TREMONTON -- For 20 years, the Autoliv plant in Tremonton has popped out millions of airbag initiators, saving the lives of thousands of people a year.
During an accident, the tiny two-pronged devices set off a charge that deploys an airbag. The initiators from Autoliv Tremonton can be found in one-third of the automobiles in the world.
On Monday, the Tremonton facility produced its 1 billionth initiator. Company officials marked the event with a celebration, which included a visit by national Autoliv executives and local elected officials.
"This is a pretty historic event," said Mike Quayle, Autoliv Tremonton human resources manager. "They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We're here not to celebrate the first step, which happened in 1993, but the billionth step."
It took 20 years to reach that milestone, but with the latest advancements in automation and the plant's continued expansion, company officials predict the next billion will be completed in about 6.5 years.
The Autoliv Tremonton plant builds and ships out a million initiators every two days. It makes the pyrotechnics for the devices on-site.
Autoliv Americas President Steve Fredin, who is visiting from the North American regional office in Auburn Hills, Mich., said the feat is unmatched by any of the company's other facilities, and because of infrastructure, probably cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
"No other facility has a 1 billion milestone," Fredin said. "That doesn't exist in Autoliv."
Autoliv officials credit the workforce found in northern Utah for the milestone.
"It does come back to the quality of the people," said Dan Garceau, Autoliv Americas vice president of airbag operations. "This is not a product that is easy to make. We consider what we do in northern Utah really the spine of what we do in the Americas."
Autoliv currently has about 4,000 employees across five facilities in northern Utah and about 60 facilities worldwide.
Along with the initiators, Autoliv builds propellant and airbags in northern Utah.
Since its construction, the Tremonton facility extended into the neighboring city of Garland.
"We are glad to be a part of the community that this plant is in," Garland Mayor Arlon Bennett said. "We are glad to have the quality of worker that works in this facility."
It will continue to expand, adding two more production lines and about 50 employees by next summer.
As the need for the products that Autoliv offers grows, the company has increased its number of facilities, especially in Asia.
The company is currently expanding a duplicate facility to its Brigham City and Tremonton plant in China.
The cost of shipping and production has made the growth necessary. Fredin said during the Beijing Olympics, Chinese officials shut down the ports, making importation virtually impossible.
"It's naive to think we can do all of the things here," Fredin said. "We have to do some things in other markets."
Fredin said the changes will not affect the plants in Utah, which are currently running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We continue to draw upon the technology and know-how from northern Utah," Fredin said. "It's expansion in Asia for Asia. It isn't a movement of work. We are running the facilities here at capacity."
Fredin said Autoliv has too much capital and labor invested in northern Utah to leave the area. The local labor force also provides the competence, dedication and stability needed to produce their products.
Working with the people of Utah helps Autoliv approach its goal of zero defects.
"We have rocket science going on here and we can't find that elsewhere, just to save a buck," Fredin said. "We have been able to stay ahead in the game and compete and as long as we continue to do that, we will have a long history here in northern Utah."
Contact reporter Jesus Lopez Jr. at 801-625-4239 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jesuslopezSE.