Tuesday, August 07, 2012

(BN) Ford Introduces ‘One Manufacturing’ System for Efficiency

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., playing catch up in China, plans to introduce its "One Manufacturing" system to make its factories more efficient as the company seeks to increase sales in Asia.

"One Manufacturing" calls for the company's factories worldwide to use the same production techniques and "speak the same language when it comes to producing high-quality vehicles," John Fleming, Ford's manufacturing chief, said in prepared remarks at a conference in Acme, Michigan.

The company has sought to improve plant efficiency, using production techniques modeled on Toyota Motor Corp. factories. Ford said "One Manufacturing" is to support Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally's push to increase annual global sales by 50 percent to 8 million vehicles by 2015 and have one-third of its deliveries in Asia by 2020.

Ford this year has disclosed moves to add production output in China, including plans to build a $760 million assembly plant in Hangzhou. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company was more than a decade behind General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG in developing sales in China.

Under the "One Manufacturing" program, Ford said new plants will have flexible body shops, with some factories in its Asia Pacific Africa region capable of producing six or seven models, according to an e-mailed statement.

Virtual Tools

Ford plans to expand use of virtual tools that simulate how cars and trucks are assembled, which the company estimated will reduce total vehicle investment by 8 percent a year. Ford also said it wants to improve global factory capacity 27 percent in 2016 compared with 2011.

Virtual tooling lowers development costs and reduces manufacturing problems, Fleming told reporters. Such problems fell to five or fewer from about 600 as recently as 2006, he said. That lowers the tooling changes and overtime work required to solve those problems, Fleming said.

Separately, a lack of capacity and financial and management shortcomings at small automotive suppliers may prevent U.S. vehicle sales from reaching 15 million annually, Guy Morgan, a consultant with BBK Ltd., said at the conference.

"The Tier Two level will prevent the move from 13 million to 15 million units," a year, Morgan said at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars. "They need to be improved."

Tier Two companies sell to larger suppliers, which in turn sell components directly to automakers. Small suppliers removed manufacturing capacity during the most recent recession and also lack access to capital, he said.

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