DEARBORN - Think about the circulatory system in your body. If the blood doesn’t flow properly and deliver the right amount of oxygen and nutrients to your system at the right time and in the right way, your body will not operate well and may shut down.
The same concept applies to the Delivery Operating System (DOS), one of the seven operating systems that comprise the Ford Production System (FPS).
“The DOS is critical because it is the whole strategy of moving parts through the process. In order to achieve zero defects and 100 percent flow then one of the inputs to the assembly line is that you need exactly the right parts at the right time in the right quantity,” said Adrian Price, director, Global FPS. “If we have too many parts it costs us money as a company because we’re holding too many on our books, and it creates a cash flow problem. If we have too few then it shuts down the line. So it’s a very critical strategy.”
When you think about all of the materials that go into the production of a vehicle – from the smallest nuts, screws and bolts to the largest and most complex parts required to assemble the final product – the DOS is responsible for accomplishing quite a daunting task.
“Some of our plants have upwards of 20,000 different part numbers on a daily basis and the DOS is charged with managing that inventory so that it can be marshaled to the production line on time,” said Grant Belanger, executive director, Global Materials, Planning and Logistics (MP&L). “It’s a very complex world to work in because everything comes through us and from us. It’s the entire process from end to end, and all of the parts that come in turn into a product that goes out to a customer.”
Belanger says a key element of the DOS is the synchronization of material and information in a standardized fashion to enable day-to-day production across all of Ford’s global facilities.
“We are working to make sure we have common definitions and engineering standards around our processes and information flow so that we can improve simultaneously around the world within our production system,” he said.
Angelica Johnson, manager, MP&L Global Strategy, is the global champion for the DOS, and she has been working to make sure the standards are defined and that the deployment process is standardized across the globe.
“To have a clear standard defined for such a complex area full of different kinds of internal and external variables is a challenge, however, with the coordination and participation of each single plant globally this has been a great exercise to perform,” she said.
An important aspect of the DOS is ensuring that operators on the assembly line receive the parts they need in the most efficient way. One new strategy aimed at accomplishing that is called “kitting.”
“Kitting is a synchronized approach where you have someone setting up the materials for you. We put the kit of materials on a skillet that travels with the vehicle so the kit will have all the unique parts for that particular vehicle versus the next vehicle which may have very different content and therefore a different kit of parts,” said Belanger. “It helps improve the value-add and efficiency of the operator and it provides an incremental quality control element for the operator as well because he can’t pick the wrong part.”
In plants without kitting, parts are typically stored behind the operator in their work station, so the person would have to turn, understand what vehicle it is they’re building – what trim level, etc. – and then search for the right part.
Belanger says Ford is most advanced with kitting in Asia Pacific because facilities were launched there with the strategy in mind.
“We have now begun to roll it out in our more traditional markets where we have a long-standing presence, and we’re making good progress on it,” he said. “With every single new product launch we are working with the program and engineering teams to launch kitting in every facility, and we’re working to find ways to convert existing production to kitting.”
What’s unique about the DOS is that it encompasses so many different elements.
“There are MP&L folks who work in the docks unloading trucks. They have marketplaces where they marshal the parts. They have delivery routes where people pick the right parts and take them to the assembly process. And they have sequencing where they actually schedule the plants to build the cars in the right sequence with the right colors, etc.,” said Price. “That is all done in the DOS, so it’s an important system for us.”