Honda celebrates manufacturing at auto show, while Ontario plant grows
At the Canadian International AutoShow, Honda Canada put the spotlight on its Alliston, Ont., manufacturing activities; the facility recently celebrated its nine millionth vehicle produced
At the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, Honda Canada is putting the spotlight on its manufacturing activities, with an exhibit featuring robots and half-constructed cars.
Kevin Mullins, manager – administration, Honda of Canada Mfg. (HCM), spoke with Canadian Manufacturing at the auto show’s media day on Feb. 13.
Mullins said, “Honda has taken a different approach to the auto shows this year. Typically, it’s sparkly cars and some brochures, but we have a presence here from our manufacturing facility where we’re demonstrating some collaborative robots.” He continued, “We’re really focusing on getting the public to understand some of the preconceived notions they may have about manufacturing, and specifically about robots. We’ve got two collaborative robots here and attendees are allowed to interact with them and see that there’s no risk, no danger and how helpful these collaborative robots can be.”
Mullins explained further, “At HCM we use some automation without a doubt, but a lot of it is to help our associates do their job as opposed to eliminate the jobs. We will use them to lift heavy things and give them to us, as opposed to us putting ourselves in those awkward situations. So there’s a good marriage of technology and man.”
HCM, a manufacturing complex in Alliston, Ont., is the Japanese automaker’s only manufacturing presence in Canada, and the facility recently celebrated a significant milestone — its nine millionth vehicle off the line.
Mullins said, “Nine million for us is a significant milestone as a company. We’ve been around for 34 years now, and our story has been one of growth and one of progress.” He continued, “Right when we started in 1986 with the Accord, making 150 a day, up to and including now, two lines, plus an engine plant … Our production has continued to grow and remain stable at high numbers.”
Through its two production lines and an engine plant, HCM currently makes several Civic models, the C-RV and engines, with an annual capacity of 400,000 vehicles and 260,000 engines.
Mullins said, “Each line has its own body shop, weld shop, its own paint shop, and then we have a common stamping department that feeds both lines, a common injection department that feeds both lines, and then our engine plant is there as well. The engine plant will support us, but we also export engines.”
He continued, “We’re very fortunate to have two products now that we make that are very good sellers. We make the Civic on line 1 and that’s been Canada’s number one selling vehicle for 22 years in a row now.”
He said HMC’s endurance as a productive facility and Honda’s investment in its Canadian manufacturing footprint, $4.2 billion to date, show the automaker’s commitment to Canada, Ontario and the community of Alliston. “I am born and raised in that area and I was young when they announced the plant. I knew what it was before, and I’ve seen the growth throughout.” He continued, “There are studies that show for every one job we create, there’s at least seven more created in that local community. That, of course, is parts suppliers, but it’s also transportation companies, and it’s schools and gas stations and grocery stores as well. The amount of growth that area has seen has been significant.”
When asked why HCM has endured while other North American auto plants have had to downsize or close down, Mullins said, “We’ve got a really engaged, really active group of associates that work at our location. Because of them, their efforts, their ideas, we’ve been able to implement a lot of different things that separate us from a lot of different companies.” He continued, “Our safety results, our quality results are excellent as well, we’ve gotten several awards for that … It’s the work of the whole team that has really secured our future. And the passion they give every day continues to be seen, with continued reward and continued success.”
Mullins explained that HCM is looking to expand that team. “We’re hiring. We are in a position right now where we are going through a retirement curve … Over the last three years, it’s been over 300 people a year that have been retiring, so that’s causing a significant opportunity for us. That is one of our main focuses right now.”
Mullins said the plant is preparing for future models as well, but couldn’t provide details.