Plant Manager, Kai Spande looks out across the construction site with a smile and jokes about not being able to get a golf ball to the plant from where the first beam was erected.
“The new paint shop is half the size of the Plant, adding a half million square feet to our operations. It’s a landmark day to see this happen. Over the course of the next five months we’ll see 11,000 pieces of steel put into place, weighing 4,200 tons.”
When asked about why such an expansion is needed, Kai doesn’t even have to think about an answer. “This is for the customers. The paint technology used for the Corvette is special. Because we’re painting carbon fiber and specialized plastics, all off of the body, that demands processes that will only be used here. From an operational standpoint, we will have more automation, but that will be balanced out with increased complexity, so it doesn’t make our jobs easier, but it will make a better product for our customers.”
As far as the customer goes, Chuck Valentini, the Body Systems Manager at the Plant, is excited about what this means for them. “The new shop will have additional spray capabilities, spray booths and automation that will allow us to do some colors that we can’t do today while also raising the quality level up. We have ten colors today but we’ll have twelve when we move over here. We will be able to do some ‘tri coats’ where you use a ground and a mid-coat application that produces your white diamond colors, giving a more fluorescent depth to the finish. Because of the additional automation we’ll be able to offer the additional colors that our customers want that we are not able to give them today.”
While the first beams were going up, work continued in the 22 foot deep, 28,000 square foot “under booth” part of the project where the paint recovery will happen. Valentini looks down into the pit and shares that the equipment going into this part of the shop will be good for the environment. “The recovery of base paint in the air is currently done with water. The paint gets trapped in the water, then we filter the water out and what’s left is paint sludge that we then have to dispose of. In the new paint shop we’re going to have a “dry scrub” system that uses limestone to recover the paint, keeping it dry. There are recycling applications such as making concrete, so for the environment this represents a much better waste stream than what we currently have.”
At 450,000 square feet when finished, Site Project Manager Marc Roberts has a big job ahead of him. “We’re planning to put up 50 pieces of steel per day to keep on schedule and should have the building enclosed by May of 2016. The processing equipment will start going in after that with the first car painted in April of 2017.” As construction equipment moves around the worksite he smiles. “You can bet that I’ll be here to see that first car coming off the line.”