In the past, Chrysler has kept plant expansions fairly quiet, beyond an initial press release. This time, the company is making no secret of its expansion of the Windsor, Ontario, minivan plant, which is to be idled for months as modernization takes place — a modernization that will increase flexibility and quality, allowing a completely new van to be built, while replacing many older machines and implementing improvements seen at Sterling Heights and other plants.

On Friday, December 26, Chrysler Canada started using a 600-ton crane to start installing 200 pieces of structural steel to create a new conveyor enclosure on the plant’s roof.

Just over 20 feet tall, the enclosure will house the plant’s new skillet line, used globally by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The skillet adjusts its height to ideal levels for workers, improving quality with a better line of sight while improving long-term worker health.

More projects are in store for the 14 weeks of downtime, finally acknowledged as beginning in February.

The 4.4 million square feet Windsor Assembly Plant employs 4,600 employees across three shifts to produce the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Ram Cargo Van, and Lancia Grand Voyager. Built in 1928, it started minivan production in 1983.  In the 1990s, the plant underwent numerous changes as plant workers successfully convinced the plant manager to allow improvements in a rare case of bottom-up quality improvements; for many years, a consumer magazine recommended that buyers get vehicles from Windsor rather than similar models from the American sister plant.

In March 2014, Windsor was the first FCA North America plant to get a Silver award in World Class Manufacturing.