This post is the first in an ongoing series of manufacturer profiles. The blogs will cover some of the many big names in manufacturing in the state of Nebraska. Check back later for more posts in the series.
When most people think of Nebraska, they probably think of things like “corn,” “Husker football,” or “farming.” And while all three of those things do certainly have their place in the state, anyone just focused on corn and football is missing out on something else that makes Nebraska great: a star-studded list of manufacturers.
Kawasaki’s facility in Lincoln, Nebraska was opened in 1974 and was the first foreign motorcycle manufacturer to operate a plant in the United States. Since they first started producing motorcycles at the plant, Kawasaki has also introduced Jet Skis and some ATVs, among other things. A more detailed history of production is available here.
Just a few years ago, online magazine MotorcycleUSA.com went on a tour of the factory, noting the following:
The plant operates with Orwellian efficiency. Arms of welding robots bend and rotate with surgical precision, a CNC machine makes perfect bends on thick pipes, lasers cut through sheet metal while more robots weld, paint, and bond. An automated guided cart affectionately called “Mad Max” rolls from one end of the production line to the other while it follows a painted line on the floor. A monolithic 3000-ton press molds fiberglass bodies and component parts for Jet Skis while a coil-fed press and shear stamps out rectangular and round blanks for wheels. A sophisticated robotic ink transcription process allows KMM to apply intricate graphic designs to ATVs. It’s mass production at its finest.
Despite the Kawasaki factory’s staggering efficiency, people still run the show, doing things like:
- Forming beads by hand (welders)
- Operate things like torque wrenches manually
- Weave wire around frames by hand
- Program diagnostic checks and run machines
All-in-all, the Kawasaki factory in Lincoln, Nebraska is a great example of a big name in manufacturing that has its roots here in the Midwest. Taking advantage of the need for skilled workers in manufacturing, Kawasaki’s factory is highly technical and a shining example of the modern factory.
Those interested can take a tour of the factory, and we definitely recommend it. Not only is Kawasaki a great Nebraska manufacturer, they’re also a great place to see a lot of new technology hard at work.
Here are some of the most interesting photos from MotorcycleUSA’s tour: