This is from a Ford press release:




The Ford Mustang will be moved to a new manufacturing facility for the first time ever. True to Mustang's roots, production will remain in Michigan but move from the car's current home in Dearborn to nearby Flat Rock.

"The Dearborn Assembly Plant is the proud parent of every one of the eight million Mustangs around the world," says Roman Krygier, Ford group vice president, global manufacturing and quality. "Mustang can only come from Ford and that’s why it still will be built in Detroit, the home of the muscle car."

The all-American muscle car’s new home – the two million square-foot AutoAlliance International (AAI) facility – is considered one of the most flexible plants in the industry with the capability to build such diverse products as the Mustang and the Mazda 6 sports sedan.

As Mustang moves to a new address, its current landlords at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP) are helping to smooth the transition. Last spring, Team Mustang engineers and AAI managers left their offices to work the DAP line and learn how the assembly process could be improved with better design and ergonomics.

"This plant has become a very special place, like a family, after decades of building everything from boats to tanks to cars," says Rob Webber, Dearborn Assembly Plant manager. "We’re passing along 40 years of Mustang experiences so the next family can build the same kind of atmosphere during the next 40 years."

This passion at DAP translates into the highest quality Mustang ever. And customers are still swarming into showrooms as Mustang sales increased by a staggering 47 percent in January. More staggering is that Mustang customers are intensely loyal and repurchase blue oval products 55 percent of the time, double the segment average in the small sporty car market.

"Mustang customers are amazing in their passion for the product and the brand loyalty – we cannot buy that kind of enthusiasm," says Paul Russell, Ford Division marketing manager for the Ford GT, Mustang and Thunderbird.

New Breed Uses Successful Formula

Hau Thai-Tang, Mustang chief program engineer, spent the day installing dash insulators while learning about possible improvements.

"I'm working with folks who have been doing these jobs for years," said Thai-Tang. "They have good ideas. They truly are experts and having all of our teams there was a very valuable experience."

Phil Spender, the AAI president, traded in his suit and tie for a t-shirt and shorts as he learned from the operators how fuse boxes are installed on the assembly line.

"I'm learning a lot," said Spender. "The assembly workers focused on me doing the job and, when I had problems, they suggested improvements since it happens to them from time to time."

After wiping the sweat, the teams went to work on new ideas.

"Shooting 16 bolts to attach the convertible top is laborious and we're trying to come up with a new design to take out most of those bolts," said Sunil Torke, Mustang product design engineer. "We want to make it easier on the operators."

Mustang's Temporary Housing

But, as the Flat Rock facility ramps up for Mustang production this summer, Team Mustang needed to find an alternative to build early engineering prototypes. Ford’s Pilot Plant at the New Models Product Development Center in Allen Park, Michigan was the logical choice since the facility specializes in building low volume, niche and prototype vehicles.

In addition to final vehicle assembly, the Pilot Plant is capable of building prototype components, and has its own body shop to simulate the production body construction and final assembly processes.

And, the high-security Pilot Plant camouflages secret prototypes before they hit the streets for testing.

"We are a state-of-the-art prototype manufacturing facility," says Mike Gordon, Ford Pilot Plant manager. "Our prototype build process relies on flexible manufacturing processes and highly skilled personnel. It is very similar to how low-volume manufacturers such as Aston Martin build their production vehicles."

Flexible Jobs

When Phil Spender learned Mustang production might shift to his plant, he and his team were up for the challenge.

"The AAI joint venture between Ford and Mazda is one of the best examples of flexible manufacturing, we knew this would be the perfect new home for Mustang," says Spender. "We have been able to incorporate the best Product Development and Manufacturing practices from both Ford and Mazda to build two outstanding vehicles."

As soon as the ink was dried on the new plan, Spender began working with Team Mustang to familiarize them with the benefits of the modern facility. Hau Thai-Tang, chief program engineer, and Bill Cumbaa, AAI General Manager, took a page out of the DAP playbook and put the engineering and manufacturing teams to work on the production line in the summer of 2003.

"We wanted the design engineers to understand how the car would be assembled as they designed and developed their components," says Cumbaa.

"Sometimes we design a part that meets the functional requirements but it doesn’t work out because it is too difficult to assemble consistently," says Thai-Tang. "So, each of us took a different job on the line to appreciate how parts’ design and manufacturing can go hand-and-hand. Ultimately, we think this will lead to improved quality."

Off Line, On Track

One of AAI’s most unique features is a road course test track adjacent to the plant. The track is particularly useful during prototype builds as engineers and plant staff can quickly test drive a car, identify issues and improve the assembly process without typical shipping delays to offsite test facilities.

"People joke around that we built this track to have fun during lunch," says Spender. "Actually, this track significantly helps us improve efficiency and quality since we can build, drive, analyze and fix cars or processes with all of the key players at one location."

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