By Bill Robinson
Starting today, the master cylinders for the braking systems of Ford F-150 pickup trucks will start coming off a Hitachi Automotive Systems assembly line in Berea.
The line that employs 60 team members in two shifts will make 56,000 brake cylinders each month, according to Jason McGinnis, human resources director for Hitachi in Berea.
The part previously was made at a Hitachi plant in Yamanashi, Japan, but the work was shifted to Berea to be nearer Ford truck assembly plants in Louisville, Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo.
On Friday, the plant celebrated completion of its pilot run by presenting the first customer-approved part to Tsugumichi Uhara, Hitachi's general manager in Berea.
Ford Motor Company officials had been observing and working with Hitachi as the plant geared up for production to ensure the parts were of the highest quality, McGinnis said.
The F-150 is Ford Motor Company’s best-selling vehicle, the Hitachi official said.
Miura Toyaki, Hitachi's director of engineering in Yamanashi also helped oversee pilot production and was on hand Friday to help team members and Tsugumichi celebrate.
The plant is housed in a building formerly used by Panasonic to manufacture parts for vacuum cleaners. In the not-too-distant future, Hitachi plans to make components for the electric motors that drive the Chevrolet Volt in the same building.
Hitachi Automotive Systems in Berea, formerly known as Tokico, has been making suspension and braking systems in Berea since 1988. Ground was broken for the company’s first Berea plant in 1987.
Today the Japanese manufacturer is one of Madison County’s largest employers with more than 1,200 team members, McGinnis said. Most of the team members live in Madison County, but some reside in seven other central Kentucky counties, most of them adjacent to Madison County.
Hitachi’s continued investment in Berea helped Kentucky to win a Silver Shovel Award given by Area Development magazine to states which were the most successful in creating jobs and securing investments in new and expanding facilities in 2011.
Ford remains the biggest customer for Hitachi of Berea, but the plants also manufacture systems and components for Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota. General Motors will be added to the list of customers when the Volt motor component line begins production.