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Ford spends big on new global plants

Moving assembly line: Ford is boosting world production 100 years after Henry Ford launched the first time-saving moving assembly line.

Ford undergoing biggest global expansion in 50 years as local plant prepares to shut

Ford logo10 Oct 2013

By DANIEL GARDNER

BY THE time the final Australian-built Ford rolls off the production line in 2016, the Blue Oval will have opened nine new manufacturing facilities worldwide as part of an unprecedented international expansion.

Four engine plants, four assembly facilities and one transmission factory are in the works across four continents to meet “surging consumer demand” as Ford gears up for its largest expansion in 50 years.

These new plants, scattered Asia, South America, Russia and Eastern Europe, will all be up-and-running by 2015.

Ford is claiming the sizeable global investment will “retain” about 130,000 manufacturing jobs worldwide, though the news will come as little solace to the 1200 Australian workers set for redundancy in three years time.

Opening the new facilities will enable Ford to increase production efficiency.

They will be geared up in-line with the global One Ford plan that will involve the Blue Oval reducing its number of vehicle platforms from 15 to nine by 2017.

Standardising the number of models made at each factory will further increase efficiency and, on completion of the new facilities, Ford plans to produce an average of four models at each plant.

In addition to the cost-cutting measures, further savings are expected by 2017, by which time 90 per cent of Ford’s manufacturing facilities will operate on a ‘crew’ shift basis, which allows three separate staff shifts to work over a 24-hour period.

Between 2011 and 2012, Ford commissioned five new plants on four different continents, with two further Chinese facilities opening this year.

The announcement incidentally comes 100 years after Ford pioneered the moving assembly line – a system that reduced the production time of a Model T from 12 hours to just 90 minutes.

New technologies such as rapid stamping mould production, 3D printing and a paint quality-analysing ‘dirt detection’ system will feature in the new facilities, while other new technologies focus on robotics advancement, computer modeling and cost-saving virtual simulation.

Chief technical officer and vice president of Ford research and innovation Paul Mascarenas explained that the new technology is in the spirit of company founder Henry Ford’s innovative vision.

“Technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and virtual manufacturing may live in research but have real-world applications for tomorrow and beyond,” he said.

In May this year, Ford announced it would cease all local Australian production of Falcon and Territory by October 2016, though research and development will continue at the Broadmeadows plant in Victoria.

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