DEARBORN - Two years ago, Ford embarked on a journey to redesign the way that the company operates within all of its manufacturing facilities throughout the world.
That effort led to the development of the Ford Production System (FPS) – a standardized, structured system that was established to engage plant employees and provide a consistent foundation upon which to make continuous improvements.
At the heart of FPS are seven operating systems – Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, People, Maintenance and Environment – and a set of standard operating practices (or key unifying processes) that guide and support those systems.
Now that the foundation of FPS has been laid, John Fleming, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, is calling for 2013 to be the “the year of implementation.”
“We have endorsed the structure of the production system and now it is time to stop development and put all of our time and effort into implementation,” he said. “I know that we won’t achieve full implementation by year’s end, but if we’re not careful, we will develop the system forever. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be approximately right. And then through continuous improvement we’ll refine it to suit exactly what we need and bring everybody up to a better standard.”
According to Adrian Price, director, Global FPS, the implementation process involves six key phases.
“The six stages break up the process into manageable pieces,” he said. “Here’s where you start. Here’s what it means. Here are the tools and training that you need, and here are the results that you should see as you implement each phase.”
The first phase is strategic planning.
“First of all define your current state, because if you want to improve, it’s really good to understand where you are today so that you know where you need to move to,” said Price. “And define it in terms of policy deployment so that you can lay your plan out, get your leadership team aligned around the plan and then put it into a master schedule.”
The second phase is defining the structure.
“This is about the aligned and capable organization and putting a team structure in place, which involves having process coaches and team leaders,” said Price.
Phase three is issues management.
“Here is where we lay out the work that the plant manager, area manager, production manager, process coach and team leader need to do and show them how it fits into each day,” said Price.
Time and data Management is a critical part of this phase of implementation, says Fleming.
“One of the key things we found as we started to go through this is that the plant managers rightly said ‘how on earth are we supposed to do all of this work with everything else that we’ve got to do,’ and this is a discussion truthfully that we never really had before,” he said, noting that one of the reasons he believes the production system never worked in the past is because the company never outlined a clear process for how to get tasks accomplished.
“Now we are able to lay the time and data management out and demonstrate how it can be done,” he continued. “And as we get this implemented, the panic issues become less because you’re not chasing – you’re actually managing and controlling.”
Phases four and five include defining and confirming the standards of plant operation.
“We need to ensure that people understand exactly how the workstations and shop floor should look and then have a process in place to confirm that they are operating to the standards,” said Price.
Phase six is continuous improvement.
“We’re embedding a process that actually has continuous improvement built into it,” said Price. “We’re driving better and better results and we’re trying to drop that down through various levels of the organization so that we’re empowering them to continuously improve. Ultimately it’s about advancing safety, quality, delivery and the flow in our plants so that we’re making better products and making them more efficiently.”
At this time, Fleming estimates the company is approximately 40 percent of the way toward implementation.
“By the end of the year we’ll be at about 60 percent, and my view is that in two years we will be at 80 percent,” he said. “It will be difficult for anybody to get to 100 percent because the system will continue to change and evolve. I’d like to come to a point where we don’t have to worry about implementation figures, where the production system is in and running and we’re just into continuous improvement.”
Fleming says the six phases of implementation reflect a comprehensive approach to change management by defining the things that need to change, making tools and training available, and then working with the plant teams and monitoring them to make sure that progress is made.
“As we do this, the expectation is that the bottom line results will improve,” he said. “And if they don’t, then we go back in and we ask what’s wrong with our standards, the process or the operating system and then adjust it. But now we have a basis on which to do that.”
Once the FPS is implemented throughout the world, everyone – from plant employees to customers who buy Ford vehicles – will benefit, says Fleming.
“At the end of the day the words and the music have got to come together,” he said. “If our processes are robust and we’re working to the standards, then any issues should be identified quickly, which will allow us to understand the root cause and fix them quickly. Our customers should see improved quality, and we should see improved safety and overall control of our processes. These will be indicators of our progress to becoming best in the world.”