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Cummins’ Jamestown plant revs up for new engine line

Cummins Inc.’s Jamestown engine plant, a cornerstone of manufacturing in Chautauqua County, is preparing to launch a new engine line.

The new X15 series will serve heavy-duty trucks, and reinforces the plant’s viability within Indiana-based Cummins.

The Jamestown plant will be the only Cummins facility to produce the X15 series. The plant in the fourth quarter will make about 1,400 units of the new line – which are already sold out – and expects to sell at least 40,000 of them in 2017, when full production begins, said Mike Abbate, the plant manager. “We think there’s a really, really strong customer pool right now for these products.”

Srikanth Padmanabahn, president of Cummins’ engine business, and other company officials visited the Jamestown site on Thursday, just ahead of the start of X15 production next week.

“I tell these guys all the time, the only way we win in the marketplace is, we see the future first and try to beat our competition to it,” he said.

The new 15-liter engines consist of an “efficiency” series for fleets that depend on fuel economy, and a “performance” series, aimed at trucks that haul heavy loads or travel tough terrain.

Cummins spent about $40 million this year on an engine block line to support the new platform, and also invested in assembly line upgrades and product testing, Abbate said.

The company put the new engines through 6 million miles’ worth of tests, which Abbate called the most extensive field evaluation the company has ever done for a product launch.

“These guys are making money with their trucks, and when their trucks go down they don’t make money. So reliability of these products has been a paramount focus,” he said.

The Jamestown plant has about 1,400 employees, but isn’t adding new jobs in connection with the new line, Abbate said. “Our job growth is typically more about how the truck market moves, so when the market gets busy, certainly we add jobs. Right now, it’s in a leaner time, so we are back on more of a base employment situation.”

Padmanabahn said the Jamestown plant has a good track record for collaboration and teamwork. “Around our own network of plants that we have, Jamestown is seen as one of the benchmark plants, for both the machining and assembly lines, but also for the people.”

The Jamestown plant has “a pretty big responsibility” in the truck market, Abbate said. “About one out of three (tractor trailers) you’ll pass on the interstate has an engine from this plant, and we are the sole producers of that in North America.”

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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