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Published on September 10th, 2012 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Features At The USD450 Million Ford Thailand Factory

At its just-opened $450-million factory in Thailand, Ford Motor Co. prides itself on being “forklift-free.” Eliminating forklifts, which can have big blind spots, from the shop floor improves worker safety. Ford instead uses trolleys to bring parts to workers on the line here. This shift is just one example of the new manufacturing standard that Ford is rolling out at its plants worldwide. Such changes are key to helping Ford cut costs and boost quality as it moves toward building more cars on shared global platforms.
Many of these practices are being tested at Ford Thailand Manufacturing, Ford’s newest factory, where the automaker now builds its Focus compact for the local market here and other countries in southeast Asia. Over time, Ford expects to export such practices to other plants worldwide, including some in the United States.
Workers at the Rayong factory, about an hour outside Bangkok, use a three-dimensional scanner to assess auto parts for fit and quality problems. The plant also employs a method of drying paint that only requires one oven instead of two. Developing a single system of building vehicles is part of CEO Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” strategy to unify the company’s once-disconnected business units.
Ford already is seeing cost benefits from creating global manufacturing standards. Some practices are dictated by local economic conditions. The minimum wage in Thailand, which is 300 baht a day or less than $10, means Ford relies more on manual labor than it does at U.S. plants. About half the work is done by hand at the body shop in Rayong. But Thailand’s unemployment rate of less than 1 percent also presents challenges for Ford to meet its growth targets. To attract workers, the plant offers free uniforms, daily lunch and transportation to and from work.

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