Flexibility Is Key, Ford Exec Says

Some things are in our control, others are not. "Our challenge," said Ford Motor Co.'s David T. Szczupak, "is to change the things we can control."

Szczupak, group vice president, manufacturing, The Americas, spoke those words May 17 during his keynote address at the IndustryWeek/ Association of Manufacturing Excellence Best Plants conference, held in Dearborn, Mich.

What automakers can't control, he notes, are the rising price of inputs such as steel, or surging gasoline prices. What they can control are their own manufacturing operations. Ford will do that by making its operations more flexible, Szczupak said.

That means flexibility in tooling and flexibility in assembly. It means more Ford plants attempt to become as versatile as Ford's Dearborn truck plant, which can build 3,000 different combinations of the F-Series truck in one plant.

"Imitators have beaten us at our own game," Szczupak said, noting that Toyota's famed production system incorporates many production concepts that date to Henry Ford.

Ford Motor Co., the keynote speaker said, will meet the challenges presented by its competitors.

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