by David Cullen, FleetOwner

As Meritor sees it, its major manufacturing plants —no matter where sited— can no longer be facilities that merely produce quality components for commercial vehicles operating in a given region.

Seeking to make that point, Meritor executives earlier today took U.S. and Canadian journalists through its historic yet state-of the-art axle plant located here, in the outskirts of Milan.

The Cameri facility dates back to 1908. It was initially built to serve as a flight school and an aircraft factory. After WWII, it was used to assemble Fiat and Iveco buses. In 1980, it was transformed into an axle-specific plant that began production in 1983. Iveco sold a controlling interest in the Cameri operation in ’84 to Rockwell, corporate predecessor to Meritor (formed in 1997). Back in ’87, Rockwell took complete control of the plant.

Today, it covers 136,139 square meters, employs 531 (including 53 engineers) and is certified as an ISO TS16949 Quality and ISO 14001 Environmental facility.

Those certifications, according to Meritor site manager Gian Luca Alberti, demonstrate Cameri’s commitment to engineering and manufacturing excellence on a world-class level.

Joe Plomin, Meritor’s recently named president—Europe & Asia Pacific, pointed out that what’s happening here in northern Italy dovetails with a key aspect of the component manufacturer’s global growth strategy.

“The Cameri plant is one of eight engineering/manufacturing sites that operate as our Centers of Excellence,” Plomin told FleetOwner.” He said these centers include Meritor facilities located in the U.S., the U.K., India, Brazil and Mexico as well as that of a joint venture in China.

Plomin explained that while each Center of Excellence primarily serves to deliver market-specific components in their own backyards, working links established between all of them are enabling a “continual transfer of technology worldwide” that can only benefit Meritor—and its customers-- globally.

“Right now,” he advised, “Cameri’s production is split, in that about 80% is for European-based customers with the remaining 20% or so being exported.” And widely so, as the non-European customers are located in countries that include the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, India, Australia, Japan and China.

Stressing Meritor’s commitment to Cameri as a Center of Excellence, Plomin related that the company has invested more than $55 million (over 40-million Euros) in the last seven years.

Those investments included:

  • Upgrading and automation of the fabricated-housing forming line
  • Automation of fabricated-housing machining with spindle hard-turning
  • Updating manufacturing processes for gears
  • New cast-housing machining area
  • New hub-reduction carrier assembly line
  • New dynos for testing and prototype area
During a thorough tour of the plant— which boasts numerous robotic procedures-- Alberti explained that the Cameri operation is mainly engaged in axle machining and assembly operations with product-testing and prototype work also conducted here.

He said machining at Cameri is performed on both fabricated and cast housings, differential cases, carriers and gear sets while axle carriers, drum brakes and axles are assembled on site.