Calsonic celebrates 30 years, opens new building

Friday, June 20, 2014
Pictured cutting the ribbon are, from left, Seiichi Kakizawa, Global CK CFO and past CKNA President; Mike Turner, SVP CK Americas; Hiroshi Moriya, Global CK CEO; Shingo Yamamoto, CK America's CEO; Motohiko Kato, Consul-General of Japan in Nashville; Eric Huch, CKNA COO; and Greg Lowe. Not pictured: Master of Ceremonies Mike Layne, SVP CK Americas.

By Karen Hall


Wednesday, June 18, was an exciting day for Calsonic Kansei North America, as they celebrated 30 years in the United States, and opened their new distribution center in Lewisburg.

"It's a huge milestone for us. This is a big event for us on a global basis," said Mike Layne, senior vice president of administration and finance. "We're very proud of our heritage."

About sixty invited guests enjoyed lunch in the distribution center's break room before moving into the warehouse for the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony and guided tours.

Those in attendance included the Japanese consul general and the vice consul for economic and business affairs, CKNA executives from Japan, lawmakers Pat Marsh and Billy Spivey, mayors Jim Bingham, Joe Boyd Liggett and Wallace Cartwright, and economic development specialists Greg Lowe, Mike Wiles, Clay Banks, and Tommy Burns. Most of the Lewisburg city councilmen were there, and a few county commissioners.

"It's a great honor and a privilege to be here today," said Lowe. "CKNA has had 30 years of partnership with Lewisburg and Marshall County. We have grown together over the past 30 years, and today we celebrate growth and prosperity.

"CKNA is our largest industrial employer, and the leader in community outreach and support," he continued.

A tremendous amount of teamwork went into getting the huge distribution center up and running -- ground was broken in July 2013, and the keys to the building were handed over on April 1, 2014 -- and Lowe thanked everyone from Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Haggerty to TDOT and TVA, and those working at the local level, like himself, Burns and Banks.

"It's a special time," concluded Lowe. "May you continue to be our friend!"

Bingham recalled doing the survey for Calsonic's first land purchase in Lewisburg in 1983.

"Little did I know it would grow to be one of the most important economic pillars of Lewisburg," he said.

Bingham read an official proclamation honoring CKNA, and presented a gift: a drawing of the bridge in Rock Creek Park, flanked by a Tennessee iris and a Japanese chrysanthemum, and including the Lewisburg City Hall at the bottom and the distribution center at the top.

"We very much appreciate your cooperation," said CEO Hiroshi Moriya.

"We're proud of the partnership and hard work that has made this possible. We're proud to be a part of the Marshall County family," said Shingo Yamamoto, chairman and CEO of CalsonicKansei Americas. "This has started a new chapter in the life of CKNA today. We have state-of-the-art automation, and we can load a truck every 17 minutes."

"It's very important to have a good relationship with local government and with the schools," said Eric Huch, CKNA chief operations officer. "Our challenge was to streamline work and cut costs."

The warehouse is huge, over seven acres in area, with towering racks of parts lining the aisles. These aisles are narrower than usually found in a warehouse, and the racks are higher. Humans can be seen driving forklifts, including extra tall ones to reach the topmost racks, but Automatic Guided Carts are also moving goods silently around the floor, guided by a magnetic strip, and by computer-generated orders. Barcodes keep track of where everything is.

"The carts allow us to be more competitive," said Greg Rucker, a supply chain manager turned tour guide for the day. "We've got room to grow."

There are 20 shipping docks, for sending parts out, and six receiving docks for parts coming in. CKNA is the largest supplier to Nissan, and the distribution center will be working 24 hours a day.

"They work, we work," said Rucker. "Ten or 15 percent of a Nissan vehicle will pass through this building. It will be much easier when it's all under one roof."