From manufacturing some of the toughest trucks sold globally to manufacturing face shields for some of the toughest front liners in the world, Ford employees in Thailand took the challenge and quickly turned a concept into a product.
Adapting quickly to change, different teams from both the Ford Thailand Manufacturing (FTM) and AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) banded together with an open sourced face shield design to join in the global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. A small group of engineers led by Ammad Bhatti, product development engineering manager at FTM worked diligently from home to produce CAD drawings and prototypes to further understand the different material properties. This prototype quickly produced in two days, then submitted and approved by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health for mass production.
When asked where the passion for helping came, “I’ve observed it in the Thai culture to live like brothers and sisters as a family with helping one another as something that is very important to them. This was adapted also in the culture of FTM where we are family and it is in our nature to help the community at large,” said Ammad Bhatti.
Much like the vehicles out of Ford, the face shields were also developed with the customer in mind. Feedback from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and direct inputs from doctors in various hospitals helped optimize the shields. Caring about the comfort of the front liners, the design was adjusted to increase the shield distance from the user’s face to address heat while wearing the face shield and make it easier for those who wear glasses. This is just one of the many innovations which was developed through the design process.
“Cross functions quickly banded together with strong motivation and teamwork spirit, and the teams worked very well to tackle this challenge. At the end of the day we have the mindset to support the community more than anything else. Together we achieve more.” said Praphaphorn “Pekky” Phimphimol, VOME Site Implementation Manager and spearhead of the production line for the face shields that was quickly set up inside a meeting room at FTM.
FTM prides itself with ergonomics and efficiencies in manufacturing the Ford Ranger, and this was carried onto producing face shields. Working with existing material suppliers for various exterior parts of the Ranger, the production line has an initial capacity to produce 2,000 face shields per day. They are gradually increasing the production rate to meet the 100,000-unit goal. As demand increases, different face shield designs and production innovations to further increase productivity and efficiency will be implemented.
A great outpouring of support came from the communities within FTM and AAT to help produce these masks. Though many were volunteering their time and effort, only 15 people can work on the production line at a time to adhere to social distancing practices. To ensure everybody’s safety, stations are all cleaned with alcohol before and after production.
“At Ford, we feel a strong obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, and we have the resources, expertise, strong dealer network and most importantly, the spirit of our employees to contribute and help make a difference,” said Wichit Wongwatthanakan, managing director, Ford Thailand, who personally met with ministry officials on Tuesday to deliver the initial batch of face shields.