Dec. 13–Mack is back, upshifting into hiring mode for its massive Lower Macungie Township assembly plant that already employs about 2,000 people.
The truckmaker is adding 400 workers, which will catapult Mack further up the list of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers and ahead of Air Products, a Fortune 500 company that employs 2,250 in the area.
Once the hires are onboard — the positions start Jan. 2 — Mack Trucks spokesman Christopher Heffner said, the employment of about 2,400 will be an all-time high for the plant, which completed its first highway truck Nov. 19, 1975, with a 700-strong workforce.
Heffner said the company began hiring for the jobs in mid-October. So far, he said, Mack has made offers to 345 people, which leaves about 55 positions still open.
“We’re increasing employment to meet higher market demand,” Heffner said. “Part of that includes strong interest in the new Mack Anthem model.”
Mack in September unveiled its new highway truck, Anthem, a vehicle that represents an opportunity for the company to grow in the long-haul segment, which represents about 50 percent of the heavy-duty truck market. Full production of the Anthem, which will be assembled in Lower Macungie, will begin in the first quarter, when it’s expected to complement Mack’s No. 1 position in construction and strong stance in refuse vehicles.
“We haven’t been participating in that part of the market in decades, so whatever we get is going to be huge for us,” said Ed Balukas, president of United Auto Workers Local 677, which represents Mack workers.
Business has been strong for Mack throughout 2017. Through September, the company is riding a 53 percent jump in orders — a barometer of future deliveries — as the North American construction segment remains strong and the long-haul and regional haul markets are on the upswing. Next year is looking even better.
In October, when Mack’s parent company, Sweden’s Volvo Group, reported its third-quarter results, Heffner said the company was adjusting production and planned to add workers, though the scale of the hiring was unknown at that time.
The mystery ended Tuesday, with Heffner’s disclosure that Mack was adding 400 workers to start early next month. Heffner said the plant is running two shifts, with first shift from 6:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and second shift from 3:15 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
The reason for the 30-minute window between shifts, Balukas said, is to work around parking constraints, leaving enough time for the first-shift workers to exit the plant and make room for the incoming second-shift employees.
“That’s how many people we have now,” he said. “We overwhelmed the parking lot.”
The hiring is even more significant when you think about where Mack was not too long ago. In January, the Lower Macungie plant had 1,480 employees, as Mack came off a down year in 2016 in which it scheduled several weeklong production shutdowns and logged its worst year of truck deliveries since 2010.
It’s all part of being in the cyclical heavy-duty truck market, where what goes up must eventually come down. With that in mind, fluctuations in Mack’s workforce are not uncommon because the company monitors the market and adjusts its employment needs accordingly.
But in the current cycle, Mack is on its way up, especially locally.
Mack, which is Lower Macungie’s largest employer, also is one of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers. If it reaches its goal of about 2,400 workers on its plant payroll next month, Mack will trail only a few local employers, including Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Amazon, Walmart and Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.
Mack also has upgraded its facilities in the Lehigh Valley, completing a $3 million renovation at its Allentown customer center and carrying out an ongoing $84 million investment in its Lower Macungie plant to make the facility more modern, integrated and efficient. Heffner said most of the plant’s investment projects are on track for completion in mid-2018, though a few will spill into 2019.
As for those interested in applying to Mack, Heffner said candidates can go to www.manpower.com, search “Mack” in the “Job Type, Industry or Skill” dialog box and then click “Find Jobs.” The open positions — production technicians and material handlers — are full-time roles that pay an hourly wage of $18.24 to $19.12, according to the job listings.
“We’re ready to rock and roll. We really are,” Balukas said. “The hiring that they’re doing shows that we’re ready to do it.”
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