Public tour of Kia shows modern, sophisticated manufacturing processes

The most modern and sophisticated manufacturing processes in the world are on display at the $1 billion Kia Motor Manufacturing Georgia plant 45 miles south of Newnan along Interstate 85 in West Point near the Georgia/Alabama state line. The plant, which produced its first vehicle -- a white 2011 Sorento CUV -- on Nov. 16, is now producing 450 Sorento vehicles a day with 1,184 employees and hundreds of robots operating one shift daily. Hiring has begun for a second shift of more than 1,000 additional workers. When those workers are hired and undergo state-aided Quick Start training, Kia will begin assembling a second vehicle model at the West Point plant. Company officials won't say what that second production vehicle will be. They only say they will see what the market demands before making a decision. When the second production shift is in place, the plant expects to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually and employ about 2,500 workers. On site and nearby suppliers are expected to create about 7,500 jobs. Most of those suppliers are now in place in neighboring counties in West Georgia and East Alabama.
Kia is a boon to the West Point area, which during the past two decades has seen thousands of textile manufacturing jobs disappear. In fact, the I-85 corridor from LaGrange to Montgomery, Ala., is reaping significant benefits from Kia. The parent Korean company of Kia -- Hyundai -- has a huge manufacturing operation near Montgomery. Many of the suppliers to Kia and Hyundai are located between the two automakers' plants. Kia is committed to being a good corporate citizen. They are particularly interested in having the people of the region become acquainted with their operation. They had an effective startup advertising campaign and have been conducting public tours of the West Point plant for about a month. Four tours a day are planned through Dec. 18, but a note on the Kia Web site (www.kmmgusa.com ) Friday said all tours have been filled through December. A new tour schedule will be announced in early January. We would encourage our readers to pay attention to the Kia Web site early in the new year and schedule a tour to the nearby plant. You will be impressed with the sophisticated operations -- especially the many robots that do most of the work in the stamping, welding and general assembly areas that tourists visit. The tour itself is a three-quarter mile walk taking about 45 minutes to an hour. If you don't want to walk, golf carts are available. After the tour you can take an eight-mile test drive of one of the Georgia-made Sorentos. The entire experience takes less than three hours, and less than two hours if you forego the optional test drive. We have an impressive new corporate neighbor operating in our region. Go take a look at their operation.


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