DEARBORN - Jim Tetreault, vice president of North America Manufacturing, joined Mark Fields, president of The Americas, on a recent webcast to discuss the Ford Production System (FPS) and how it’s changing the Manufacturing organization as well as contributing to the One Ford plan. Below are Mr. Tetreault’s comments on some of the topics covered.
On the purpose of the Ford Production System (FPS):
The Ford Production System is constructed of the six basic pillars of Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, People and Environment, and within the FPS we have standardized practices and standardized measurement systems for how we run all those operating systems. What’s new for this year is that we’ve added a 7th pillar, which is the Maintenance Operating System. We went out and surveyed all the best plants in the world and how they are maintained. Very quickly we came to a conclusion that there was a great opportunity to improve to that standard. So we’ve implemented that. We’ve had a small team of people working on standardizing those practices and the metrics around those practices.
Our results this year have been pretty good. We’ve improved our production throughput in the assembly plants by 3.3 percent, in our engine plants by 4.8 percent and in our transmission plants by 4.3 percent. Now on our volume, 3.3 percent is 100,000 units that we produced this year that we did not produce last year. The company produced an extra 100,000 units for a very limited expense of installing this operating system.
On key Manufacturing process changes:
We’ve been evolving and implementing the Quality Operating System (QOS) with Bennie (Fowler) and the team for about 10 years. And for the last two years, we’ve been working on our QPIP (Quality and Productivity Improvement Plan) program, which basically prescribes how we go about the process of improving our current model quality, as well as our forward model quality, as we prepare our plants for launch. But the most significant input that manufacturing has had with the Quality Operating System over the past year has been with what we call our Manufacturing Quality Health Charts. And what we’ve done with these assessments is we go out and measure the very best tools, equipment and facilities necessary to build the car, but we also prescribe for every plant the gauging and measurement systems that they have to use to measure the finished vehicle quality. This is what we’ve really changed and implemented this year.
We have about four main metrics in safety and they’ve all been improving this yea. But I really want to talk about one and that’s serious injuries. We looked at our serious injury rates last year and we weren’t very happy because we had too many people getting seriously hurt in our plants, including injuries such as broken bones or those that require surgery like knee ligament damage. We went out and analyzed what was really causing these injuries and we came to a very surprising conclusion with the data. Forty-four percent of the serious injuries in Manufacturing were not occurring on the job. They were occurring with people getting to and from the job. People basically were tripping, slipping or falling within the factory, but not at their work station. So we implemented a new program called Walking and Working Surfaces Improvement. We actually went out and measured every slip, trip and fall hazard in the factory and in the parking lots because there were a great deal of parking lot injuries. As a result, we put a matrix together for every plant. We’re tracking, repairing and improving 10,000 separate line items to improve the safety of our employees this year.
On the new team structure in plants (Aligned and Capable Organization):
Under FPS, we’re going to be implementing three basic types of teams in our plants. The first is the Production Work Group (PWG). This team is comprised of production workers in cyclical areas of the plant – mainly in assembly. There are teams of about 10 people that are led by an hourly team leader working on problem-solving of safety, quality and throughput in their zone.
The second team we’re implementing is called a Mechanical Work Team (MWT). This team is comprised of core mechanical trades, working together across lines of demarcation, to maintain the plant through the Maintenance Operating System I described earlier.
And then the last type of work team we’re implementing is called a Manufacturing Work Group (MWG). This team is comprised of production and skilled trade employees working together in highly automated areas. The benefit for the company is that the problem-solving gets pushed down into a level where people really know what needs to get done and we’re giving them the authority to get it done.
On capacity actions:
With a number of well received new model introductions this year and as the overall market demands return, our production demand has increased quite a bit. We’ve added a lot of capacity this year. In assembly, for example, we’ve added four shifts in four plants. We now have four plants that are operating in three shifts, which we’ve never done in North America. In our engine plants we’ve added shifts in five plants. In Transmission, we’ve added shifts in four plants and in Stamping we’ve added one. Additionally, besides improving our throughput and maintenance, we’ve been going after regular line speed increases that boost the daily production of our plants where the demand is required. But in balancing production demand, sometimes you have to do it on the other side, too. One example is that we have some older engines that are being replaced by newer engines. Some of these older engines are still in production because there is still some demand for those engines. Where we’ve had to do that, we’ve taken shifts off. We’ve reduced line speeds. The whole idea is to make sure that we keep people productively working – we’re not paying people to be laid off and not working – and that we operate our plants in the most efficient way possible.
I can’t remember a year like this in my career. I’ll tell you, it’s a real benefit to the country as well. We’ve hired 5,100 people in Manufacturing so far this year.
On Ford’s effort to hire skilled trades:
This has been a real challenge because skilled trades are in very high demand throughout the country. We’ve had to survey in cities as far as 500 miles away to get good skills. But one good thing for us is that people really want to work for Ford, and we’ve been able to get a number of highly skilled employees from other companies. We’re also adding apprentices and reskilling trades that aren’t in as much demand. For example, one of the things we’re short on right now is controls electricians. So we’re moving people out of mechanical trades and into controls electricians trades. It’s a challenge, but we’re meeting it through several different means and we’ll have the right number of people who run the plants.