As gasoline prices surge past $3.30 per gallon, USA Today is recognizing the transformation of Ford Motor Company's manufacturing plants into flexible facilities that can adapt according to consumer demands and fuel efficiency.
Note that though USA Today marvels at the Michigan Assembly Plant's versatility, Ford's vice president of North American manufacturing, Jim Tetreault, says that Louisville Assembly Plant, once its rebuilding is complete later this year, will be the most advanced:
If gas prices rocket and more consumers demand electric versions of Ford's new-generation Focus compact, the Wayne plant can shift to making them instead of piston-powered cars. If growing families reject sedans in favor of the roomier, van-like C-Max "multi-activity vehicle," the plant easily can fill the bill.
The plant also will be able to build subcompacts, such as Fiesta, which is on a different chassis than Focus.
For years, Detroit makers ballyhooed their embrace of Japanese-style just-in-time parts delivery and other tools for lean, efficient production. Now they are trying to go a step further with flexibility in a factory-floor revolution.
Tetreault says that while the plant's flexibility is cutting edge for now, he's not done. Changes underway for the Ford plant in Louisville will make it capable of building more vehicles on more platforms than Michigan Assembly.