Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Revs Up Hiring, Shows Off Post-COVID Assessment Center & Interview Process

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing kept its motor running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring 100 employees in April.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has implemented COVID-19 guidelines to protect employees. (Photo courtesy Mazda Toyota Manufacturing)

They auto plant kicked things into second gear May 11 by restarting the hiring process with job interviews and skills assessments at the MTM/AIDT Assessment Center at 7262 Governors Drive West, Suite 203, near Bridge Street Towne Center.

Mazda Toyota reopened its assessment center at 50 percent capacity, retrofitted the process with enhanced safety measures that focus on the safety and wellbeing of their employees, business partners, and members of the community.

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing maintains the safety and wellbeing of our team members, business partners and community at top of mind,” said Toni Eberhart, head of corporate communications for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing. “Though COVID-19 has presented many unprecedented challenges, we take pride in the collaboration and thoughtful decision making of our team to implement enhanced safety measures. It has enabled us to make continued progress toward our start of production in 2021.

“In April and May, we onboarded 144 new employees which represents about 25 percent of our workforce and we look forward to opening opportunities to join our team this year.”

Mayor Tommy Battle and other city leaders toured the facility Thursday to see the new conditions and hiring process.

“MTM is developing​ a core workforce that will manage over 4,000 workers and provide for the economy of North Alabama for years to come,” Battle said. “They have a science to building this foundation and it’s very impressive.”

The changes they saw in action include temperature checks, social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and a heightened sanitation schedule for the facility. The plant has also put some distance between the candidates and the interview staff to meet social distancing standards.

In addition to gearing up the hiring process, MTM announced several milestones in the construction of the 3.7 million square-foot state of the art facility.

As of May 7, the roof and floor slabs are 100 percent complete; the siding and fire protection is 99 percent complete; the piping and ductwork is at 90 percent completion; and the electrical is 75 percent finished.

Currently, MTM has about 500 employees ranging from professional and administrative staff, to engineers, production workers, and a skilled maintenance team.

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Tariffs and Global Trade

 

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the third installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is international trade and tariffs.

HBJ: Let’s talk about Alabama and where it fits in global trade.

Sen. Jones: Alabama is an exporting state. You know, after NAFTA came into being, Alabama got hurt pretty bad. But, we’ve done such an amazing job of adapting and a part of that was with the automobile manufacturers that started coming into the state.

Sen. Jones: “Twenty-five percent tariffs on automobiles would be devastating and just not functional.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

But, Alabama really has got partners all over the world. It’s amazing what we export now.

It’s an exporting state. We need to make sure that with our trading partners, that we have good agreements with them … That’s been a challenge, I think, over the last couple of years.

HBJ: Tell me about the tariffs and what industries are affected.

Sen. Jones: You know, there are two different things.

First of all, you’ve got tariffs that are proposed for automobiles. Fortunately, we’ve got a trade agreement with Japan now. So, Toyota and Honda are fairly safe. But, Mercedes has still got a potential issue out there; Hyundai still has potential issues out there.

Twenty-five percent tariffs on automobiles would be devastating and just not functional. The president has done this under some guise of national security but yet he won’t release the report that the Commerce Department did to determine whether or not they’re a national security threat.

Throughout this, several senators in a bipartisan way have been working with me: Sen. (Lamar) Alexander (R) from Tennessee, Sen. (Rob) Portman (R) from Ohio.

We’ve had different bills pending to try to get at the bottom of these automobile tariffs. In fact, this past year, Sen. (Pat) Toomey (R-Pa.) and I had an amendment in the budget process, the appropriations process, whereby the administration was required to release that to us by the middle of January.

Of course, they have not done that. So, we still don’t know what that is.

What we’ve seen is steel and aluminum imports have caused the cost of goods and services to go up. That was a boom for Alabama steelmakers for a little bit, but now with prices that way, everybody’s feeling some pain.

The other thing: the retaliatory tariffs have been what’s been devastating to farmers. When China started cutting off soybeans and other products, it really has affected so many farmers in this state.

Now, we have a first step agreement with China. I think the jury is still out as to whether or not that’s really going to be a favorable deal, or one that keeps the status quo, which is not that good.

I’d like to think it’s going to be a good deal ultimately for folks, but there’s still another deal yet to be had.

What I’m seeing right now is that we are now getting into the political dynamics with trade and everything is just kind of on hold until after the election.

The president has quit beating the trade “drums” as loud as he gets closer and closer to November.

HBJ: So, the tariffs affect not only steel, but agricultural exports, as well?

Sen. Jones: Yep, absolutely. They’ve had serious issues with soybeans, but it’s affected agriculture across the board.

Sen. Jones: “My biggest problem with the way the administration has handled trade is that we’ve gone it alone.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

If you talk to the folks down in the Port of Mobile, they will tell you the exports are down so much in agricultural goods. And hopefully, that’s going to come back.

And we’ve got issues down in Mobile, too with Airbus. The president is still talking about tariffs on exports, imports from Europe which could affect the Airbus and the airplane industry down there.

We’ve had to go through and seek exemptions for – I can’t tell you know how many companies. And we’ve been pretty successful at it in the office, where we’ve been able to carve out exemptions, but that’s just not the way to run trade.

When you announce these big policies and then you start chipping away, what that means is that the administration is picking winners and losers in the industry. And that’s just not good.

We need to try to break down some barriers and try to make sure we’ve got good trade, deal with countries like China, but do it in a fair way.

My biggest problem with the way the administration has handled trade is that we’ve gone it alone.

We started kicking all of our friends in the shins, we started going after Canada, we started going after Europe, we started going after China. We ended up going at China alone when we could have done some deals with our allies and then all gone in there together, because now they’re all getting separate deals.

I think we could have gotten a better deal had we all worked together.

Now having said all that, I voted for the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) deal. I think that’s a pretty good deal for Alabama. The automobile dealers had a little bit of question about it all, but overall I think updating NAFTA was a good thing. And it was something that needed to be done.

What I think is really good about that though, that this deal is that once it got to the House of Representatives, the House made it better than what it was.

They made it better in the form of labor protections and in environmental protections. Much better than what the president sent over there; that’s what got it across the finish line, was the House of Representatives making it better.

(Monday: Sen. Jones discusses defense spending and border security)

Navistar Revving Up Engine Production in Huntsville with $125 Million Expansion

The shovels dug deeply into wet but fertile ground as Navistar officially broke ground this week on a 50-acre, $125 million expansion of its manufacturing facilities in the Jetplex Industrial Park in Huntsville.

Ground was broken for the ground-breaking $125 million Navistar expansion. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

The build-out will drive Navistar’s total Huntsville footprint to 80 acres and add 110,000 square feet to its 300,000 square-foot plant. It will also add 145 skilled manufacturing jobs to build next-generation, big-bore powertrains.

“Over the past two decades, the city of Huntsville has been a valuable partner and we are eager to expand our presence here,” said Persio Lisboa, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Navistar. “The local skilled workforce has proudly supported the implementation of our product strategy, and we look forward to incorporating some of the most advanced manufacturing standards into our Navistar Diesel of Alabama facility to continue to bring best-in-class products to the market.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle tied Navistar’s truck engine production here to the rocket engines under development just a few miles away’

“Our skilled manufacturing workforce is ready to take on the production of Navistar’s global powertrain, adding capacity to Huntsville’s reputation as the ‘propulsion capital’ of the world,” he said. “Whether it’s across the country or across the universe, Huntsville gets you there.”

Already using the latest state-of-the-art technology, the company will implement a “manufacturing 4.0 strategy” in the plant.

Next-level software and assembly lines will drive everything from receiving components to delivery to the customers, revving up production while giving them more control over that production.

Navistar’s A26 engine is built in Huntsville. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

Navistar’s principal engine built in Huntsville is the International A26 – a 12.4-liter big-bore engine. The current 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space is dedicated to the A26 engine.

Navistar will use the additional space to produce next-generation big-bore powertrains developed with its global alliance partner Traton.

According to Brandon Tucker, Director of Operations, Navistar has built more than 1 million engines in Huntsville over the past 20 years.

“It’s easy to say one million engines, but if you step back and think about that – it’s a lot of engines,” he said. “It’s a lot of parts. It’s a lot of overtime. It’s a lot of work fixing problems. It’s a lot of hard work.

“Engines are what makes us great, it’s what gives us the competitive advantage … so this is really about a big job, well done.”

Tucker said it is also about business continuation.

“It’s a line in the sand, a jumping off point for big things to come,” he said. “Like any industry, we ride the tide of ebb and flow … but today it is time to focus on the future.”

He said things will move quickly on the new building with center office construction starting in March, site work and grading should begin by spring with core construction expected to start by midsummer. It is slated for completion the first half of 2023.

“Jetplex Industrial Park at Huntsville International Airport is proud to be home to Navistar,” said Rick Tucker, CEO of the Port of Huntsville. “Having been a corporate partner of theirs for over two decades, it means a lot to us that they would desire to continue to grow both the facility and their relationship with us.

“I’m certain that we will all work together to continue to propel Alabama forward.”

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing – Now Hiring

If you are looking for a new career, mark your calendar for Jan. 13.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will begin hiring opportunities Jan. 13 for production workers at the company’s 3.7 million square foot plant in Huntsville, the automaker and AIDT announced.

When completed, the 3.7 million square foot facility will produce 300,000 vehicles per year. (MTMUS rendering)

Production team members represent the largest percentage of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing workforce. They will be responsible for the hands-on assembly of the 300,000 vehicles a year.

The first hiring phase of production team members will open Jan. 13 and continue on a rolling basis through 2022. Some 4,000 workers are expected to be hired at the plant, the only one in the world with combined Mazda and Toyota manufacturing.

Applicants will begin online at www.mazdatoyota.com where they will provide basic contact information, work history, and answer a few questions. Applicants who meet hiring criteria are then invited to take an online assessment, which includes a written portion.

Candidates who advance beyond the online assessment will then be invited to a “Day of Work Assessment”, which will place the applicant in a simulated plant environment to assess their skills at various tasks. This will help ensure that qualified candidates are matched to positions suited to their skills and abilities.  Job offers are contingent upon a successful background check, drug screening and physical.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will hire approximately 4,000 team members to meet its production projections through 2022. The volume of anticipated applicants means the timeline from assessment to job offer could take up to three months.

Team member positions, duties, and details describing the application process can be found at mazdatoyota.com.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Looking for a Few Good Applicants … 40,000 to be Exact

The hands-on assessment features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has to fill 4,000 jobs, with 3,000 of those expected to be hourly production positions, over the next two years, at its vehicle assembly plant in Limestone County.

Normally, a ramp-up of this size would take about three years, according to Jamie Hall, a Toyota advisor for staffing.

To meet its employment goals, MTMUS estimates it needs about 40,000 applicants since the company expects 7 to 10 percent of the applicants to make it all the way through the hiring process and receive an offer, according to Hall.

To make matters more challenging, as Hall puts it: “This work isn’t for everyone.”

But, MTMUS has a clever way of figuring out who will shine on the company’s assembly line thanks to a detailed hiring process and its hands-on skills assessment center.

A successful hire will have to pass three stages before receiving an offer.

Stages one and two take place online.

Step one is a regular job application.

Jill Corbin, a public relations specialist with AIDT, performs a simulation that tests her ability to install wire harnesses. The instructions are given to her on a screen and the car shell is wired to register which harnesses are plugged into which receptors. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

This is the first taste an applicant gets of what the job will be like thanks to questions about working overtime, rotating shifts and weekends. They also learn about the pay, MTMUS’ eye toward safe practices, along with other standard job application questions.

“We want candidates that this type of work is good for,” Hall said. “So, it’s a two-way street, because we can only be happy if both the candidate is happy and we are achieving what we need.”

If an applicant makes it past the initial application stage, then they’ll take an online assessment that’s looking for things like their ability to problem solve, use applied learning and measure their leadership potential.

If a candidate fails to pass this assessment, they have two options: They can wait a year and reapply, or they can take a remedial class and restart the process immediately after completing the course.

“If you don’t make it through that point, one of the things that we recognized … was if there is a way that we could train these candidates who didn’t pass the first go-around, maybe they could come back into the system very quickly if they had some additional coaching or training,” Hall said.

That training comes from  Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and the state’s Ready to Work Program, according to Hall.

If a candidate passes the online assessment, then they are scheduled for MTMUS’ Day of Work Orientation.

This on-site orientation includes the hands-on assessment, an in-person job interview and a job placement interview. Even though this part of the process takes a full day’s commitment from the applicant, it also means a job candidate doesn’t have to take multiple days out of their schedule.

“We want to make sure this is a one-stop-shop because what we learned is, if you get a candidate and you have to pull them multiple times, then you start to lose the candidate,” Hall said.

The hands-on assessment is the star of MTMUS’s hiring process. It features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant.

For example, background noise is piped into the warehouse, the temperature is kept at 75 degrees and applicants are decked out in full safety gear.

Another example of the various simulations. This exercise tests an applicant’s ability to install bolts into corresponding receptors with both their left and right hands at the same time. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Each station takes about an hour, which includes instruction, a practice session and then a timed session preforming the task a candidate was just taught.

The tasks include installing various wire harnesses, tightening bolts, tracing various patterns with your left and right hands.

It sounds simple when it’s written on paper, but in the real-world environment of the assessment center, applicants quickly learn it’s not.

The Day of Work Orientation is the last hurdle before an applicant gets a contingent job offer pending a drug screen, physical and background check.

The center can process 36 candidates per shift or 72 per day.

“That is a big improvement,” Hall said. “Previously we have been able to asses 12 per shift.”

MTMUS plans to ramp up its major hiring effort for team members with a target to start the hands-on assessments in January 2020 and have those first applicants on the job by March or April 2020, according to Hall.

Candidates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED.

The team leader jobs will open up at the end of October.

The plant will assemble a new, yet-to-be named Toyota SUV along with Mazda’s yet-to-be named crossover model.

New Polaris Upfitting Center Signals Big Push into Commercial and Government Markets

Polaris just made a big statement about its intent to expand its commercial, industrial and government customer-base from Huntsville.

The Polaris Ranger is upfitted for mountain rescue teams. (Polaris photo)

It comes in the form of a new 275,000 square-foot Polaris Commercial and Government Up-fit Center and storage facility in the Jetplex Industrial Park at Huntsville International Airport.

“The Polaris Huntsville Upfit Center provides the capacity, quality controls and lean manufacturing process flow to meet increasing sales demand for our commercial and government customers for many years to come,” said Aaron Luoma, director of operations for Polaris in Huntsville. “Safety is the key priority at the upfit center as we strive to make Polaris a ‘best place to work’ and live up to an unwavering commitment to our employees.”

Upfitting consists of modifying vehicles from their standard retail packages at the plant, to “fit” the specifications of their customers, such as military, public safety and commercial.

The new state-of-the-art facility is equipped with two up-fit lines for the installation and customization of more than 10,000 possible accessories, including cabs, vehicle protection, safety components, and storage accessory vehicles for the Polaris Ranger, Pro XD and RZR commercial vehicles.

The new Polaris Upfit Center has six dedicated work bays, a multistation uplift line, staging, an enhanced post-production quality process, and warehouse space.

Located less than five miles from the 600,000 square-foot Polaris Huntsville manufacturing facility that opened in 2016, the Jetplex site helps facilitate easier shipping across the United States.

There are 28 technicians at the plant who began upfitting vehicles in May.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Signs Presidential Pledge to America’s Workers

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. recently signed the “Pledge to America’s Workers” affirming its commitment to creating workforce opportunities to American students and workers.

The pledge-signing ceremony included 14 Alabama F.A.M.E. (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing) students who will work in the plant and White House Advisor Ivanka Trump.

“Signing the ‘Pledge to America’s Workers’ demonstrates our dedication to the community. We aim to hire locally whenever possible,” said MTMUS Vice President Janette Hostettler. “At full production, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will employ up to 4,000 individuals.

“That is 4,000 training and career opportunities and 4,000 reasons we are proud to call North Alabama home.”

The pledge was created by the National Council for the American Worker, a group established by an Executive Order signed by President Trump in July 2018. By signing, companies and trade groups commit to creating opportunities over the next five years for American students and workers, whether through apprenticeships and work-based learning, continuing education, on-the-job training, and re-skilling.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and is hiring staff and skilled maintenance positions. For information, visit www.mazdatoyota.com.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. is a jointly owned-and-operated automotive production plant. The $1.6 billion facility is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and will have the capacity to assemble up to 300,000 vehicles a year, beginning in 2021.

Ivanka Trump Joins Panel Discussion, Announcement of Toyota-Manufacturing Institute Program

DECATUR — A highly successful apprenticeship program here earned a visit Tuesday from Advisor to the President of the United States, Ivanka Trump.

The First Daughter was on-hand at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park to celebrate a new partnership between the Manufacturing Institute and Toyota Motor North America.

On stage for a panel discussion are Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers; Luke Phillips of FAME USA; Carolyn Lee of the Manufacturing Institute; Chris Nielsen of Toyota Motor North America; Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President; Lexandra Lutz of FAME USA; and Michael Lamach of Ingersoll Rand. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The union will facilitate the transfer of operations and leadership of Toyota’s FAME (Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education) apprenticeship program to the Manufacturing Institute.

Trump toured several workstations talking to students who have succeeded in the program before taking the stage in a panel discussion about the future of manufacturing and the impact successful workforce initiatives such as FAME have on the manufacturing industry nationwide.

“Congratulations to all the students who found this pathway, this exceptional program … and for this announcement today,” Trump said. “Toyota did something exceptional in creating a pilot that was excellent, to train that next generation of high-tech manufacturers, and then we start to scale it across the country.

“But it developed a life of its own. Today is about celebrating manufacturing coming in, taking best class practices from the private sector and scaling that opportunity so that many, many, more Americans can experience this pathway of acquired skills through this great program.

“We’re seeing inclusive growth, we’re seeing people who have previously been on the sidelines of our economy are now entering the workforce and securing the skills that they need to not just get a job, but to secure a career. And we’re seeing this everywhere we go.”

Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, said at the center of it all is the students who will be the future of the manufacturing skilled workforce.

“As a member of the National Association of Manufacturers, it is our job to educate and empower the next generation of manufacturing workers,” she said.

FAME student Paul Logston and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. (Photo/Steve Babin)

FAME was created as a pilot a decade ago by Toyota to train the next generation of skilled, high tech manufacturing workers. The training model has gained traction nationwide.

“We believe when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” said Chris Nielsen, Executive vice president of Toyota Motor North America. “The Manufacturing Institute is a trusted partner ideally equipped to build a program and take it to the next level. There is no better organization to lead FAME into the future and realize its full potential.

“These are well-paying jobs that lead to rewarding careers. We believe this will have a profound impact on many, many, industries and our country as a whole.”

FAME students receive the typical qualifications required for a job in advanced manufacturing. The program is designed to train students of all ages in the skills required to get a manufacturing job; to provide them with a deeper understanding of the manufacturing industry; and to prepare them, as graduates, to fill in-demand manufacturing jobs.

“Today is not just an announcement but a celebration of what can be built with leadership and with the commitment of an industry,” said Lee. “This is about coming together to build something that is truly outstanding, that has proven results, and is changing lives each and every day across the country.”

Toyota Donation Helps Drive Advanced Manufacturing Program at Drake State

Toyota is putting its products on the assembly line for education.

The automaker is donating two Corollas and 12 engines to support the advanced manufacturing program at Drake State Community & Technical College in Huntsville.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to partner with educators to support career readiness programs that help develop our future workforce,” said Kim Ogle, Toyota Alabama corporate communications. “By donating these vehicles and engines, we are helping ensure students are trained on up-to-date equipment and receiving the highly technical skills needed for the thousands of manufacturing jobs in our area.”

The donated Corollas and engines – valued at approximately $200,000 – were originally used to provide onsite training for team members at the Huntsville Toyota engine plant.

Now, these products will serve a new training purpose as it supports hands-on learning at Drake State.

“This investment in the development of our workforce by Toyota is a great of example of how we – business and education – should and must work together to ensure that when potential employees arrive at the doorsteps of industry, they are ready to work,” said Patricia Sims, President of JF Drake State.

“We encourage other companies to directly engage with local schools and community colleges to help strengthen overall workforce readiness efforts.”

DaikyoNishikawa US Breaks Ground on $110M Plant to Supply Mazda Toyota Factory

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood that is Mazda Toyota Manufacturing US.

On Thursday, executives of DaikyoNishikawa US joined state and local leaders at a groundbreaking event on the MTMUS campus in Limestone County to launch construction on its $110 million manufacturing plant. It will be DNUS’s first U.S. manufacturing plant.

The DNUS facility, which will produce plastic automotive parts for the MTMUS assembly plant, will employ approximately 380 people at full production.

In May, DNUS became the first supplier to announce plans to locate on the site of the Mazda Toyota joint venture assembly plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

“As our first manufacturing facility in North America, DNUS is proud to serve Mazda Toyota and call Huntsville our new home,” said Nariaki Uchida, president of DaikyoNishikawa Corp. “Together with our business and community partners, our aim is to be a good corporate neighbor and a premiere Tier I automotive supplier.”

By establishing the Huntsville operations, DNC aims to further strengthen relationships with major customers.

The DNUS project represents one of the latest in a string of supplier announcements tied to the MTMUS assembly plant in 2019. So far, a total of five MTMUS suppliers have pinpointed sites in North Alabama for production locations that will create almost 1,700 new auto-sector jobs, most of them in Huntsville.

The DNUS plant will supply resin auto parts, such as bumpers and instrument panels, to Mazda Toyota.

“DaikyoNishikawa is a key manufacturer in the growing cluster of Tier 1 automotive suppliers for MTMUS, and we’re excited to provide the skilled workers for this high-performing auto industry leader,” ​Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

“I’m proud to welcome another great Japanese company, DaikyoNishikawa … and I know that together we will build a lasting partnership,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Today marks another pivotal moment for Huntsville as it becomes the next vital production hub for the global auto industry.”

Construction on the 3.1 million-square-foot MTMUS facility is well under way, with as many as 2,500 construction workers expected on the site this summer. The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to open the Huntsville assembly plant, which will employ up to 4,000 people.

Once the DNUS facility begins operations to coincide with the start of MTMUS vehicle production in 2021, DNUS will manufacture large resin parts such as bumpers and instrument panels for the automakers.

“By selecting Alabama as the site for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, DaikyoNishikawa joins a long list of world-class Japanese companies with growing operations in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We look forward to working with this high-caliber company to assemble a workforce in Huntsville that can fuel its growth plans.”