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Curtis Mitchell of Austintown, a member of Ironworkers Local 207, signs the last steel beam put in place on Friday at the new Ultium Cells LLC plant in Lordstown. … Staff Photo / Ron Selak Jr.

LORDSTOWN – There are 14,000 beams that form the massive steel structure of Ultium Cells LLC’s 2.8 million square foot battery cell manufacturing plant here.

On Friday, ironworkers at Boardman Local 207 – who have been erecting the skeleton for months – hoisted and set up the last piece of structural steel in a “finishing” ceremony, marking a milestone in the process. $ 2.3 billion plant.

“It’s a great achievement,” said Curtis Mitchell of Austintown, a member of Local 207 and the lift crew who lifted the ornate beam of a small evergreen tree to its final place. rest.

A “coronation” ceremony is a rite among builders that dates back many, many years. Its origins, however, are murky.

Prior to that, members of Local 207 and employees of Barton Malow, Michigan’s general contractor for the project, signed the beam.

“It’s a great moment. Literally a year ago we had a bar towel. We had no drawings, nothing at all. We had diagrams, like two sheets, ”said John Hanmer, head of project management at Barton Malow. “To see us go from there to today; we were in a 6ft high biting bush a year ago. It’s been amazing work since April. “

Ultium Cells LLC is a joint venture between General Motors and South Korean company LG Chem to mass produce battery cells that will power several GM electric models.

Preparation for the 158-acre site adjacent to GM’s former auto manufacturing plant began in April with concrete footings poured in May. Steel construction began in July.

“So eight months,” said Mathew Cook of Champion, Barton Malow foreman and member of Local 207. “This is the last main structure in the building, the last structural member… We worked six days a week. for about eight months. I appreciate all of these guys and everything they’ve done through the weather, snow, rain, everything, COVID.

THE FACTORY / STAFF

The project ended in 2020 with around 500 construction workers on site. Now that number is around 650 and is expected to rise to 1,000 when the time comes to install the equipment in the middle of this year.

The building is already partially covered with its outer skin. It is expected to be mostly complete by the end of 2021 with an early production phase in early 2022, which matches GM’s plans to begin, in earnest, electrifying its fleet. .

“It’s really a simultaneous construction, so we have the steel construction, siding and roofing all taking place on the outside of the building, as well as things like sanitary sewer and water,” he said. said Tom Gallagher, plant manager. “Inside the property, we are pouring concrete, working on the terrace. In addition, mechanical and electrical components also come into play. “

The mixing and coating process equipment in the factory electrode area is among the first to arrive. Then the assembly and formation of cells will happen. Some installation work will still be in progress in the initial production phase.

“It’s really about having an aggressive schedule and getting to market as quickly as possible with a product of the highest quality,” said Gallagher. “So we’re trying to have that balance between getting to market quickly and maintaining the ability to launch with the right volume and schedule.”

Gallagher said a team of around 30 newly hired employees will begin in March as part of a launch team. They will work in a variety of functions including engineering, maintenance, quality, and production.

They will take a two-week orientation at LG Energy Solution’s Michigan battery plant, Gallagher said. LG Energy Solutions is a subsidiary of LG Chem.

About ten people were already on board.

So far, more than 500,000 hours have been spent developing the facility, including fabrication and installation of the steel structure. The building framing allows for an open floor plan environment, with a main hallway spanning the width of the building interior and creating a connection point across the operation. The factory will be equivalent to the size of 30 football fields and will have an annual capacity of over 30 gigawatt hours with the possibility of expansion.

FUTURE GROWTH

Gallagher changed the notion of future plant growth on Friday, saying the focus is now on a successful launch.

“Growth opportunities are not what we are currently working on or focusing on,” he said. “It’s delivering what we can here on time at budgeted cost at the level of quality we need to be successful.”

There are, however, scenarios to expand or modify as cell designs change, “but at this point our focus is on delivering the current chemistry, which is of critical importance to the electrical future of GM and take advantage of technology from LG Energy Solutions.

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