For the first time in its 12-year history, Nissan’s Decherd engine plant is exporting to Japan.
That could open to the door to new work at the factory, which is currently running at only 40 percent of its production capacity.
The Decherd plant has been producing engines for the Infiniti QX56, a luxury SUV made in Canton, Mississippi. Next year that plant will start building commercial trucks instead, with Nissan moving production of the QX56 to Japan.
Manufacturing Vice President Susan Brennan says it’s a testament to the Decherd plant’s efficiency that it’s been selected to keep making the vehicle’s engine, despite the changeup. Brennan says entering the Japanese market could attract other opportunities for more work to the plant.
“It’s a great representation – We’re not just talking about numbers on a piece of paper, we’re talking about the hardware now, and they’ll be able to have that engine now in a new market. It’s a great opportunity for us to demonstrate what’s done well every day, every minute in this plant.”
The plant currently has six different engine lines, and employs 850 workers, with many on a four-day workweek.
Brennan says the Decherd plant enjoys many advantages in terms of efficiency because different engine lines there use a lot of common parts, which makes production there simpler and cheaper.
“We have machining lines here for different engines. Instead of having to design three different machines for three different processes, if you can get 80 or 90 percent of that machine common, then you get the scales of economy on the machine. You don’t have to pay for the design for three machines; you only paid for the design for one.”
Brennan says that also means maintaining and keeping parts for one type of machine, instead of three.
Recently Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has emphasized efforts to “green” the company. Part of that involves what Brennan calls “localization of content to the home market.”
She says for relatively simple parts it makes sense to supply closer to the manufacturer and thereby reduce the carbon footprint of the process. But Decherd’s engines, she says, are not easily replicated.
“For these kind of highly technical, highly specialized products, it makes more sense to build them in one place and ship them out, instead of having a plant here a plant there and a plant there that builds low volume – You’d have to have three machining lines.
“So where’s the best place to spend the energy? Do you want to put all the energy into building three machining lines, or do you want to put the energy into building one machining line and then shipping it out?
“There’s different resource trade-offs. But this is that kind of special technology I believe, that’s more efficient, carbon-wise, to build in a single place and ship out, than to build four or five different lines, use four or five different energy sources to power, and then ship smaller lots to the local markets.”
The Decherd plant makes engines for “every Nissan and Infiniti vehicle manufactured in the United States,” along with exports to Spain and Thailand.
- 2.5-liter, 4 cylinder – Altima
- 2.5-liter, 4 cylinder – Frontier
- 3.5-liter, 6 cylinder – Maxima & Quest
- 3.5-liter, 6 cylinder (K3) – Altima
- 4.0-liter, 6 cylinder – Frontier, Xterra & Pathfinder
- 5.6-liter, 8 cylinder – Titan, Armada & QX56
It also began making cylinder block casting in spring of last year.