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Trenton Engine South plant: Pentastar V6 and Tiger Shark Four

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In 2007, Chrysler announced a new 822,000-square-foot Trenton South engine plant, one of three built to make the new Pentastar V6. A duplicate facility in Saltillo, Mexico, was built afterwards, but reportedly has yet to come close to Trenton's productivity. The stated annual capacity of the combined plants is 440,000 engines per year.

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A test batch of engines were made in February 2010 and sent to Roush Industries (which preps the Challenger drag cars) for extensive hot testing, to find any problems. Due partly to the Daimler method of development, which included endless meetings, protocol over reality, and overemphasis on position, the Pentastar V6 reportedly had some issues surface during development, but these were dealt with, and reports of quality have generally been favorable.

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David Van Buren wrote:

March 21 was the big day for the new Trenton Engine South with big-shot politicians, Important Company and Union People, and five TV news trucks parked outside. It was different from a typical "dog and pony show" at an auto factory; the speakers displayed a genuine enthusiasm for the event. I've seen Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano about 5 times in as many years at dedications and speeches, and you could tell they were happy to be there.

The Chrysler manufacturing head, Scott Garberding, was a little easier me to judge. I worked for him for about 2 years when he was the head guy in the 2.0 4 cylinder and 3.5 aluminum V-6 engine lines at the old Trenton Engine plant. I was on midnights in maintenance on those lines. Many days, I was the first person he got to see when he got in the plant at 5:00 to 6:00 am. I could tell he was excited too.
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It was nice seeing many of the people from the old Trenton Engine plant. The one thing that was disheartening was that many fine skilled trades people are working production jobs. Some of that will be changing; when the Fiat people found out about the "rent-a-maintenance" program the plant was using, they took a real, real dim view of that. I have heard the contract with the maintenance contractor will be ending soon and the Trenton people will be doing the maintenance work.

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Talking with many of the people I know in the new plant was enlightening. Some of them expressed concerns about the complexity of the machining of cylinder heads and the aluminum block; a blind hole the length of a block or cylinder head in aluminum must be cleaned out - how should we put it - very vigilantly. The assembly of the engine is rather complex too. A dual overhead cammer with the associated valve train has to be carefully done. I am sure they are up to the tasks!
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Technologies built into the Trenton Engine South plant include flexible CNC-based machining, volume-bundled parts purchasing, volume-bundled capital investment, and standardized tooling.

Many parts are machined in nearby Toledo.

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The all-new Trenton South Engine Plant was awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Green Building System certification for meeting the highest environmental standards. Trenton is one of only four auto manufacturing facilities to receive a LEED rating of any kind and the only engine manufacturing facility in the world to achieve the honor.

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While LEED may sound like a needless expense, Chrysler has reduced energy costs by $1.25 million per year, cut CO2 emissions by 12,000 metric tons per year (or 1,000 homes worth) and saved 1.5 million gallons of water per year (or the equivalent of 68 average size swimming pools). As energy prices are expected to rise, these savings will continue to pay off.

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David Van Buren continued:

The Plant is clean, clean, clean, surprisingly so! Very open! Air quality is near perfect.

Machining operating is basically done on CNC type machines.

Automation is overhead gantry type robots in the machine shop. If a major breakdown happens on one, the whole robot can be easily replaced by unplugging, unbolting it and changing the end of arm tooling with minimal lost production time. My observation of the robots in the machine shop told me they appeared to be all about the same type and size.

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Each major component has an individual identification number with a stamped on it and a radio frequency tag. They know what time each part went into a particular machine. If there is a problem with a part, it's easy to find! They know what parts are on what engines!

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All machining coolant is handled in a separate enclosed part of the plant - no coolant fumes!

Overhead lighting is 100% florescent. It is much better than sodium or mercury vapor. All overhead hoists are electric - no oil mist from air powered ones.

One surprise: the engine has a cast crankshaft.

- Dave van Buren (Remember, it's your car but my engine)

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see more Trenton Engine South photos - many of them

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