Coronavirus: Several Springfield manufacturers push production restarts to late April

Several manufacturers in Springfield that have ties to the auto industry have temporarily suspended production into the middle of the month as the ongoing COVID-19, also known as coronavirus pandemic, has put a strain on the supply chain as well as demand for those products.

Companies such as Navistar and Topre America do not expect to resume full scale production in the area until at least later this month. Both companies have extended their stoppage of production as they originally looked to resume in early April.

Navistar announced last month that it would be stopping production on both its assembly lines in Springfield until April 6. However, representatives of the company announced this week that they would be postponing production until April 27 as the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted Navistar’s supply chain.

MORE: Coronavirus: Order tomorrow could address non-essential institutions continuing to operate

Representatives of Navistar told local union officials Tuesday that their suppliers are still not able to get parts and that is the reason for the extension, said Chris Blizard, the president of UAW Local 402. His union represents assembly production workers as well as those in skilled trades at the Springfield plant.

Blizard said up to 1,000 UAW Local 402 members continue to be temporarily out of work until production resumes at the Springfield plant. However, some employees are still reporting to work there in a non-production capacity, he added.

Navistar’s Springfield plant assembles medium-duty commercial trucks as well as cutaway vans for General Motors. GM confirmed last month that it would begin a systematic orderly suspension of auto manufacturing operations in North America. That decision was made due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Honda, which has facilities in Ohio, also extended its auto production suspension to April 7. However, Brad Pepper, Topre America’s vice president, said he believes that could be extended further. Topre does business with Honda as well as with Toyota.

Pepper said the latter makes up a large proportion of work orders at Topre’s Springfield facility. Toyota has extended its temporary stoppage in vehicle production to April 20.

Topre announced on March 23 that it would be suspending production in Springfield and would close the facility for two weeks in order to comply with state guidelines set by Gov. Mike DeWine. However, Pepper said that was changed slightly a few days after the announcement, with limited production only resuming for service industry related requests. That includes parts needed for vehicle repairs.

However, the Springfield facility will not resume full production for another two to three weeks and 215 out of a total of 250 employees there are temporarily out of work, Pepper added.

He said those employees have been able to use paid time off, including those that were recently hired.

MORE: Coronavirus: Clark County construction projects on track during pandemic

However, with full production expected to resume at a later date, Pepper said they are looking at ways to compensate workers who will run out of that PTO time. He said one option is having those workers apply for unemployment benefits.

Pepper said before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, his company was looking to hire an additional 140 people at the Springfield plant this year.

He said they still anticipate hiring more people once they resume back to normal business operations. However, that number depends on the long term impact that the coronavirus pandemic will have on the auto industry.

In addition to those companies, locally based McGregor Metalworking Companies has implemented temporary layoffs at its facilities in Springfield. That decisions is in part due to several McGregor customers delaying the return of production at their sites.

The company announced on its website that many of its salary staff will be laid off for two weeks, which started on Friday. Hourly personnel who have also been temporarily laid off are not expected to return to work until at least mid-April.

In addition, the company’s remaining salaried employees are participating in the downturn with a 20% reduction in pay that will be in effect until business conditions normalize.

About the Author