800 ROUGE WORKERS IMPROVE 2009 FORD F150 BUILD QUALITY

•    New third crew with 800 workers at the Dearborn Truck Plant at Ford’s Rouge Center are undergoing intensive quality training to build the new 2009 Ford F150
•    Since its launch last year, the 2009 F150 was named North American Truck of the Year and earned a quadruple 5-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
•    Ford has gained five percentage points of market share in the full-size pickup truck market in the U.S. since the launch of the 2009 F150 in October 2008

DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 9, 2009 – About 800 new workers at Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn Truck Plant are undergoing intensive quality training as they prepare to build Ford’s new F150, the 2009 North American Truck of the Year.  

The crew of about 800 employees is slated to begin its full production shift on Feb. 16.

“Our unrelenting commitment to quality drives everything Ford does in the manufacturing world and beyond,” said Joe Hinrichs, group vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs.  “While instability in the external market has had an impact on our manufacturing operations, we are proud of the fact that our quality continues to improve despite changes to production and operating patterns.  As we expand our work force at Dearborn Truck, we are ensuring we don’t miss a beat when it comes to quality.”

The 2009 F150 is new inside and out and customers are taking notice.  Ford statistics show conquest sales – new F150 buyers who traded in vehicles from other brands – are up 15 percentage points in the fourth quarter versus the third quarter.  Customer loyalty has risen 3 percentage points over the same time period.  F-Series has gained five percentage points of market share since the new version launched in October.  Ford F-Series share was 35.4 percentage points from October 2008 through January 2009 compared to 30.3 percentage points during that same period a year ago.

The F150 recently was named 2009 North American Truck of the Year and earned a quadruple 5-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  The F150 accounts for the majority of the volume of Ford’s F-Series lineup, which has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 32 consecutive years.     

Moreover, while it typically takes several months to reach peak quality levels with an all-new vehicle, internal statistics show that the new F150 launched with even higher quality than the outgoing model.

“The overarching themes at Dearborn Truck are safety and quality,” said Robert Webber, plant manager, Dearborn Truck Plant.  “The two go hand-in-hand.  The safety of our employees is our top priority and, together we are committed to delivering the highest quality F150.”

At Dearborn Truck Plant, the workers at the new third crew – who transferred in from a variety of plants throughout southeast Michigan – have been taking a crash course on quality processes and procedures that ensure every new F150 is built with quality, said Donald Pijor, new models launch manager.  Workers have been placed in production positions based on strengths they showed in previous jobs, and new employees are receiving extensive orientation and training under the eye of an assigned team leader.

“We have an intensive operator training program,” Pijor said. “This is a full production crew, and we have a plan for every person.  It is a joint effort with the UAW where we all work together to succeed.”

Enhancing the team atmosphere is the plant’s Team Leader Academy, which has been in place since the mid-1990s.  In the 40-hour academy, team leaders learn the roles and the responsibilities of the 10 to 12 employees they will oversee, and gain job coaching and additional people skills. About 60 new team leaders have been added to help oversee the third crew.

“The team leaders are our first line of defense,” said Gerald Miller, lead trainer at the academy. “This enhances their problem-solving skills and gives them the additional knowledge and skills they need to run the production floor.”

Workers new to the Dearborn plant spent the first two days of training in an overarching orientation process with a focus on the Ford Production System and lean manufacturing principles, Pijor said.  They were then paired with a team leader specifically trained to work with new employees.  Workers moving to new positions within the plant went directly to monitored, on-the-job training where assigned leaders have been evaluating their performance daily, assessing their strengths and helping them work through any challenges they face in the new positions.

In the second week of training, third crew members work a “blended shift,” which will bring them together and allow them to work independently at their new positions, while still having the expertise of more experienced workers nearby.

“This essentially will be a dry run,” Pijor said. “So if someone is having a problem with one aspect of the job, there is still time for him or her to get with the team leader responsible for their job certification and work on it.  It’s just one more way to assure quality.”

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