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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Production scheduled to resume today at site of rampage

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

With 303 robots and about 1,000 employees building Jeep Libertys at any one time in 2.1 million square feet, the Toledo North Assembly Plant is a massive example of some of the latest manufacturing techniques used in the auto industry.

On Wednesday, the plant's 522,500-square-foot body shop was the site of a violent spree when 54-year-old Myles Meyers shot three co-workers and killed himself.

Production at the Toledo Jeep complex was shut down Wednesday night and yesterday, but is scheduled to resume today. About 3,800 people work at Toledo Jeep, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler AG.

Meyers and the three men, one of whom, Roy Thacker of Oregon, died of his wounds, were among about 125 employees who worked at the plant's second shift in a shop roughly half the size of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park. More than two-thirds of the plant's robots are used for welding in the highly automated body shop.

About 800 Liberty bodies are assembled daily in the shop, where the process for building the compact sport utility vehicles starts.

Body parts that come from a Chrysler plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., are delivered to the body shop's production line using sophisticated forklifts that have no drivers but read bar codes along their path to determine where to stop. The robots then weld the parts together to form the vehicle shell or body. Employees oversee the process and equipment.

Meyers' job was to inspect vehicles to make sure they had no defects and were built using the planned parts, so the vehicle had the correct styling.

Next, the vehicle body is sent to the paint shop next door, and, ultimately, to the final assembly shop for finishing.

About 100 people work in the paint shop on a shift. The rest of the 750 employees at the factory are supervising, installing seats, and doing other final assembly work, or inspecting finished Libertys.

Toledo North, which cost $750 million to build and started producing Libertys for customers nearly four years ago, is adjacent to the Stickney Avenue factory. Jeep Wranglers are finished at Stickney Avenue after their bodies are built and painted at the Jeep Parkway factory a few miles away.

As part of a current $2.1 billion expansion of Toledo Jeep Assembly, Chrysler and three key suppliers are building factories next to Toledo North where the redesigned Jeep Wrangler will be made starting next year.



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