Ford M&T 2020 Keynote--Mike-Mikula

Advanced Technologies Are Taking Ford into the Future Today

Feb. 8, 2021
Ford's Global Chief Engineer of Advanced Manufacturing demonstrates the interworkings of the global digital operations ecosystem at the heart of the automaker's high-tech vision of the future.

Ford Motor Co. has adopted the phrase “Factory of Tomorrow” to describe its vision of the future, which includes in part a plan for the automaker to transform into “a truly digital operation.”

The phrase is a little deceiving, however, once you hear what Ford is doing in the way of advanced technology today—because it’s already doing quite a lot.

In his Dec. 3 keynote address during IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing & Technology Virtual conference, Mike Mikula, global chief engineer in  Ford’s advanced manufacturing organization, shared some of the company’s advances in areas such as additive manufacturing, collaborative robots, extended reality and even exoskeletons. And more.

For example, while Ford has been using additive manufacturing since the 1980s, today’s deployments go far beyond simple prototyping or cosmetic flourishes. Mikula described how the company is both designing and fabricating, via additive manufacturing, parking brake brackets for the Mustang GT 500.

“This is a very important structural component of the vehicle. It is required to meet all of the crash test worthiness standards, and as a result we’ve learned as a company how to apply additive manufacturing into components and subsystems that historically people have been skeptical that additive manufacturing can meet the requirements,” Mikula said.

“We’ve not only demonstrated that, but we have very convincingly done so, and as such we are aggressively working with our product development team to explore other parts of the vehicle and vehicle subsystems that could be converted to additive manufacturing,” he added.

In another example, Mikula discussed the use of an extended reality solution for the assembly of its 10-speed rear wheel drive transmission.  An integrated wireless tool and prompting from “intelligent” projected lights can help assure that operators are both using the correct tool and using it in the correct location, the chief engineer said.

“We want to be able to have a factory that helps employees stay safe, helps employees perform the work they are expected to perform and do it in a way that … meets or exceeds the customer expectations.”

Mikula says the extended reality solution can act as a coach, helping employees stay safe and make sure the work is performed properly.  

Two additional examples from Mikula highlight the focus Ford has placed on safety, and the help provided by advanced technologies to meet that challenge. Ford employs collaborative robots and exoskeletons in many instances to either help operators perform work that is ergonomically difficult for humans or, in the case of the robots, perform the difficult task in the place of human operators.

Mikula's talk did not end with these technologies. Digital twin, IIoT and more peppered his talk and pepper Ford's digital vision.

At Ford, the future of advanced technologies is here today.

IndustryWeek Members Only subscribers can watch Mike Mikula's full 2020 M&T Virtual keynote here:

We are currently scouting presenters for our 2021 Manufacturing & Technology Show, which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, November 9-11. If you have an idea, a best practice or a manufacturing success story to share, please submit your proposal here.

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Navigate Complex Cybersecurity Requirements With Purpose-Built Technology Solutions

Dec. 6, 2023
The CMMC represents a critical mandate from the U.S. DOD. Aerospace & Defense manufacturers that handle controlled unclassified information (CUI) must comply with CMMC requirements...

Gain a competitive edge with real-world lessons on private 5G networks

Nov. 16, 2023
The use of private networks in manufacturing applications is rapidly growing. In this paper, we present valuable insights and lessons learned from the field with the goal of enhancing...

How Manufacturers Can Optimize Operations with Weather Intelligence

Nov. 2, 2023
The bad news? Severe weather has emerged as one of the biggest threats to continuity and safety in manufacturing. The good news? The intelligence solutions that build weather ...

Electric Vehicles Spark New Opportunities in the Automotive Industry

Dec. 4, 2023
Automakers have increased plans to produce Electric Vehicles to meet customer demand for low emissions. With this radical shift, new opportunities and challenges for the auto ...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!