Kia plant back up and running as embers smolder at supplier Daehan Solution

The Kia Motors assembly plant in West Point, Ga., began ramping up production today as the embers continued to smolder, sparking a small blaze, at its nearby parts supplier Daehan Solution.

Already heavily damaged from an intense fire last Saturday, fire crews from West Point responded today afternoon to a call from Daehan after winds blew embers into some raw material,” said Ron Wilson, human resources manager for the Daehan plant.

“It really isn’t much of anything,” he said by phone. “We had four trucks here and they got it out really quick.”

Wilson said the company is continuing to pick up the pieces from the blaze that torched 145,000 square feet of the 260,000-square-foot plant at 791 South Progress Parkway, in Northwest Harris Business Park. The supplier is only minutes from the main Kia facility.

“We’ve just got a lot of cleanup that we have to do before we can start work, plus assessing some of our technology because we use a lot of robots and conveyors and things like that,” Wilson said.

The Daehan factory employs 300, with production consisting of making headliners for vehicles assembled by Kia. Headliners typically are felt-covered overhead panels installed for noise dampening and decoration in a vehicle’s interior.

Wilson said a 115,000-square-foot section of the Daehan facility was left intact because of a fire wall, but it’s not known if work can be moved into that space.

“It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going to happen. Maybe some of the operations may go over to Alabama temporarily. But our goal is just to be restored to where we once were,” said the HR manager, who expects to know more by this weekend.

The Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia plant, meanwhile, resumed some production Wednesday with plans to work Thursday and Friday as well.

“We don’t share details about our supply chain, but we’ve got contingency plans in place, short term and long term,” said Kia spokeswoman Corinne Hodges. “We’re getting back on track here and this should not affect us reaching our production goals.”

A revised schedule includes bringing back maintenance, stamping, welding, painting and assembly shop employees for various shifts. Saturday, which is normally worked only on an as-needed basis, will be idle this week.

Asked if the plant will be at full production next week, Hodges said she has yet to see the schedule.

“But that’s what we’re working toward,” she said. “We’re certainly working to get back up to full speed as quickly as possible.”

The Kia mother plant located off Interstate 85 near the Georgia-Alabama border employs about 3,000. It manufactures the Kia Sorento crossover utility vehicle, the Kia Optima sedan and the Hyundai Sante Fe sport utility vehicle.

The assembly facility relies on the suppliers clustered around it to feed it parts steadily in what is called “just in time” production. An incident such as Saturday’s fire at Daehan can throw things off, leading to shutdowns like that which occurred at the main plant Monday and Tuesday.