The last few weeks have been an exciting time for Ford Motor Co. Whilst the manufacturer was still busy celebrating the Ford Transit once again being crowned International Van of the Year, the past fortnight also marked an important landmark in the company’s history.
As 2013 was the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line, the company held their official celebrations at the Kansas City Assembly Plant.
State of the art assembly line
The plant itself was a fitting venue for such an occasion, being in the midst of 1.1 billion retooling project that aims to provide the very latest Ford Transit Van with the most state of the art assembly line in Ford’s network of manufacturing plants across the globe.
Speaking of the project, Plant Manager Dan Jowiski said, “The Transit will include all the latest technology and the flexibility that comes within that,” adding that in addition to the latest technology, the new Transit models will benefit from the plant having the most technologically advanced press within the Ford system.
Whilst it is likely that, with all this new technology, the Transit will carry a high price-tag and van insurance premium to match, it is an exciting times for van owners, as the most popular van on the market is only set to improve.
However this latest investment doesn’t stop at the Transit. It has been reported that the F-150 is set to benefit also, specifically with regards to the paint shop which is set to introduce a number of new systems Ford has never utilised before, designed to improve on efficiency and quality, in addition to being more environmentally friendly.
Such modern, cutting edge technology is a world away from when Ford first started out 100 years ago with its first moving assembly line. Little did anyone know they would revolutionize the entire automobile industry and a century later would still be at the forefront of innovation within the car industry.
Jowiski added – “Ford goes back 100 years here in Kansas City with the Winchester Plant, and prior to the advent of the moving assembly line, the Winchester Plant built approximately seven vehicles per day,”
Jowiski said – “By 1924, nationwide, Ford had built 15 million vehicles. Today, we now produce the F-150 here at this plant at a rate of about one per minute. Adding in the Transit will further increase our production. By the end of next year, we should be producing 500,000 vehicles a year (or 1,300 a day).”
At the time of writing the plant is mid-upgrade but even then, you can sense how busy it will be when finished. Besides the technicians hard at work setting things up there are no people and parts present currently, yet a tour reveals floors and walkways covered in fresh paint, full of new equipment in anticipation of the first set of Transit vehicles due to roll off the line for summer 2014.
Even at this stage of the development work the latest assembly line has produced 25 to 30 test vehicles that will never see the light of day, constructed simply to test out the equipment and provide training to those who will be operating them in future.
Away from the Transit area which takes up the majority of the plant, is the side specifically for the F-150. Retooled for flexible construction way back in 1997, it is now in full production mode with vehicle shells making their way down the assembly line, with Ford workers and robotic equipment poring over the finer details at each stage of the production.
Those lucky enough to have been present on the tour also talked about being shown the final production area where the final touches are put on the vehicles such as seating installations, fuel top-ups and air conditioning testing.
Speaking on behalf of the active and retired workers at the Kansas City Assembly Plant, Todd Hillyard Chairman of UAW United Auto Workers Local 249, said;
“For the past 100 years, the moving assembly line played a large role in our society as well as providing generations of working families with good jobs.“
“As the assembly line evolved over the years, we’ve been able to do our jobs more safely and efficiently. We’re building higher-quality vehicles than ever before, which customers expect today.”
With the latest Ford Transit promising more welcoming additions for van owners and Ford’s status within the car industry still as strong as ever, it appears that Ford’s legacy within the motoring industry is only set to enhance and the company will be celebrating many more anniversaries in future.