FLAT ROCK, Mich. - A manufacturing evolution occurred on Oct. 7, 1913. No longer did the assembly line worker need to move from station to station to assemble Henry Ford’s Model T, the Model T came to the worker. The moving assembly line was born and vehicle production was forever enhanced.
While the moving assembly line is celebrating its 100th anniversary, it shares the date with another anniversary – the 100th year of the moving assembly line worker
The modern assembly line team member is a far cry from its 1913 counterpart. From ergonomically-designed workstations and computer aided tasks to the just-in-time delivery system of the Material Planning and Logistics department, team members today are more prepared and supported than ever before.
At Flat Rock Assembly Plant (FRAP) in Michigan, the new era of the line worker couldn’t be more prevalent. With the recent addition of 1,400 new employees to support the Fusion’s U.S. production debut, a new training process has been implemented -- the “simulated factory.”
To help provide hands-on training in a real-world environment, the simulated factory allows workers to master the tasks they may be performing on the line, whether simple jobs like tightening nuts and bolts or more complex ones like connecting brake lines or fitting weather stripping. Before, new hires moved directly from classroom training to the assembly line.
“The simulated factory provides workers with a much smoother transition to the assembly line, and the net benefit to the company is improved quality,” said Aris Janitens, manager, launch planning and workforce readiness, Ford Motor Company. “This best-in-class training process – initially developed at Louisville Assembly Plant – has been so successful, it is now considered our global standard and company-wide best practice, and will be rolled out to other plants worldwide.”
Each activity is timed to give trainees a sense of how quickly the assembly line moves and how quickly they are expected to perform their duties. When working on the line, each team member must perform his or her job within a specific amount of time to keep the line running smoothly.
VIDEO: Flat Rock's Simulated Factory Preps New Workforce
The simulated factory training can accommodate 50 trainees in each eight-hour session with a 5:1 trainee-to-instructor ratio. Workers train on 10 stations – one every 40 minutes – including electrical connectors, engine build-up, brake line and radiator hose install, and DC electric tools. Workers also receive one-on-one training from hourly instructors, as well as instruction on safety procedures, tooling and operator instruction sheets.
“Before simulated factory training, you could always tell when it was someone’s first week on the line,” said Tim Young, plant manager, Flat Rock Assembly Plant. “They were a little unsteady and unsure of what they needed to do, and it usually resulted in having to stop the line multiple times that first week.”Flat Rock Assembly Plant Attracts Media Attention for its Simulated Factory and Onboarding of 1,400 New Employees
Young said the investment in workers is really paying off. “Now, our new hires are able to jump right in on the line without causing any delays or quality issues, and do so in a safe manner.”
For Vanessa Billock, a 24-year-old former retail employee, the simulated factory helped prepare her for a new career path.
“I worked retail and I was a college student and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle it,” Billock said. “Once I got a feeling for it in the training room, I really feel like I’m ready for it.”
Billock, now more than two months on the job, said she’s enjoying her position in the Flat Rock body shop where she installs small components onto the Fusion.
A century later, the assembly line worker is more capable and confident, leading to world-class vehicle production. As the FRAP plant slogan states, “World-Class Vehicles Built By World-Class People.”