Women Behind Chicago Assembly Plant's Explorer/Aviator Launch

This past March marked The End of an Era in Chicago. After 35 years and 6 generations, Chicago Assembly Plant made the last Ford Taurus. As the final unit rolled off chassis, the CAP team applauded and cheered. This celebration was for an ending, but it was also for a beginning.  It was the start of the plant’s monumental 31 Day Transformation and the opportunity to launch two new exciting products, with the magnitude the facility had not seen in years. The launch of the all new Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator.   Launches can be challenging and it takes commitment, leadership, and attention to detail, in order to achieve success. Here are some of the women on Chicago Assembly Plant’s Launch Team that serve as examples of how to get things done.

     “Trust but VERIFY,” is Kelly Calton’s, motto. Calton, who is the QLS Administrator for the U625/611 Launch, has worked at Chicago Assembly Plant for 26 years. She is responsible for developing the Quality Leadership System (QLS) for the 2020 vehicles.  QLS is the system that tracks build data for each vehicle. “What excites me about this launch is we are able to do things now that we never could with QLS. We’ve introduced tablets for our inspectors and which allow for better alignment when identifying concerns. In her spare time, Kelly writes.  Her first novel is being published in August. “I’ve been writing for magazines for over 20 years, this is the first time I took the time to write for myself, says Calton. Calton shared that her mother is her role model because, “My mother always told me not to let anyone tell me who I am!”

     “Bloom where you are planted, “is one of Wendy Stonewall’s favorite quotes.  Stonewall has worked at Chicago Assembly Plant for almost 26 years.  As Body Launch Quality Control she trains and works with EQIs. She walks concerns back through the system and gets cut offs for the team. She had the opportunity to work in Dearborn, as an EQI where she trained and analyzed data. “What excites me about this launch is that I learned a whole different area of the bodyshop. I was able to be hands on and see the buildup of the vehicle, including the underbody, cage nuts, sealer, etc.”  In her spare time Stonewall is involved with rescue dogs.  She works with her local veterinarian and helps house dogs and takes care of their medical needs.

     Valeria Taylor has been with Ford Motor Company for 31 years. She is the Launch Production and MP&L Supervisor at Chicago Assembly Plant.  Taylor’s career started at The St. Louis Assembly Plan in 1988. Taylor shared, “I’ve had the opportunity to work in various areas and locations with the company and I’ve seen different aspects of the business, from Marketing, Service and Sales to Manufacturing.  I’ve met a lot of people.”  What excites her about her current role on the Launch team, she comments, “There has never been a position like this in Chicago for a major launch. It’s a great opportunity to learn, as well as teach.” In her spare time she enjoys doing yardwork, refinishing furniture, and real estate rehab.


     “I don’t let my struggles bring me down.  I’ll find a better way,” is the motto Mayra Bautista lives by. An employee at Chicago Assembly Plant for six years, Bautista is responsible for the manpower in Trim.  “I get the A cards in order and track all of the trainings for the employees in the Trim Department on all three crews,” Bautista explained. “What excites me about this launch is the opportunity to change and making all the wrongs, right. This is the time to get everyone working within their classifications and to get the department in sync.” Bautista looks up to her mother and older sister. “My family came to America from Mexico and has gone from living in a small apartment to becoming entrepreneurs, owning a 100 acre blueberry farm.


     “Mean what you say and say what you mean,” says Trish Dillingham, Chassis Launch Coordinator.  Dillingham, who has 28 year of experience working for Ford Motor Company, is responsible for End of Line testing, and processing vehicles and repairs for Pre Delivery. Dillingham shared what excites her about this launch, “All of this is a brand new experience for me, and has given me a better understanding of the business.” When asked if she had any role models Dillingham revealed, “Janie Little, Vehicle Evaluation Manager, she give me coaching and doesn’t even know it. And also Ann Green.  I’ve met her a few times, and don’t know her well, but my first impression was she is somebody I need to know.”


Kimberly Wyatt, Quality Launch Lead, has been at Chicago Assembly Plant for 18 years.  She is responsible the overall vehicle quality of the vehicles this includes body, paint, through chassis and Pre Delivery. When asked what excites her about this launch Wyatt responded, “I’ve had a variety of rolls throughout my career, but this is the first I’ve seen with such energy around the technology and design. Being on the forefront is a side I’ve never experience and it excites me.” Wyatt adopts a philosophy from Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not to merely survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

     Each of these women from Chicago’s Launch Team, brings a wealth of knowledge, pride, and commitment for the products produced from their facility.  Their unified goal is to flawlessly launch a world class vehicle that will exceed the customer’s expectations. Here is another example of “Built Ford Tough.”


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