Georgia production move allows OEM to source local vendors, reduce production time
Almost a year after moving its engine production to Rome, Ga., Suzuki Manufacturing of America is finding more reasons to celebrate. The plant recently reached its 14th anniversary, and with nearly 500,000 units produced since the plant opened, Suzuki has strived to prove its dedication to ATVs.
“Suzuki is increasing our production in the U.S. to show that we are committed to the ATV market as well,” said communications manager Steve Bortolamedi.
In the past decade, Suzuki Manufacturing of America has seen multiple assembly line additions, including frames, fenders and powder coating. The engine assembly addition to Suzuki’s plant in 2014 was the final step in assuring Suzuki engines were assembled 100 percent in the United States.
“Basically every UTV/ATV that Suzuki makes for the world is built in Georgia. It’s financially better, and it helps us and our dealers,” said Rod Lopusnak, Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.’s director and operations head for motorcycle/ATV sales operations.
As with all transitions, Suzuki experienced several big changes by moving its assembly line. “The biggest change that we’ve noticed is simply with the team members at Suzuki Manufacturing of America,” Lopusnak said. “Now they have the whole engine; they’re going through the whole assembly, so it gets the whole team a lot more intimate with ATV and gives them a much better understanding of the whole package.”
To accommodate the move, Suzuki added more than 20 people to its staff and cross-trained many employees as well. “We’ve increased the ability for staff members to do multiple jobs. Now they can do various jobs which helps with overtime or if there’s a certain part of the ATV assembly that needs assistance,” said Lopusnak.
Suzuki continues to grow in Georgia and shares the state with other prominent OEMs. “From a manufacturing standpoint, it’s a huge benefit because the more specific targeted manufacturers that are there, the more vendors that come in,” said Lopusnak. “So it gives us more options, and it’s just a lot easier to do business.”
Lopusnak says the benefits of the move continue to outweigh any challenges, and using U.S.-sourced parts also helps reduce taxes. By being able to deal directly with vendors in the U.S., Suzuki Japan no longer plays the middleman in communications. Suzuki Manufacturing has been able to increase its response time and be more adaptive in the ATV market.
“Our customer service level to our dealers is much higher because we don’t have any delay time in the part coming from Japan or communication from Japan,” Lopusnak added. “We can meet the market needs better, and this way dealers don’t have slow-moving inventory or excess inventory; we can make changes much more rapidly.”
Currently, Suzuki’s engine parts are sourced from Japan, but the company plans to make local sourcing its primary goal of 2015. As Suzuki sources more parts, more jobs will become available, to not only vendors but also in-house at Suzuki Manufacturing, says Lopusnak.
“The biggest effect is now locally we’re able to go out and look for engine vendors and source all of these parts,” Lopusnak said. “Our number one target [for 2015] is to continue to source product. Then of course, continue to work with Suzuki Japan to continue developing new products.”
A celebrity-filled 14th anniversary celebration
When opened in 2001, the Suzuki Manufacturing of America Corporation (SMAC) created hundreds of jobs in Rome, Ga., to assemble Suzuki’s 400cc and 500cc ATVs.
Now celebrating 14 years of ATV assembly, the facility today has expanded to cover more than 130,000 square feet on a 35-acre site in the suburb northwest of Atlanta. Workers there now handle metal fabrication, injection molding and engine assembly in the process of assembling Suzuki’s complete line of award-winning KingQuad ATVs.
“The SMAC facility has produced over 400,000 ATVs that have been distributed not only here in the U.S., but also to our Suzuki distribution partners around the world,” said Rod Lopusnak, director and operations head for motorcycle/ATV sales operations.
To commemorate the special anniversary, Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart, leaders of the RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing Supercross team, toured the facility with the Fox Sports 1 TV crew leading up to the February AMA Supercross race in nearby Atlanta. Carmichael, multi-time Supercross champ and Suzuki rider, joined Hart in cutting the 14th anniversary cake. He and Hart also spent time with the SMAC employees in celebration of the event, and the two signed autographs at the facility.
The SMAC facility’s recent addition of engine assembly makes Suzuki even more responsive to the needs of its dealers and customers in 52 countries around the world. The expansion also adds manufacturing jobs in this northwest Georgia town, and reaffirms Suzuki’s commitment to assembling KingQuad ATVs in the U.S.