Advanced Manufacturing in the Bluegrass

Advanced manufacturing is a key component of the Bluegrass Region’s economy and is a targeted industry for Lexington’s economic development.

Advanced manufacturing uses innovation and technology to improve manufacturing process, typically through the incorporation of computer technology, advanced robots, clean technology, information technologies, automation, innovation, precision control of the manufacturing process, customization, sustainability and eco-friendly technologies and practices, and waste reduction.


One of the Bluegrass Region’s most prominent advanced manufacturers is Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) in Georgetown, an automotive assembly facility established in 1986 by Toyota Motor Corporation. The facility produces four cylinder and V-6 engines, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, and Venza, and will begin producing the first U.S. assembled Lexus later this year, an addition that will increase its production by 50,000 vehicles. Currently, around 7,900 Kentuckians are employed. The philosophy of the Toyota Production System is “the complete elimination of all waste.” Toyota’s Just in Time system quickly and efficiently produces and delivers only vehicles ordered by customers, without excess. Toyota’s machines monitor production quality and automatically shut off when the process completes or when a quality or equipment problem arises. This ensures high quality of production, increases processing capacity, and allows operators to monitor several machines at once.

Webasto Roof Systems, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, has a sunroofs and components production facility in Lexington. Webasto researchers and developers work with automotive manufacturers to design highly specific custom prototypes and produce sunroofs for individual make and model specifications, a process which takes around two years from design to production. Webasto recently invested $10 million in expansions and modernization, and created 65 new jobs.

The iconic household brand Jif Peanut Butter is made here in Lexington by J.M. Smucker, a leading food products manufacturer. The Jif plant in Lexington is the largest peanut butter production facility in the world, requiring 188 billion peanuts annually and employing around 280 people. In 2013, Smucker announced it would invest over $43 million in upgrades to increase efficiency and productivity, improve machinery and equipment, and increase product line capacity. In a press release for the announcement, Gov. Beshear said, “This investment of $43 million in Lexington really shows the commitment to Smucker’s growth and success here, and a testament to the positive relationship the company has with the Commonwealth.”


Each of these companies’ recommitment to the region is proof that Lexington is a great place for advanced manufacturing. The region’s strong transportation network helps serve manufacturing efforts, allowing for the easy import of component supplies and the distribution of finished products, and Lexington’s workforce provides the innovative and skilled talent these companies need.

Check back next week to learn about MakeTime, the Machine Capacity Marketplace. 


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