ANNA — Everybody at the Honda Anna Engine Plant puts “everything they have” into making the 4,800 engines it completes a day, and they have for 30 years.
The engine plant is celebrating its 30th anniversary Wednesday, as it was built in 1985, then only measuring 235,000 square feet and employing 94 associates.
Today, it employs around 2,800 people and measures 2.4 million square feet.
“The [engines] are made from the heart of a family,” said Bets Gillis, a unit manager who’s worked at the engine plant for 27 years.
Situated on more than 500 acres on Meranda Road, the plant has grown steadily over time, from first beginning in a farmhouse on the land to the large building it’s expanding even today. It’s Honda’s largest automobile engine plant.
In its 30 years, employees have built more than 20 million engines total, said Casey Topping, of Cridersville, a unit manager over the business and product planning group and 26-year employee of the plant.
It began by building motorcycle engines, specifically the Gold Wing GL1200, which it made 100 of each day, said Rick VanGundy, of near Cridersville as well, a staff administrator in product planning and an almost 33-year employee of Honda.
Then, as it grew overtime, it started building engines for the Honda Civic and other parts that go into cars and engines. Today, it makes engines for 14 Honda and Acura vehicles and supplies Honda plants globally and locally, including the plants in Marysville and East Liberty.
In fact, an engine made in Anna in the morning will usually be in Marysville that same night, VanGundy said.
The plant assembles engines and makes engine components, using three engine assembly lines and more than 50 engine component product lines in the plant, Topping said. It makes V-6 and four-cylinder engines, high-precision steel camshafts, crankshafts, cylinder sleeves and pulley components for Honda’s continuously variable transmissions, according to a release from the company.
Technology has changed the plant over time. For instance, the newest engine assembly line, for the VTEC turbo engine, is more automated than any of the other lines and has more than 100 robots.
“It’s just been continual change,” VanGundy said, referring to the growth of the plant.
When he first heard a rumor that there would be a Honda engine plant in Anna, he was working at the Marysville Honda plant, and he never thought the Anna plant would be what it is today, he said.
“It was hard to imagine how much we would grow over those 30 years,” he said. VanGundy asked for a transfer to Anna right away, he wanted to build engines and be closer to his hometown of Wapakoneta, and started there in January 1986.
“Whenever you think of a fantastic car, what do you think of?” VanGundy said. “The engine. It’s not the car, it’s the engine.”
When the plant first started expanding, “it was sort of a surprise,” he said. “We didn’t really know how good we were, then we started to see we’re doing a very good job here.”
Now, when VanGundy sees a Honda car or a commercial, he knows “something in that vehicle was made in this plant.”
Paul Dentinger, plant manager at the Anna plant, attributes the plant’s success to the employees who make the engines and parts.
“We’ve done nothing but expand,” he said. “That says a lot about the people on the floor. … The hardworking men and women allow the plant to grow.”
Instead of focusing on the age of the plant, Dentinger likes to think of how young it is, and vows to never say never — when it comes to whether the plant will continue to grow and expand.
“I would rather say we’re 30 years young and we’re still growing,” he said.
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.