Industryweek 4941 Ford Preps Flat Rock Plant Fusion Launch Simulated

Ford Preps Plant for Fusion Launch With Simulated-Factory Training

Aug. 1, 2013
“The simulated factory provides workers with a much smoother transition to the assembly line,” said Aris Janitens, Ford’s manager of launch planning and workforce readiness.

In preparation for the production launch of its Fusion sedan at its assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich., this fall, Ford Motor Co. has begun training 1,400 newly hired workers in a simulated factory at the plant.

The Fusion launch at the Flat Rock facility will mark the first time Ford (IW 500/8) has built its popular midsize sedan in the United States. Ford, which introduced the Fusion in 2006, currently produces the model solely at its assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The simulated factory in the Flat Rock plant provides hands-on training aimed at enabling workers to master the tasks they will perform when production begins. Those tasks include simple jobs like tightening nuts and bolts and more complex jobs like connecting brake lines and fitting weather stripping.

“The simulated factory provides workers with a much smoother transition to the assembly line,” said Aris Janitens, Ford’s manager of launch planning and workforce readiness.

Flat Rock plant manager Tim Young expanded on Janitens’ point, noting that before Ford introduced the simulated-factory training, it was much easier to spot the newest workers on the line.

“You could always tell when it was someone’s first week,” Young said. “They were a little unsteady and unsure of what they needed to do. It usually resulted in having to stop the line multiple times that first week. Now, our new hires are able to jump right in without causing any delays or quality issues.”

To see Ford’s simulated-factory training program in action, see the accompanying video.

Global Rollout Planned

Janitens said the simulated-factory process, which was developed at Ford’s Louisville, Ky., assembly plant, has been very well-received. “It is now considered our global standard and companywide best practice, and it will be rolled out to other plants worldwide,” he said.

The Flat Rock facility is the second Ford plant to institute the simulated-factory program.

Ford sold a record 161,146 Fusions in the first half of 2013, an 18.5% increase over the first half of 2012. The company reports that dealers been selling Fusion vehicles in less than 20 days in hot car-sales markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami, trouncing the industry average of 60 days. And the high-end Fusion Titanium models are selling even faster in those markets—in less than 15 days.

The Flat Rock plant will begin Fusion production in the third quarter. At that point the plant’s workforce will number 3,000, and those employees will work two daily shifts producing Ford’s Fusion and Mustang models.

To see Ford’s simulated-factory training program in action, see the accompanying video.

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