Ford: Teamwork, tenacity & a huge cargo plane lead to restoration of F-Series production

All-new 3.3-liter V6 delivers even more power, torque and better EPA-estimated gas mileage than the previous 3.5-liter V6, further reinforcing how Ford F-150’s light-weighting strategy enables customers to get more done with two fewer cylinders
All-new 3.3-liter V6 delivers even more power, torque and better EPA-estimated gas mileage than the previous 3.5-liter V6, further reinforcing how Ford F-150’s light-weighting strategy enables customers to get more done with two fewer cylinders

It took one of the world’s largest planes, plenty of hard work and teamwork, but Ford pulled it off and announced today that it’s resuming F-150 production at Dearborn Truck Plant Friday following a week of downtime brought on by a fire at a major parts supplier in Michigan.

Super Duty production, which was also affected by the blaze, is targeted to restart by Monday at the Kentucky Truck Plant and, as reported yesterday, assembly of F-150 pickups will resume again at the Kansas City Assembly Plant.

A massive fire on May 2 at the Meridian Magnesium Products facility in Eaton Rapids, Mich. had led to a stop in production for the F-150 and a slow-down for Super Duty.

“While the situation remains extremely dynamic, our teams are focused on returning our plants to full production as fast as possible,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, Global Operations. “The ramp-up time to full production is improving every day.”

Ford teams, together with suppliers including Walbridge and other contractors, worked nearly around the clock to get the nation’s top-selling vehicle franchise back on line as quickly as possible.

The teams removed 19 dies from Meridian’s badly damaged facility, and in one case, moved an 87,000-pound die from Eaton Rapids, Mich., to Nottingham, U.K., via an Antonov cargo plane – one of the largest in the world – in just 30 hours door-to-door. A die is a tool used to cut or shape material using a press.

“Faced with unexpected adversity, the Ford team, including our global supply partners, showed unbelievable resiliency, turning a devastating event into a shining example of teamwork,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of Product Development and Purchasing. “Thanks to their heroic efforts, we are resuming production of some of our most important vehicles ahead of our original targets.”

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Work started immediately in the aftermath of the May 2 fire. Teams removed and remediated safety concerns – including dangling siding – and restored electricity, gaining approval to access the site while debris still smoldered inside.

This allowed Ford and Meridian to safely retrieve and relocate tools to more quickly resume part production and work to minimize the financial impact of the stalled plants.

Ford recovered, repaired and validated most dies that were at the Eaton Rapids facility, and Meridian is now producing parts for the F-150 at two locations – Eaton Rapids and Nottingham, U.K. Production of bolsters for Super Duty is also restarting at the Eaton Rapids plant.

Under normal circumstances, moving tooling the size of a bolster die would take approximately 10 days just to get the proper import and export approvals. However, Ford and its suppliers managed to cut the total time for the entire move to 30 hours, including trans-Atlantic flight time.

When the team removed the die from the Eaton Rapids factory, it was shipped to Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. Rickenbacker had both the capacity to handle such a large piece of equipment and allowed an Antonov An-124 Russian plane, one of the largest planes in the world – typically used to transport trains, dump trucks and even a 25-foot sea yacht – to take off as soon as the equipment was loaded.

Nearly 4,000 miles away, a team in Nottingham was waiting to receive the die and take it to Meridian’s nearby factory. In between, the Ford team received a U.K. import license for the die just two hours before the plane touched down.

Parts produced at Nottingham are being shipped via daily flights on a Boeing 747 jet until production in Eaton Rapids returns to pre-fire levels.

Ford reports that inventories of Ford’s best-selling F-Series pickups and other vehicles remain strong and customers won’t have a problem finding the model they want.

AN-124 cargo plane is shown here loading a portable FAA control tower.AN-124 cargo plane is shown here loading a portable FAA control tower.