In April, a group of Georgia Tech students had the opportunity to tour the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) automotive plant, an impressive facility spanning over 2,300,000 square feet located in West Point, Georgia. Hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Atlanta Section, the tour provided students with an in-depth look into KMMG’s history and manufacturing process for the three Kia models produced in the plant: The Optima, Sorento, and most recently the Telluride, which debuted in spring of 2019.
Mike Stonecipher of GaMEP at Georgia Tech, Joy Johnston and Ted Arnold of KMMG welcome Georgia Tech students to the Kia Plant
Before witnessing the plant’s assembly line in action, the students met with KMMG employees, Ted Arnold, Head of Quality Assurance, and Joy Johnston, Public Relations Specialist, to learn what sets KMMG apart from other automotive manufacturers. Arnold and Johnston highlighted several of the company’s quality accolades, including its recent award for ranking number one among all mass market brands for four consecutive years. The pair was quick to credit its success and continued growth to its incredibly diverse and highly skilled workforce.
“The Kia Georgia Training Center and Georgia Quick Start have played a key part in the Kia Continuous Improvement mindset, helping us to sustain a work environment dedicated to fostering teamwork, safety, and world-class training,” said Johnston while discussing some of the company’s core values and training methods.
Following a Q&A session, the students experienced the final part of the visit and what they had been anticipating since their arrival – a golf cart tour through the different stages of the Kia assembly facility. During the tour, the students were driven through multiple buildings on-site as Johnston explained the operations performed in each one. In addition to watching employees work together on the assembly line to build vehicles, the students got a firsthand look at how the plant incorporates automation into its process. Stopping at one point in front of a group of industrial robots, the students observed how the robots welded together the inner and outer panels of a vehicle.
“Seeing the automation that surrounds the process was really interesting,” commented Reed Clark, a Georgia Tech senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “I had never been in an automotive plant before so I enjoyed seeing how the assembly line works and watching all the car bodies and parts move overhead from one area to the next until you’ve ended up with a full-blown car. It was easy for me to identify all the different steps of production as they were happening on the assembly line.”
Accompanying the group of Georgia Tech students during the tour was Mike Stonecipher, Project Manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech and Board Chair for the SAE Atlanta Section. Having significant work experience within the automotive field, Stonecipher is an industry expert and has been involved with the SAE Atlanta Section for the past five years. After being named Board Chair three years ago, he has played an integral role in revitalizing the section through strong leadership and strategic plan development and execution. Generating excitement and interest in the field of automotive has been an important goal of the SAE Atlanta Section’s strategic plan. To accomplish this, the SAE Atlanta Section works with Georgia Tech and GaMEP throughout the year to develop successful events that not only increase interest within the community of students, but also champion manufacturing in the state of Georgia.
“The SAE Atlanta section is heavily involved with promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and serving the automotive industry,” Stonecipher said. “We have some of the best colleges in the world developing the next generation of engineers and leaders. As a result, one of our objectives is to support local manufacturers and students by providing an opportunity to connect.”
The Kia Plant tour is one event choice that aligns well with the SAE Atlanta Section’s objective. According to Patrick Sands, Public Relations Manager, KMMG is excited to offer students ranging from middle school age to college level an inside look at the automotive industry as well as provide an example of an advanced manufacturing opportunity that could be available to them once they join the job market.
“During a plant tour, students are able to see up-close-and-personal the quality that Kia puts into its products,” Sands said. “We hope these tours not only inspire students to think higher of the brand, but to also consider joining the Kia team once they graduate.”
About Kia Motors America
Headquartered in Irvine, California, Kia Motors America continues to top quality surveys and is recognized as one of the 100 Best Global Brands and 50 Best Global Green Brands by Interbrand. Kia serves as the “Official Automotive Partner” of the NBA and offers a complete range of vehicles sold through a network of nearly 800 dealers in the U.S., including cars and SUVs proudly assembled in West Point, Georgia.*