It’s been 100 years since Ford Motor Co. first invented the moving assembly line, and in recognition of the milestone, the automaker announced Monday its goals for advanced, flexible manufacturing over the next five years.
To meet projected demand, Ford intends to produce four different models, on average, at each of its plants around the world by 2017. The company also projects 90 percent of its plants will be running on a three-shift or crew model within five years, which will help increase production time more than 30 percent.
In an effort to boost manufacturing efficiency, virtually all Ford vehicles will be built off nine core platforms in 2017, compared to the current 15 platforms.
“Henry Ford’s core principles of quality parts, workflow, division of labor, and efficiency still resonate today,” John Fleming, executive vice president of global manufacturing at Ford, said in a statement. “Building on that tradition, we’re accelerating our efforts to standardize production, make factories more flexible, and introduce advanced technologies to efficiently build the best vehicles possible.”
Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology, for instance, will reduce the speed delivery times for stamping molds to three business days from two to six months (the norm for prototypes using conventional methods). In addition, the automaker is expanding its capabilities in 3D printing, investing in robotic innovations, and continuing its use of its “virtual factory” program, which has reduced the number of ergonomic issues during physical builds by nearly 20 percent.
“Technologies such as 3-D printing, robotics, and virtual manufacturing may live in research but have real-world applications for tomorrow and beyond,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president for Ford Research and Innovation. “We use Henry Ford’s spirit of innovation as a benchmark for bringing new technologies into the manufacturing process.”
The automaker’s recent expansions in global manufacturing have helped to retain 130,000 hourly and salaried jobs and have put the company on pace to produce 6 million vehicles in 2013 — approximately 16 vehicles every 60 seconds around the world. By 2015, Ford will have built 14 facilities over a period of four years in such locations as China, Russia, and India.
For an in-depth history regarding the assembly line, see Ronald Ahrens’ article, “Freedom to Assemble,” from the Jan./Feb. issue of DBusiness.