturing plant in Lafayette, IN.
About SIA: Subaru of Indiana Automotive is the only manufacturer of Subaru automobiles in the United States. The plant currently assembles the Outback, Legacy and Tribeca line of vehicles with expansion plans underway to start assembly of the Impreza line from 2016. Through a business collaboration with Toyota, the plant also assembles the Toyota Camry. The facility was incorporated in 1987 with the first vehicles rolling off the assembly line in 1989. This is an end to end manufacturing facility, meaning the stamping of the body frame and panels till final assembly and testing is all done at this location. It is spread over an area of 3.8 million square feet and has an annual output of around 250,000 vehicles, assembled by about 3,600 employees, who are known internally at SIA as ‘associates’.
The Ops club members were received at the reception area by Char, who was also our guide for the tour. The reception area was impressive with the three Subaru models proudly on display. The group was then shown a short video describing the facility and the company and then was taken on a walking tour of the factory floor. There are two levels in the facility, the ground level is where the bulk of the manufacturing and assembly happens, and the first level acts as a moving storage of the body shells and vehicles as the assembly line moves from one section to the other. It was an awesome sight to see the assembly line move across the two levels, at the beginning of which robots stamp the body panels and frames, which then move to the paint shop, followed by the engine and transmission assembly, interiors, wheels and doors and finally, product testing. The other impressive feature of the facility was a set of suspended walkways on the first level that spanned the factory floor. Our tour was through these walkways and since it was on the first level, we got a good view of the entire assembly line while adhering to safety and without disruption to the production process. The hour long tour ended at the reception area, with the group getting a rare insight into automobile assembly line production, pioneered by Henry Ford.
Fun Fact: “Subaru” is a Japanese word for Pleides, a constellation widely known since ancient times, which is used as Subaru’s logo to symbolize unity and purpose.