Volunteers from Flat Rock Assembly Plant Step Up to Support Front-Line Workers

For the first time since World War II, Ford Motor Company is putting its manufacturing power behind something other than automobiles – creating more than 15 million face shields and 22,000 respirators to help health care workers fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford employees from across the company have volunteered at Troy Design and Manufacturing, including six members of Flat Rock Assembly Plant’s salaried team. They all decided to roll up their sleeves and step up, because for them, doing something was better than sitting around awaiting the all-clear signal. Not only that, COVID-19 was hitting too close to home for many, and volunteering was their way to fight back.

Sophia Songer, a 30-year Ford veteran and team manager in material planning and logistics at the Flat Rock facility, volunteered to build personal protective equipment because of her daughter Hannah, who works as an ICU nurse at St. John Hospital in Detroit, on the front lines of the pandemic. “I wanted to do something,” said Songer. Her husband Eric, an hourly worker, wanted to as well, opting to return to work building respirators even though he was eligible to collect unemployment.

Songer said Hannah’s stories motivated them both to volunteer. “We had to listen every day to what she went through,” said Songer. “This girl has a really big heart – what she went through, what she saw. They didn’t want to give up, but they were losing one after another.”

For Jed Vier, a senior process coach in the pre-delivery and inspection department at FRAP with more than 34 years of experience, joining the face shield project was about helping the country and being a part of history. “If you remember your history, Ford was a part of the Arsenal of Democracy,” he said. “Now, with the Apollo Project, we’re a part of the arsenal of health.” Knowing the equipment he is building will help his daughter Elizabeth, who is a nurse, puts a smile on Vier’s face.

At Troy Design and Manufacturing, every measure is taken to ensure the safety of the workforce. Temperatures are scanned before entering the facility. Workstations, six feet apart, are cleaned at the start and end of every shift, and hand sanitizer is provided. Everyone is within earshot of their co-workers, as being within arm’s length now is out of the question.

“During lunch you have your own table and chair – social distancing is well into effect,” said Dwayne Brown, a senior process coach in the body department, who chose to volunteer because he wanted to help others and because it was a break from his normal routine. In his role at FRAP, Brown has to worry about machines running smoothly and having enough manpower to meet production requirements, but at TDM all he has to do is work. “The day just flies,” said Brown. He said he can whip up 1,300 masks a day – enough to fill around five boxes.

Jeanine Jahant, vehicle evaluation engineer, said things can get competitive between workers, but it is all in good fun. Workstations are one long table seating six team members, with each table striving to produce the most masks. “They treated us like we were the most important people there,” said Jahant. Working side by side with five team members from Flat Rock Assembly Plant, she has gotten to know them all better and she’s also had a chance to catch up with old friends from other facilities.

In stepping up to build personal protective equipment, Ford employees in the arsenal of health are creating a greater sense of community and experiencing a collective pride in the battle against COVID-19.

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