In a former cotton field not far from the Mississippi-Alabama state line, sits one of the most modern diesel engine manufacturing plants on the planet. The unlikely setting is home to Paccar Engine Company’s Columbus Engine Plant. The 450,00 square foot facility, which sits mid-way between Columbus and Starkville, Mississippi, produces all the Paccar MX11 and MX13 engines for North America today. From the plant, engines are shipped to the company’s Peterbilt and Kenworth truck plants in Denton, Texas, and Chillicothe, Ohio. There are also occasional shipments to the Mexicali, Mexico, plant and to the Kenworth Truck Plant in Renton, Washington, as production demands dictate.
Lance Walters, plant manager of the Columbus facility, said the plant employs about 600 workers who man three shifts that produce about 150 engines daily. “All told, this plant has produced more than 175,000 engines since production kicked off in 2010,” he said. “And despite the spike in Class 8 demand today, thanks to our modern and lean manufacturing processes, we are keeping up with demand easily, with about a week’s lag time from the time an order is placed to when production of the engine begins.”
Currently, Walters said, around 10% to 20% of the plant’s daily production are MX11 engines, with the bulk being MX13 engines. “We expect those ratios to even out some as our customers become more familiar with the Paccar 11-liter engine and its capabilities,” he noted.
Walters said both the Paccar facility and the land it is situated on were designed with expansion in mind, noting that the plant interior itself can accommodate additional production lines if needed. “We are only using about 50 acres of this 400-acre site,” he added. “So, we have the space here to expand substantially."
Walters said he is extremely proud of the plant’s well-deserved reputation as a globally recognized green manufacturing facility, which has Zero Waste-to-Landfill processes in place to help both the environment and Paccar’s bottom line. “The plant interior is extremely well-lit,” he said, “thanks to modern LED lights. But those lights also have motion detectors, which automatically dim them if activity in a certain area falls off to save power.”
Another innovative practice at the Columbus plant is the proactive recycling effort that every day sends around 40,000 pounds of waste metal chips and shavings from the manufacturing process out to recycling centers in Alabama and elsewhere in the U.S. “That process alone adds about $1 million a year to our operating costs,” Walters noted.