Lightning eMotors has completed the expansion of its manufacturing campus in Loveland, Colorado by 102,000 square feet to a total of over 226,000 square feet and reconfigured workstations throughout the plant to incorporate advanced automation and augmented reality systems across multiple workstations and assembly areas.
The expansion and investment in new plant equipment is part of the company’s effort to improve efficiency and increase production capacity. The investment of more than $5 million includes the installation of sophisticated collaborative robots and man-machine interface stations to enable technicians to increase throughput and consistency throughout the assembly process and improve overall safety and quality.
Lightning eMotors’ retooled and expanded manufacturing operations will increase the production capacity up to 1,500 zero emission complete vehicles and powertrain systems annually by the end of 2022 and keeps the company on track to its previously announced plan to produce up to 20,000 vehicles and powertrain systems by 2025. Lightning eMotors believes it can readily expand and add the additional square footage needed on its one million square-foot campus to potentially allow it to support capacity for up to 20,000 complete vehicles and powertrain systems per year.
“Our experience building vehicles and powertrains has provided us with unique insights about how to build zero-emission vehicles with industry leading quality and cost control, and we’ve applied what we learned to the investments we’ve made in the expansion and automation,” said Lightning eMotors’ CEO Tim Reeser. “This expansion at our headquarters here in Loveland not only helps us increase our production capacity – but the additional tooling and automation enables our technicians to do their jobs more safely, more efficiently, and with a focus on quality and consistency.”
The plant expansion includes the addition of collaborative robots (Cobots) to assist technicians with the fabrication and welding process. Lightning eMotors is also using projected augmented reality (AR) software to transform the manual assembly and manufacturing processes. The projected AR platform projects virtual step-by-step work instructions directly onto an employee’s work surface, delivering immediate impacts on quality and productivity.
An additional 3,700 square feet on the campus is also being renovated to become Lightning’s new vehicle research and development annex and battery testing center with a commercial vehicle rated dynamometer and advanced battery testing equipment.
“As we expand Lightning eMotors’ production capacity we are incorporating advanced manufacturing processes,” said Brian Barron, Lightning eMotors’ chief manufacturing officer. “We have also built a manufacturing and operations team that includes a number of talented executives who bring a wide range of experience and expertise from some of the world’s best manufacturers including BMW, Nissan, and Tesla.”
Currently more than 50 highly skilled technicians build and customize medium duty commercial vehicles at the company’s manufacturing campus. That number is expected to more than double by the end of 2022 as the company continues to expand.