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Workers building pre-production 2012 Ford Focus – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford is crowing that its freshly retooled Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, MI is now the most flexible final assembly factory in its global network. The Wayne plant used to assemble the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs but is now building pre-production examples of the 2012 Focus. One of the features touted by Ford for its new global C-segment platform is that it is driving down development cost by building 10 different bodystyles on the architecture using many of the same mechanical components.

At launch, the Wayne plant will build both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback variants, but those are expected to be joined by a new Lincoln compact and possibly variants like the Grand C-Max. Ford will also be building versions of these vehicles with conventional, hybrid and full battery electric powertrains. Over 80 percent of the equipment in the body shop is programmable and can run different body styles almost with the flip of a switch. Ford says this new flexibility will also allow it to quickly adjust its product mix to shifting market conditions.

[Source: Ford]
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* Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., home of the 2012 Ford Focus, will be Ford's most flexible high-volume manufacturing facility in the world when production begins
* More than 80 percent of the body side tooling and equipment in the Michigan Assembly Plant body shop can be programmed to weld the bodies of a variety of vehicles, enabling production of many different vehicle body styles in the same facility without lengthy tooling changeovers
* Ford's system at Michigan Assembly Plant provides manufacturing flexibility – specifically in body construction – the company never has had before, allowing it to more quickly and efficiently meet changing consumer preferences

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 2, 2010 – When production of the all-new 2012 Ford Focus begins later this year, Ford Motor Company's newly transformed Michigan Assembly Plant will be the company's new benchmark for flexible manufacturing around the world.

Michigan Assembly is one of three truck plants in North America that Ford is revamping to make fuel-efficient passenger cars. The plant will build the new Focus and Focus Electric beginning next year with more models coming in the future.

At Michigan Assembly, Ford will utilize programmable equipment in its body shop, which will allow the company to run multiple body styles down the same production line without requiring considerable downtime for changeover of tooling. In fact, more than 80 percent of the body tooling in the plant's body shop can be programmed to weld a variety of body styles without delay in tooling changeover and can adjust the mix between models without restrictions.

"If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly – much more quickly than we have been equipped to respond to efficiently in the past," said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president of North America Manufacturing. "At Michigan Assembly, we will achieve a level of flexibility we don't have in any other plant around the world, which will allow us to meet shifting consumer preferences in real time."

While the state-of-the-art Michigan Assembly facility is utilizing Ford's industry-leading virtual manufacturing technology, three-wet paint process and a common build sequence in the final assembly area, the most significant step toward improving flexibility is taking place in its body shop. The company's Manufacturing operations worked closely with its Product Development teams to construct product platform designs that enable use of the programmable equipment to produce multiple variations of products in one facility.

Body construction has long been a limiting factor in any plant's flexibility. Under traditional systems, unique tooling is required to weld each individual vehicle body style. Running a different body style down the same line traditionally requires considerable additional downtime for physical tooling changeover.

In recent years, Ford has made important strides in assembly plant body shop flexibility in plants such as Chicago Assembly, Oakville Assembly and Kentucky Truck, where significantly different products are built on a common system. However, Ford's latest strategy dramatically reduces physical tooling constraints through use of the programmable tooling technologies that eliminate the need to replace model-specific tooling for locating, clamping and welding. This saves time and limits disruption to the plant's operations.

"Manufacturing flexibility provides a competitive advantage, so it is essential that we continue to improve our flexible capability," Tetreault said. "The automakers with true flexibility will be positioned to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. That's why continuous improvement in flexibility is a priority for us."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Aren't most assembly line workers generally required by company policy to wear steel-toed work boots/shoes? The dude on the right looks like he's just wearing regular sneakers, unless there's a trend of steel toed white sneakers I don't know about.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The new Focus is awesome, can't wait to see both versions rocking the streets. A SVT version is a MUST for the hatch, and why not? for the sedan too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hells yeah! Give it to me as a coupe and I will be knocking at the local Ford dealership's door.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yes they do make steel toe sneakers what rock have you lived under?
      • 4 Years Ago
      That pic makes my back hurt.
      • 4 Years Ago
      between this new ford focus and the new 2011 hyundai elantra, Its going to be a hard choice, both are really great looking cars, though the focus imo looks good in the 5 door hatchback better then tis sedan, I wonder what a elantra 5 door hb would look like..
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm personally not a big fan of the lax, "wear-what-you-want-to-work" type of manufacturing atmosphere. Personally I think that attitude carries through to the build quality of the products (in this case, vehicles). When I worked at Honda, everyone there wore "Honda Whites", even the President of the manufacturing facility. You could walk right past the President and you wouldn't even know it if you didn't know any better. Because he's wearing the same thing you're wearing, even if you work on the line, and he sits at a desk. This way everyone was physically and, more importantly, mentally on the same level, and had the same quality expected of them. You can tell by the way someone dresses, and therefore carries themselves, how they feel about what they do and the type of quality they're putting forward.

      Just looking at the guys in the picture, I'm not expecting too much in the way of quality of the Focus, by the way they're dressed. You only get one chance to make a first impression. I'm just saying.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well yay for anecdotal evidence! Too bad JD Power disagrees.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ emperorkoku:

        You're certainly right, Japan does value conformity. While I'm a HUGE fan of individuality, when it comes to build quality, I'd rather have conformity any day of the week. Individualized quality leads to individualized success and mistakes. I'm sure when you go to buy your new car, you're expecting that every copy of a certain vehicle are not only up to high quality standards, but also that those standards of consistent no matter which vehicle you end up choosing. I would hate to be the victim, by the luck of the draw, of the few vehicles that were build on the shift of an individual whos wearing ratty jeans, hasn't taken a shower, who is listening to their iPod while they're working, and really was showing up for a paycheck, not to also do the best job he could. Yea, I don't think you'd get too excited initially about buying the car that person help build.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And furthermore, I'll point out that Wayne, MI plant get hotter than hell in the summer. As a former vendor sales rep, I'm very, very familiar with that building. It's actually quite a bit older than your Honda plant, and get's oppressively hot in the summer time, something like 99 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit by the time the afternoon shift starts up. Body shop, coming right off the paint ovens, can become even hotter. This summer is even worse. Michigan Assembly Plant is running at least five degrees, and often ten degrees, hotter than the newer Dearborn Truck Plant, at the Rouge complex 14 1/2 miles away. According to employee posts at Blue Oval Forums, Dearborn Truck Plant's body shop has been routinely running above 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Dearborn Truck is far more modern,with a green living wild grass garden on it's roof for both building cooling and rain water treatment. Michigan Assembly Plant is far hotter inside. You try working an eight hour shift in that heat.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ emperorkoku:

        Ummm...Have you ever worked near an assembly line before? I probably should've done a better job explaining my "assumptions". And friend of mine and I both worked at Honda of America Mfg. back in 2005 as summer engineering co-ops. I stayed on for two consecutive terms, while she obtained another co-op once her's ended at Honda, at a GM plant in Northern Ohio. I asked her how it was while she was working. Her words (in paraphrase):

        "There's a night and day difference. Here no one wears uniforms, and everyone just wears what they feel like. There are people on the line talking on cell phones, listening to iPods (and walkmans), and having full length, in-depths conversations with their friends on the line. Nothing seems structured. No wonder the quality is so bad here. The stuff we deal with is so much worse than at Honda."

        Yea, I may not not able to form inferences about apparel and build quality, but I can take a word-of-mouth testimony from and friend who worked in BOTH environments, back-to-back, and experienced the differences first hand.

        I also know first hand, that one's self image is directly related to one's performance. If your self-image is poor, your performance will be poor. It's hard for people's self image to be great if they don't look great at work.

        So, just as SMB said ealrier: "Can't we put uniforms on these people?"
        • 4 Years Ago
        i agree they should wear uniforms, just like I am expected to wear a suit and tie to work, Even people at Wal-Mart wear uniforms...Have some freaking class, its good work ethic....You are not only a line worker you are also representing the company's image...But im pretty sure we can trace the problems to the UAW..I have seen too many images of UAW line workers wearing wife beaters, tank tops total lack of class....Only the UAW can find a way to conjure up frivolous stipulations that it's workers are offended by wearing uniforms lol..

        good example is look over at the episodes of Ultimate Factories in NatGeo night an day difference..
        • 4 Years Ago
        oh boo hoo the company won't provide them with 20 dollar overalls...they make pretty decent money living in areas where the cost of living is less then the norm in big cities and if the company can't provide them with overalls why don't they just buy them themselves? At least make everyone wear same shirt, Complain about being hot? your in luck they make uniforms in shorts too..but oh yeah I forgot UAW...everything has to come out of the companies pockets..You think all the office jobs in this world the companies provide their employees with suits and ties? you think receptionist making less then what line workers make get compensated for dresses & proper attire they have to buy to wear to the work ..If a line worker can buy a 20 dollar hat and wear it to work then they could buy a $20 uniform...excuses excuses...

        and as for build quality you can thank the engineers for making a better buildable product and quality control for not letting tooo many defects go into cars...I'm not stating that a guy in uniform can screw a bolt better then a guy without uniform...
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's great to see cars in the front lot of the Michigan Assembly Plant every day, and every day the lot keeps filling up.

      Glad to see that those workers will be busy!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is Ford planning on exporting from Wayne or will all the vehicles be for NA consumption?
        • 4 Years Ago
        All of the design and engineering for the mk3 Focus was done in Germany, however, unlike the first-generation model, the federalised version was developed in tandem. The Michigan-built model will be the FMVSS/CMVSS version built solely for North America.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So no? OK. Didn't need all the other crap but thanks. I know you were slyly getting a jab in there about the Focus being German.
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