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Fire Damaged Parts Plant Resumes Production

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Parts are flowing again from an auto parts plant near Howell, which was seriously damaged in a fire last week.  That’s easing some production problems at General Motors and Mazda, and allowing those who run Ford and Chrysler plants to breathe easier.

General Motors says it will be able to repoen its Lordstown, Ohio plant on Tuesday, resuming production of the important Chevrolet Cruze small car.  An adjoining stamping plant goes back on line Monday night.

Mazda was also hampered by the parts shortage.  However, the line it shares with Ford in Flat Rock will remain closed all week, due to an unrelated issue.  Ford declined to detail that problem.

About half of the Magna plant’s production restarted during the weekend, Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said Monday. Company officials had been working since the blaze to restart production, and were able to get part of the plant in Howell Township, Mich., back in operation, she said.

Some machinery also was moved to a shuttered Magna factory in nearby Brighton, Mich., and it is producing parts there temporarily, she said.
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“We have begun to supply many of our customers on a limited basis,” Fuerst said.
  
The plant makes ceilings, consoles and other plastic interior parts for the automakers. Spokesmen for Nissan and Chrysler said production had not been affected, and a message was left for a Ford spokeswoman.
  
Fuerst said some of the molds used to make the parts were damaged, but the company worked with customers over the weekend to repair the equipment at the factory, which is about 45 miles northwest of Detroit.
  
Only about 25 percent of the factory space was damaged in the fire, but it burned two large holes in the roof of the building and caused structural damage. Fuerst said some of that damage had been fixed. Firefighters, who poured 1.2 million gallons of water on the plant to put out the blaze, have said its cause was accidental, starting in machinery into which foam was injected to make some of the parts.
  
GM closed its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant on Friday and Monday, and at least six other GM factories were affected by the parts shortage. Officials were still assessing the impact at midday Monday.
  
The Mazda assembly line also was shut down starting Thursday. “Lost production will be made up with a combination of overtime and added shifts,” spokesman Jeremy Barnes said.
  
The fire showed just how fragile the auto company parts supply chain is. For the past three decades, companies have cut costs and become more efficient by going to a just-in-time parts delivery system so they can avoid paying for huge stockpiles of parts. To avoid buying costly machinery, many parts companies make a particular part at only one site with no backup. As a result, plants have few parts in storage, and they are so dependent on every link in the chain that the system fails if production is interrupted at a single factorys.
   
The Associated Press and WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert contributed to this report. 
   
   (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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