On Saturday, evening the last steel-bodied Ford F-150 rolled off the assembly line at its historic Rouge truck plant. The best-selling model in the country is set to shed 700 pounds as the company begins to embrace an aluminum bodied version of the iconic pickup truck.
Ford making history
“This is historic for the industry, not just for Ford,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, told reporters today at the company’s product development center in Dearborn. “To take the No. 1 selling vehicle for 32 years — it will be 33 soon — and convert it like this, at this volume, to aluminum, is historic and unprecedented.”
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“This is a massive undertaking, one of the bigger logistical challenges we’ve ever seen,” Hinrichs said. “It’s been orchestrated literally by the minute, by the truckload.”
While it’s a daunting test for Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), they are already two days ahead of schedule in this organized chaos that includes ripping out nearly the whole factory to retool it for the new version truck.
“We are doing things we have never done before,” said Bruce Hettle, head of North American manufacturing for Ford.
Ford has given itself eight weeks to complete the project. Given that Ford sells no less than 60,000 F-150s each month, getting the factory retooled is key to the company’s bottom line.
Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) is rolling out 27 new models this year and 16 alone in the United States and will see lowered profits for the year as a result.
The steel-bodied 2014 F-150 will continue to be produced at a plant outside of Kansas City, MO until the end of the year. It will then undergo the same retooling though its expected to take only five weeks as it will be the company’s second retooling of a very similar plant.
3,000 workers were temporarily laid-off until the plant reopens on Sept. 22. At the same time, Ford has brought in 1,500 skilled workers from its ranks and its suppliers to begin work on the new plant which promises a “quantum leap in manufacturing technology.”
Avoiding interstate gridlock is key
Ford is working closely with the Michigan Department of Transportation to keep I-94 and other roads free of gridlock as more than 1,100 tractor-trailers with new robots, conveyor systems and other equipment from near and far arrive in Dearborn this week.
“It is very detailed and organized,” Hettle said. “We have a truck-by-truck, minute-by-minute, plan. I have never seen such a detailed plan in 28 years.”
“There will be a lot of new equipment never seen before in plants,” Hettle added.
By shedding 700 pounds in the switch from steel, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) will offer better fuel economy to its loyal base while hoping to add first time customers.