New Era Of Flexible Manufacturing Begins At Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant In Louisville
* Ford invested $200 million in Kentucky Truck Plant to retool the plant for the launch of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator
* The retooling of Kentucky Truck Plant, including the installation of a flexible body shop, is part of Ford’s plan to increase the flexibility and efficiency of its North American plants
* Nearly 450 Ford employees transferred to Kentucky Truck Plant to support the new production of 2009 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, as well as Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks
* Transfer of production of Expedition and Navigator to Kentucky Truck paves the way for the conversion of the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne for production in 2010 of the fuel efficient next-generation Ford Focus
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ford Motor Company has completed a $200 million investment in the retooling of its Kentucky Truck Plant for production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
The retooling includes the installation of a flexible body shop that will allow the plant to produce more fuel efficient 2009 model Expedition and Navigator SUVs alongside popular Ford F-Series Super Duty pickups. The Kentucky Truck Plant makeover is part of a move by Ford toward leaner and more flexible manufacturing across its North American plant lineup.
Moving production of the Expedition and Navigator to Kentucky Truck Plant paves the way for the conversion of the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, which is currently being retooled to begin production in 2010 of the next-generation Ford Focus, one of several new fuel-efficient global small cars coming from Ford in the next few years.
The Lincoln Navigator, North America’s original luxury full-size SUV, has been delivering uncompromising levels of luxury and capability since 1998. The Ford Expedition combines classic Ford Truck design with functionality and interior refinement for consumers who need the flexibility of an SUV.
Through a combination of architectural changes and systems engineering enhancements, fuel efficiency has been increased this year for the Expedition and Navigator to an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway on 4x2 models.
“We are moving very quickly to transform our manufacturing operations to allow us to respond to consumer demand,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president, North America Manufacturing. “We were able to swiftly retool Kentucky Truck with a flexible body shop, which sets the stage for the transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant.”
The new flexible body shop came to Kentucky Truck from a closed Ford assembly plant in Norfolk, with additional components brought in from Michigan Assembly.
“The changeover took us about seven weeks,” said Joseph Bobnar, Kentucky Truck plant manager. “In terms of retooling and bringing in new equipment, we had a very aggressive schedule to follow. This is the way we do business now; we’re faster and more efficient.”
An incentives package passed by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority helped Ford make the $200 million investment needed to retool Kentucky Truck.
“The incentives package was instrumental in helping us invest in a flexible body shop,” Tetreault said. “Working together with our government partners was a key enabler in allowing us to quickly and efficiently move the new production to Kentucky.”
Flexible body shop
The heart of Ford’s manufacturing transformation is based on flexible operations, using reprogrammable tooling in body shops, standardized equipment in paint shops and a common-build sequence in final assembly, enabling production of multiple models in one plant.
With standardization comes increased repeatability and improved ease of access, resulting in improved safety, ergonomics and quality.
Kentucky Truck added a second trim shop as well as third shifts in the body, paint and stamping to handle the increased production.
Approximately 450 Ford employees recently transferred to Kentucky Truck, bringing the number of total employees to roughly 4,000. The added employees transferred primarily from the Louisville Assembly Plant and the former Michigan Truck Plant. Each employee has received extensive orientation and several days of on-the-job training. But the training preparation began long before the new employees started their shifts.
“We did a lot of front-end work, including work station set-up and sending employees to the Michigan Assembly Plant to review their assembly process,” Bobnar said. “We have a group of employees here known as product specialists, and these employees, along with our launch engineers, are key to our new production.”
The product specialists observed the processes used to build the vehicle at Michigan Assembly plant before production of the Expedition and Navigator ceased and then brought that knowledge with them to Kentucky Truck to help train fellow employees.
“This is a tool for us to better adhere to our processes,” Bobnar said. “We put a very heavy emphasis on both safety and quality.”
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 213,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s wholly owned automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
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