Winchester plant state of the art for Mopar

Melissa Jones, a team leader at Mopar, explains how carts get tagged and filled with the proper Mopar part or accessory. Tom Crosby/Daily

WINCHESTER – With an official dedication Tuesday, the 400,000-square-foot Mopar Parts Distribution Center on Tysons Drive becomes a model facility for Mopar’s 50 other centers worldwide.

“The building, the processes and the people that we have here are truly top notch,” gushed Pietro Gorlier, head of parts and service for Mopar globally, and who has overseen double-digit financial growth for Mopar in the past five years.

It is the first parts distribution plant built by Mopar, an OEM (official equipment manufacturer) since the creation in 2009 of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and is state-of-the-art, including machines uniquely designed to improve efficiency and safety.

Employees, officers, political surrogates, media and other guests attended the dedication and signing of a huge commemorative company logo by Gorlier and Norman Jewell, United Auto Workers vice president and director of FCA’s Chrysler Department.

“It’s going to be great” for the area, said Melissa Jones, 36, of Winchester, who is a team leader on the plant’s second shift. She called her job locating and separating items for shipment to FCA dealers “very exciting. It’s a very good job and not just a passing thing.”

Pietro Gorlier, left, head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global, and Norwood Jewell, UAW vice president and director of the Chrysler Department, put the final signatures on a commemorative Mopar logo marking the dedication of the new Mopar Winchester Parts Distribution Center. Courtesy photo

Virginia was selected for the plant as a perfectly situated site between Atlanta, Cleveland and New York to provide delivery to 200 Mid-Atlantic FCA automotive dealers.

Dave Stegmaier, representing U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, read from a commemorative plaque that Frederick County is one of Virginia’s Top 10 regions favorable for economic development.

With 70 employees – 40 recruited locally online and through job fairs – the plant is expected to fulfill orders for an estimated 9.2 million pieces annually, specifically for the FCA brands – Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati and Ram.

One worker is Calvin Stotler, 47, of Yellow Spring, West Virginia, who left a processing engineering job at O’Sullivan’s to work at Mopar where he oversees loading and unloading of supplies from shelves that appeared 30-plus feet high using a specially built high/low forklift.

“I love it,” he said. “I can see myself retiring from here in 17-18 years.

Populated with more than 50,000 differently numbered parts for the 10 brands, Mopar has been operating the center since Feb. 28, improving and refining processes.

One company wall applauds examples of Mopar’s moments of kaizen – the Japanese word describing continuous improvement in all functions involving everyone from CEO to assembly line workers across all organization boundaries throughout a supply chain.

Some improvements came from Topper Industrial, a Sturtevant, Wisconsin, firm that built for Mopar mobile, articulated sorting carts to eliminate the need for a forklift to take items off a conveyor belt.

Ed Brown, CEO of Topper Industrial, noted every day in America someone is killed by a forklift.  The unique carts, he said, are “three times more efficient and way, way safer.”

Parts can now to be transferred manually without using a forklift, Brown said.

The new building has 80 skylights and was designed to improve the work place environment while also seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification, the third highest.

Gorlier noted that the  “World Class Logistics system that we implemented in this building is a global methodology based on the ethical elimination of waste, with customer-oriented processes…”

He has been instrumental in improving Mopar by accessorizing vehicles in dealer showrooms that could be purchased without having the accessories added later. The advertised price includes the accessories.

“It’s tough to sell accessories based on a display,” Gorlier believes. “It’s much easier when you can see the accessory on a car.”

With accessories built onto the vehicle originally, fit and finish is better and customer convenience is improved (they don’t have to wait for delivery or return to the dealer for add-ons), Gorlier noted.

A 2017 Jeep Wrangler – the FCA vehicle eligible for the highest number of possible accessories – was on display at the commemoration.

The Winchester plant will help “optimize operations in similar centers across the country, allowing them to become faster and more efficient also,” Gorlier said.

The huge number of available parts comes because Mopar seeks to improve by “understanding the DNA of each FCA brand,” he said. “You cannot treat them the same. For Dodge, it might be what can we do to increase performance and for Ram truck, how people use it for work. And you can’t put racing stripes on a Fiat.”

Mopar invested $12.5 million in the Winchester plant under a 15-year lease with Equus Capital Partners, a Philadelphia private equity fund real estate manager.

Contact Tom Crosby at news@nvdaily.com