Kawasaki marks 25 year anniversary of Maryville, Mo., plant

August 24, 2014 -  By

Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. (KMM) celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Maryville, Mo., plant, where its small engine division is housed.

The company commemorated the milestone with a celebration Aug. 22 at the plant. KMM executives from across the country and officials from the corporate headquarters in Japan traveled to the rural town, populated by around 12,000 people, for a ceremony and facility tour.

Steve Bratt, KMM vice president and plant manager, drew up a visual timeline of the plant’s 25-year history in his opening remarks.

Opening its doors in 1989, the plant has produced more than 8 million engines to date. That’s a production rate at around 6,000 engines per week, or 200,000 per year. A research and development test lab was added to the site in 1995, contributing to its increased product line that now includes 18 engine models, ranging from 12 hp to 37 hp.

And despite a downtime during the Great Recession, when it cut production down to four days a week, Bratt said the plant been running full capacity for the past two years with around 810 employees.

Fumihiro Ohno, senior vice president of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. engine division, added 95 percent of Kawasaki engines for distribution to landscape equipment manufacturers like John Deere, Exmark, Toro and others are built in Maryville.

Shigehiko Kiyama, president of Kawasaki’s motorcycle and engine company and senior vice president of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, explained why the foreign manufacturer transplanted its engine operations to the U.S. and, ultimately, Maryville.

Primarily, it was for U.S. demand. Three-fourths of worldwide engine demand is in the U.S. market, he said. Therefore, manufacturing the product here offered for quicker domestic shipments. He also said Maryville is a prime location for employee recruitment, with a high school being at the heart of the town and Northwest Missouri State University being in close proximity.

Maryville Mayor Renee Riedel shed light on the importance of the plant as a place of employment to the municipality.

“Twenty five years ago a landmark was built,” Riedel said, adding it’s helped the town sustain a Walmart, chain restaurants and other local businesses. “It’s a gateway to Maryville.”

The facility tour as part of the anniversary celebration wound through the manufacturing, office and warehouse space and provided an outside view of the research and development test lab. The plant spans 114 acres and has expanded 11 times since it was built in 1989, adding more than 500,000 square feet in the past 25 years. Bratt said plans could be underway for another expansion as near as 2015.

Tour goers got glimpses into the die casting, assembly, machining and quality control areas, to name a few production operations. Among the newest engines on the assembly lines were the FD Series engines, featuring a liquid cooling system.

The ceremony concluded with a lunch and a sake toast, a Kawasaki celebratory tradition and nod to its Japanese roots. As a final wrap up, executives fired up the first engine ever manufactured in the plant, a FC150V for a John Deere push mower, setting off sparklers around a 25th anniversary sign and prompting confetti to fall on the crowd.

“The future looks bright,” Bratt said. “And, I must say, very busy.”

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

Comments are currently closed.