By LARRY RINGLER
Special to the Salem News
PARMA - Giant machines (some the length of a football field) pound and shape sheets of steel into parts for the General Motors Co.'s hot-selling Chevrolet Cruze compact car.
But they're not located at the Lordstown Complex, which builds the upscale compact that led Chevrolet in car sales in the first three months with 50,205 units.
These machines are banging out metal reinforcements, hinge pillars and other Cruze parts at GM's sprawling metal stamping and fabricating plant in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, which will host an open house and car show May 22-23.
GM plans to hold open houses at all of its 54 plants and customer care warehouses by year's end. Lordstown's open house is set for July 28.
Hoods, fenders, trunk lids and many other parts that give the Cruze its visible fit-and-finish are made at the Lordstown Metal Center and put together at the next-door assembly plant.
Parts made around the clock by Parma's 1,300 hourly and 175 salaried workers are seldom seen but comprise about 22 percent of the Cruze's parts, giving the plant a key role in the car's success.
"The Cruze is one of our biggest volume customers that we ship to daily," said Mark Pervine, plant manager since mid-August.
Equipped with mammoth machines known as transfer presses, the 2.3 million square foot plant makes floor pans, rails and other steel parts for a wide range of GM vehicles, from large truck-based sport utility vehicles like the luxury Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe to midsize Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu cars, along with the Cruze.
The plant has the largest A-size transfer press in North America that has three side doors for slides that hold giant dies, which move up and down to form steel sheets known as blanks into parts, said Christopher Lowe, maintenance and production group leader.
Transfer presses are fully automated in taking steel blanks through the 300-foot stamping process without being touched by a worker. Five dies are used in the process of stamping floor pans for the middle of GM's 900 series fullsize pickup trucks, according to Kirk Beauchamp, plant production planner for the large transfer press area.
"We do a lot of truck volume," Pervine said.