Inside the Ford plant on Chicago’s south side, it’s difficult to recognize that it is the company’s oldest continuously producing plant. A nearly billion investment and 500 additional jobs have completely transformed this plant into a high-tech facility entrusted with building a new version of America’s best-selling SUV over the last 29 years – the Ford Explorer. Ford announced the billion investment in its Chicago Assembly and Stamping plants and 500 new jobs earlier this year. A strong Chicago workforce – boosted with new technology in the Chicago Assembly Plant – is building Ford’s all-new Explorer lineup, Police Interceptor Utility vehicles and all-new Lincoln Aviator. The plant changeover took one month – a company record for an all-new vehicle build. “This reflects American ingenuity at its finest,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president, Automotive. “In the first five days of the transformation, the team moved the scrap metal equivalent to the weight of the Eiffel Tower from the plant, making room for new equipment. Knowing this plant is set in a city and trucks could not go in and out of the plant at all hours, the team got creative and rented a barge, put all of the scrap metal on it, floated it a mile up the river to a recycling center, then moved in more than 500 truckloads of new technology.” Ford replaced outdated machines with advanced manufacturing technology – including two 3D printers at the plant. The Chicago team stripped the body shop down to the concrete floor and completely rebuilt it – adding 600 new robots. The team updated the paint shop, too, and modified nearly every operator workstation in the final assembly area. The plant now also features a collaborative robot with a camera that inspects electrical connections during the manufacturing process. The new production line […]
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