Ford Motor Co. has spent $200 million to retool its Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. In addition to F-Series pickup trucks, the flexible factory will assemble Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles, which were previously assembled at a plant outside Detroit.
Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) has spent $200 million to retool its Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. In addition to F-Series pickup trucks, the flexible factory will assemble Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles, which were previously assembled at a plant outside Detroit.
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 Focus subcompact sedan. Ford has also talked about assembling the Focus in Louisville.
“We are moving very quickly to transform our manufacturing operations to allow us to respond to consumer demand,” says Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American 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 was shipped to Louisville from a mothballed Ford plant in Norfolk, VA, with additional components brought in from Michigan Assembly. “The changeover took us about seven weeks,” notes Joseph Bobnar, plant manager of the 40-year-old Louisville facility. “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.”
The heart of Ford’s manufacturing transformation is based on flexible operations, such as using reprogrammable tooling in body shops and standardized equipment in paint shops. A common-build sequence in final assembly enables the automaker to produce multiple models in one plant. “With standardization comes increased repeatability and improved ease of access, resulting in improved safety, ergonomics and quality,” claims Tetreault.
Kentucky Truck added a second trim shop, as well as a third-shift in the body, paint and stamping departments, to handle the increased production. “We did a lot of front-end work, including workstation set-up and sending employees to the Michigan Assembly Plant to review their assembly process,” Bobnar points out. “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 vehicled at the Wayne plant before production of the Expedition and Navigator ceased. Then, they brought that knowledge with them to Louisville to help train fellow employees.