Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn has invested $1 billion in its Chicago Assembly and Stamping plants and has added 500 jobs. The plant is the company’s oldest continuously producing plant and will build Ford’s new Explorer lineup, Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, and Lincoln Aviator.
Ford announced the investment earlier this year. The changeover took one month, a company record for an all-new vehicle build.
“This reflects American ingenuity at its finest,” says Joe Hinrichs, president of automotive for Ford. “In the first five days of the transformation, the team moved the scrap metal equivalent to the weight of the Eiffel Tower from the plant, making room for new equipment. Knowing this plant is set in a city and trucks could not go in and out of the plant at all hours, the team got creative and rented a barge, put all of the scrap metal on it, floated it a mile up the river to a recycling center, then moved in more than 500 truckloads of new technology.”
The outdated machines were replaced with advanced manufacturing technology, including two 3-D printers. The body shop was stripped to the floor, and 600 new robots were brought in. The paint shop was also updated, and nearly every operator workstation in the final assembly area was modified.
The plant also features a collaborative robot with a camera that inspects electrical connections during the manufacturing process. The new production line uses several 3-D printed tools and nearly 500 new error-proofing tools.
Of the $1 billion, $40 billion went to employee-centered improvements such as new LED lighting, cafeteria updates, new break areas, and security upgrades to the parking lot. There are also added team break rooms on the plant floor for employees on the line who work on their feet all day. They used to spend 10 minutes walking to and from the break room on their 30-minute breaks and can now use the entire break period.
About 5,000 people work at Chicago Assembly Plant, including about 4,800 hourly employees. About 1,200 people work at Chicago Stamping Plant, including about 1,100 hourly employees.