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Mack puts second-shift production workers on temporary layoff due to supplier issue


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Jon Harris, The Morning Call  /  November 13, 2018

[Volvo Group subsidiary] Mack Trucks is idling its second-shift production employees this week — and possibly beyond — due to a supply chain issue.

Mack spokesman Christopher Heffner said the temporary layoff, which began Tuesday and runs through Friday, affects a majority of second-shift employees at the company’s assembly plant in Lower Macungie Township. He did not say exactly how many second-shift employees, who typically work from 3:15 to 11:15 p.m., are affected.

“Our colleagues are dedicating significant resources to solve the supply chain interruption and keep this temporary layoff to only this week,” Heffner said. “However, the situation is fluid, and we won’t know more about shift impacts beyond this week until Friday.”

For this week, Mack is treating it as a “shift curtailment” and plans to compensate all of the affected employees 80 percent of their pay, according to a document circulated among employees Friday and later reviewed by The Morning Call. Asked whether that will continue if the layoff extends beyond Friday, Heffner responded: “We have not made any decisions beyond this week, as our hope is to be back up and running as soon as possible.”

Mack’s assembly plant, which employs a total of about 2,400 across two shifts and was closed Monday for Veterans Day, has been hampered by supply chain constraints throughout the year, especially since transitioning to its new truck range in the spring. In its third-quarter report, parent company Volvo Group mentioned supply chain issues as the reason for Mack’s heavy-duty market share dropping to 6.6 percent in North America.

In addition to supply chain issues, Heffner has previously pointed to Mack ramping up its new highway truck, Anthem, during a hot highway market as another reason why the company’s market share has declined. “Now that we’ve worked through the ramp, our teams are fully focused on managing supply chain issues and we expect our market share will grow,” Heffner said in an Oct. 19 email to The Morning Call following the third-quarter report’s release.

The most recent issue stems from a “supplier quality issue” that is causing the company’s Hagerstown, Md., powertrain production plant to run short on axle housings, according to the document provided to employees Friday. That shortage is related to a “porosity issue occurring in the supplier’s casting process,” the document stated.

In the notice, Mack said it is working with the United Auto Workers Local 677, which represents Mack workers, to minimize the impact of the temporary layoff and to consider ways to “avoid incidents of this nature in the future.”

Union officials did not return calls seeking comment Monday and Tuesday.

As for when the affected second-shift employees could return to work, they will need to call the plant’s Production Interruption Line on Friday to determine whether to report to work Monday, Nov. 19.

Even if they return then, the document makes it sounds like the supply chain issue could linger for a while.

“The entire Volvo Group is focused on supporting the supplier to get them back on track with resources from around the world,” the notice says. “Unfortunately, [Lehigh Valley Operations] will continue to see production disturbances over the next couple of weeks until the supplier issue can be corrected and the flow of good material can be restored.”

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