June 16, 2005

Ford transforming North American plants with flexible manufacturing systems

Birmingham, Alabama – The Ford Motor Company is transforming its aging factories into lean, flexible and sustainable facilities.

Matt DeMars, Ford’s vice-president of North American Vehicle Operations, said the transformation began last year with the opening of the new Dearborn, Michigan truck plant. This year, the Michigan truck plant in Wayne, Michigan will add a new flexible body shop, the Kansas City Assembly Plant has added production of the U.S.-marketed Mercury Mariner Hybrid, and AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan has launched the Ford Mustang convertible.

The Oakville Assembly Complex in Oakville, Ontario and the Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant in Sonora, Mexico are undergoing retooling and renovation for flexible manufacturing.

Older mass production, consisting of building high volume with a limited product mix, is being replaced by flexible manufacturing systems that respond quickly and efficiently to changing customer demands. The company is also stressing environmental advances, noting that since 2000, water consumption at North American plants has decreased by more than 16 per cent. At the Michigan Truck Plant, Ford is installing a Fumes-to-Fuel technology, whereby volatile organic compounds from the paint shop will be turned into electricity to power parts of the plant. The technology was tested successfully earlier this month and is expected to be up and running in the fall.

The company expects that by the end of the decade, 75 per cent of Ford’s North American body shops, paint, trim and final assembly operations will be flexible, with an eventual savings of up to US$2 billion.

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