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Old 21-05-2011, 07:09 PM
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Ford’s Michigan Plant Enters New Era

December 16 2010

* Ford's retooled Michigan Assembly Plant to not only build petrol-powered vehicles, but three production versions of electrified vehicles – battery electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles
* Michigan Assembly provides a new level of manufacturing flexibility, allowing it to build multiple models to quickly and efficiently meet changing consumer preferences.
* Ford, Detroit Edison and Xtreme Power team up to establish one of Michigan's largest solar-powered generation systems

Green thinking has helped transform Ford Motor Company’s Michigan Assembly Plant.

The huge facility, which once churned out large SUVs, has completed a $US550 million makeover that will make it one of the world’s first automotive facilities to build not only fuel-efficient petrol-powered cars, but also three production versions of electrified vehicles including battery electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid.

Michigan Assembly will be home to the all-new global Ford Focus, which has started production in North America and goes on sale there early next year.

The Focus Electric zero-emission battery electric vehicle goes into production in North America late in 2011 followed by production of a new hybrid and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Ford vice president of North America Manufacturing, Jim Tetreault, said the Michigan facility had been extensively modernised to establish a new standard for a high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory.

"The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant stands as a symbol for the transformation of Ford," he said.

On the outside, a new 500kW solar panel system will be installed to help generate renewal energy for production of Ford’s all-new Focus and Focus Electric cars.

Ten new electric vehicle charging stations on the property will be used to recharge the electric trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities.

Inside, new cars making the three-mile trip down the assembly line must pass dozens of rigorous quality inspections.

A new three-wet paint booth utilises 66 paint robots with seven axis of movement to precisely apply paint to the cars.

In the body shop, 500 new robots capable of 4000 welds per vehicle add to the plant’s flexibility. And a new internal communications system flashes updates and information to the plant’s 3200 employees via 163 monitor screens distributed throughout the plant.

Flexible: Trends move fast
Bright, modern and "green" – like the car it is building – the refurbished Michigan Assembly Plant is the company’s new benchmark for flexible manufacturing.

The plant now becomes Ford’s most flexible, high-volume and modern manufacturing facility in its global operations.

Ford will continue to evolve its manufacturing flexibility as the company’s facilities are rapidly being transformed into more nimble, flexible, and technologically advanced operations.

The changes will allow the company to run multiple models down the same production line without requiring considerable downtime for changeover of tooling. Two different models of the Focus can be adjusted between builds without restrictions.

"If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly – much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past,” Tetreault said.

"At Michigan Assembly, we will achieve a level of flexibility we don’t have in any other plant around the world, which will allow us to meet shifting consumer preferences in real time."

Renewable: Power from the sun
Michigan Assembly will also boast Michigan’s largest solar power generation system and several electric vehicle charging stations for greener, more sustainable manufacturing when installation is completed next year.

Ford is teaming with Detroit Edison and Xtreme Power to install the 500kW solar photovoltaic panel system.

The system will be integrated with a 750kW energy storage facility that can store 2 million watt-hours of energy using batteries – enough to power 100 average Michigan homes for a year.

A secondary, smaller solar energy system will be added at a later date to power lighting systems at Michigan Assembly. The combined systems are expected to result in projected energy cost savings of about $US160,000 a year.

Quality: At every turn
To ensure high quality for the all-new Focus, vehicles on the line will endure rigorous examinations.

Workers will perform hundreds of comprehensive quality tests and checks to ensure every bolt, seam and joint has been thoroughly inspected before continuing down the line.

"We are leveraging our people, processes and products to consistently build cars that will surpass the competition," Tetreault said.

"This plant embodies everything we as a company strive to become – modern, efficient, flexible, global and sustainable."

Several areas contribute to Focus quality and Michigan Assembly’s transformation:

* Virtual manufacturing technology to improve ergonomics for easier, safer work
* Redesigned water soak testing booth to ensure zero water entry for long-term durability
* Highly efficient and environmentally conscious painting process
* Squeak and rattle track that shakes and rolls vehicles for noises
* New energy-efficient lighting for better vehicle inspections
* Moving platforms with real-time height adjustments for better operator ergonomics
* Vision-guided automation for better installation and fit-and-finish
* New robotic paint spray booths for more consistent and environmentally conscious application
* Electric tools capable of precisely measuring torque and the number of rotations required to secure bolts, screws and other attachments

"This plant is an inspirational example of how a modern manufacturing facility should look and work," Tetreault said.

"It’s bright, high-tech and efficient, while also being environmentally conscious and ergonomically friendly."



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