PALMDALE – The city arranged a media tour of Kinkisharyo International’s assembly facility at the Palmdale Airport Tuesday, demonstrating how the rail car manufacturer is forging ahead with an infusion of jobs for the Antelope Valley.
Members of the local media toured the facility just two weeks after the Japanese manufacturer’s first rail car delivery to the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). Kinkisharyo is currently assembling and testing 78 light rail cars at the facility under its 2012 Metro contract.
“It was a very significant delivery,” said James Lindsey, supervisor of material control at the Palmdale facility. “The company in its history has never been late on a promise.”
Additionally, Kinkisharyo will be able to fill another order for 97 light rail cars now that it has resolved a conflict with local labor groups. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brokered an agreement between Kinkisharyo and labor interest groups in November that will keep the manufacturer in Palmdale, while allowing an expansion of its facility to include manufacturing operations.
The light rail shells are currently manufactured in Japan and shipped to the warehouse site, where they are assembled. When the car shells arrive at the Palmdale site, they are outfitted with internal components, such as wiring, panels and equipment. Windows, doors and floors are also installed before attaching the chassis to the frame. And finally, quality assurance tests are performed prior to delivery of the light rail car.
The Palmdale site currently employs about 165 workers for this assembly process; when manufacturing operations are added to the site in early 2016, that number was jump to somewhere between 250 and 300 workers, according to Construction Manager Steve Huckabay.
Huckabay said the facility will more than double in size, from approximately 166,000 to nearly 400,000 square feet, to accommodate the future manufacturing of the shells.
He also explained that the Antelope Valley’s local labor force is instrumental in helping Kinkisharyo expand its operations with warehouse, electrical, quality assurance and other positions needed.
“We have an outstanding workforce right here in the Antelope Valley,” he said, noting that about 95 percent of the site’s employees are “local force” from the immediate area.
Lindsey, who received three months of training from the company in Osaka, Japan, said Kinkisharyo brings another valuable contribution to the local area’s economy along with jobs: pride and craftsmanship in work standards.
“No matter what part of the train it is that they worked on over there, they always aimed for perfection,” he said. “The big challenge we face here is the American workforce of the same company is trying to meet or match or exceed their work standards there. And I truly believe that we can do that.”
About the authorJim E. Winburn is freelance reporter covering news of public interest. –
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