October 01, 2014
While you may know the company mainly for motorcycles or ATVs, Kawasaki has a rich history that spans many different industries...and centuries.
Cruising cornfields in the 2015 Mule PRO-FXT, it's hard to imagine that, almost 120 years ago, Shozo Kawasaki was getting his start in the shipping business in Japan. It's even harder to wrap your mind around all the projects Kawasaki has been involved with since then: fuselages for Boeing airplanes, subway cars for major cities across the U.S., motorcycles, ATV/UTVs, Jet Skis, high-speed trains, tunnel boring machines and bridges.
As it turns out, Kawasaki also makes one hell of a workhorse in the Mule PRO-FXT. Not only can it conquer just about any job you can throw at it around the farm, it's also cocked, locked and ready to rock in the deer woods. Before it ever makes it to the field, the PRO-FXT is assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska, by a crack team of workers — many of whom have been there for decades.
Not only does the Lincoln facility assemble the Mule PRO-FXT, Jet Skis and ATVs, it also manufactures wheels and subway cars. It's a lot to handle, but the factory runs smoothly because of state-of-the-art assembly line operations and the well-trained employees who staff them. We recently got an inside look at the facility and saw firsthand just what it takes to be built Kawasaki tough.
Take the tour:
Kawasaki has made quite a name for itself in the water sports industry with its Jet Ski line of watercraft. An employee uses a hoist to maneuver the upper fuselage into place on the hull. A machine press is used to seal the deal.
Line 'Em Up
Just like the Mule PRO-FXT, the Jet Skis are built on an assembly line that depends on speed, consistency and teamwork.
The Lincoln, Nebraska, facility is responsible for assembling metro cars, and has done work on major contracts from Washington, D.C., to Chicago. If you head out back there's even a test track to work out any kinks before shipment is made.
Into the Furnace
Here an employee prepares a bare cylinder for the process it takes to turn it into a wheel.
World of Wheels
While Kawasaki obviously produces a lot of wheels for its own vehicles, it also manufactures wheels for a good number of other big players in the industry.
As high-tech as the Lincoln, Nebraska, facility is, there's still a place for good old fashioned leg power. Many of the product runners still use yellow tricycles (no, not the Hot Wheels version) to get from one end of the enormous facility to the other. Not only does it eliminate the need for indoor emissions, it's also great exercise.
Mules in a Row
It's an impressive sight to look down the assembly line and see all the Mule PRO-FXTs in a row.
After everything has been assembled on the Mule PRO-FXT, the final product rolls off the line and is boxed and carted into a separate building until shipped out. A fully-automated cart transports the finished product from the line to inventory.
Start Your Engines
The main assembly line for the Mule PRO-FXT begins by mounting engines and transmissions to the frame of the vehicle. Mechanical hoists are used to raise and lower the engines, which are wheeled to the station on carts ready to assemble.