KT photo | Tim Bath
AN UP-CLOSE LOOK: A worker monitors production of a circuit chip on General Motors Components Holdings Kokomo Operations’ FAB III line. Last month, company officials unveiled an updated business plan to revamp the Kokomo facility.
A handful of employees, clad in white disposable gowns and breathing masks, stood at their stations in their work area’s yellow lighting.
The semiconductor wafer fabrication line they worked in produces integrated circuit chips that have gone into engine controls, air conditioners and other basic vehicle devices.
The facility, with its ultra violet ray-extracting lighting, particle accelerators and almost entirely automated manufacturing process, has grown outdated, said automotive industry analyst David Cole.
The company, General Motors Components Holdings Kokomo Operations, last month unveiled a new business plan that managers say could keep the FAB III line, as well as GM’s other operations in Kokomo, alive.
The FAB III, as a part of then-Delphi Corp., used to have trouble keeping up with the demand for its products. But then layoffs began in the early part of the decade.
“I remember visiting several years ago,” Cole said. “It was absolutely state-of-the art, but when you look at the world today, the ability to make chips is, every year, becoming more advanced. ... If you look at the new fab facilities, they’re much more productive than the old ones, with the efficiency with which you make the chips.”
The General Motors Co. subsidiary took over the operations from Delphi when the companies emerged from bankruptcy. GMCH also includes operations such as thick-film printing and electronics assembly.
In July, General Motors’ corporate office issued a statement that it was “assessing its business model” for the FAB III line in Kokomo. That led to concerns about whether the GMCH-owned facility in Kokomo would still be open in a few years.