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Inside the Plant That Makes One of America's Most Popular Trucks, the Chevy Silverado

Fort Wayne Factory 14 photos
Photo: FRAME | YouTube
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The Chevrolet Silverado is one of America's most popular pickup trucks. It is, in fact, the only one that has managed to keep up with Ford's F-Series over the years without letting the Blue Oval's truck lineup put too big of a gap between them. The Silverado as well as the GMC Sierra roll off the production line in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And this is how it is made.
Located at 12200 Lafayette Center Road, Roanoke, Indiana, the GM assembly plant in Fort Wayne builds the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra, both underpinned by the GMT T1XX platform, developed by General Motors for its full-size trucks and large SUVs. Operating since 1986 as the former Pontiac Truck and Bus Assembly, it spans 4.6 million square feet (716 acres) of land.

More than 1,300 trucks are made there each day with the help of 4,287 employees. They are assisted by 2,200 robots. The production center includes two body shops, a paint shop, a general assembly, and a sequence center.

GM has invested $31.6 billion since 2013 to permanently upgrade the assembly lines and keep up with the demand. The lastest investment, amounting to a total of $632 million, was announced last year.

Chevrolet sold 555,148 Silverados in 2023, while GMC delivered 295,737 Sierras. Just like every year for the past 47, Ford won the most popular pickup truck race with 750,789 F-Series units sold last year.

Fort Wayne Factory
Photo: FRAME | YouTube
In the Fort Wayne assembly plant, production begins with chassis manufacturing. It is during this stage that the components are mounted on fixtures and welded onto them. Afterward, each piece undergoes inspection for slag and burrs.

The factory is equipped with advanced robotics that assist human operators. Robotic arms handle and weld parts throughout the production process, thus eliminating the risk of injury or fatigue that may be caused by these tasks if they were carried out by human workers.

Once the roof of the vehicle is securely installed, the vehicle advances to the next station for quality inspection. It is there where UV-A inspection lights are employed to highlight any cracks that might show up in safety critical components.

Two workers install the tailgate with the help of an overhead crane. The vehicle then progresses to the paint shop, where the entire structure is dipped inside the primer tank, thus creating the base for a flawless paintwork. Robots apply sealant to potential leakage points.

Fort Wayne Factory
Photo: FRAME | YouTube
Workers then inspect the finish for bubbles and any imperfections that might appear. In case a component that does not meet the Chevrolet rigorous quality standards, it is promptly identified and the fault is corrected.

Robotic arms apply the paint, while operators keep a close eye on the procedure so that the paint is evenly distributed. To make sure the paint features the required thickness, multiple coats are applied. Each automotive-grade paint layer measures between 110 and 125 microns.

After the body is painted, it undergoes inspection again. Workers remove any superficial dust or debris manually, using a microfiber cloth. They also mark the imperfections in the paint in order for them to be corrected. Buffing is performed on marked areas.

It is then, the turn of the electrical components and harnesses to be installed. Meanwhile, on a separate assembly line, another team puts the components of the drivetrain together. A lift helps workers install the locking differential and the axle casing assembly. Dampers follow.

Fort Wayne Factory
Photo: FRAME | YouTube
Robots lift the chassis, equipped with the front and rear axle, and place it upside down so that they can proceed to work on it. A crane lifts the engine, clutch, and transmission assembly, positioning them properly before they are securely fastened onto the chassis.

A robot installs the windshield, making sure the connection is perfectly sealed. The cabin and the rear modular truck bed are then attached to the rest of the vehicle, which then travels along a lift so that workers can install the necessary components underneath. The front grill is up next before the vehicle advances to the next station for a comprehensive performance evaluation and quality inspection.

After that, the pickup truck is ready to drive through the factory gate.

The Fort Wayne factory, plagued by production downtimes

This year, GM's Fort Wayne plant will take time off to prepare for the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks. The downtime was scheduled to happen during the weeks starting with April 29 (already completed), June 24, and July 8.

However, the downtime should not affect the supply, and GM will be able to keep up with customer demand.

GM's suppliers, such as Grand Rapid Operations, Marion Metal Center, and Parma Metal Center will also put operations on hold.

These days, however, the plant also has to face the drawbacks caused by a strike at a key supplier, American Axle & Manufacturing. Therefore, the production center will have to idle operations due to a parts shortage.

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