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Ford Chicago Assembly Plant Changeover Was An Ordeal

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We’ve talked a few times about the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant and the massive $1 billion investment Ford made to retool the plant for the new Explorer and Lincoln Aviator. We’ve talked about how the plant has 41 break rooms to allow the workers more downtime on their breaks.

Some new details about the Chicago Assembly Plant have been offered, and the amount of work that went into the 30-day switch over was incredible. Automotive News reports that 800,000 hours were worked by skilled tradespeople on the Chicago Assembly Plant changeover. To put the new equipment inside the plant, Ford had to remove 10,000 tons of scrap metal.


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That amount of scrap metal was removed in the first five days of the project alone. The massive undertaking had 2,800 skilled tradespeople on the site at one time. The stream of tractor-trailers bringing new equipment to the Chicago Assembly Plant was a long one with 1,500 trucks packed with new tooling making deliveries to the plant. Ford was able to retool the plant in 30 days.

This was by far the most massive undertaking of changing over the Chicago Assembly Plant that Ford has undertaken in the 95-year history of the site. The changeover took about 11,000 workers in all. The scrap metal was removed from the factory on barges that were moored on the river that runs alongside the plant. Every 90 seconds a truck turned up and dumped scrap metal next to the river.

All that metal weighed more than the Eiffel Tower and was taken a mile down the river on the barges to a recycling center. Despite the massive undertaking, the changeover was highly efficient. One area of the body shop saw crews tear out old equipment, install new machines, and start building parts in seven days.

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Source: Auto News

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Written by Shane McGlaun

Shane is a car guy with a fondness for Mustangs and off-roading.

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  1. The real story is that the firat crop of 2020 Explorers seem to have very poor initial quality with many needing dealer fixes immediately after sale.

    • I heard they were doing emergency fixes for some 2020 Explorers in Flat Rock due to build quality issues. Apparently, Chicago lacks qualified staff to assemble these new Explorers.

  2. Where do these idiots come from? After such a massive retooling of course there will be be glitches in manufacturing. Human error in fine tooling and adjustments to be made. That’s the process of craftsmanship.
    The difference between the American automaker and the foreign ones you so obviously so slavishly adore is you get to see the American step by step birthing , instead of just oohing and aahing at some finished product of mostly stolen technology.

    • I don’t expect every new vehicle to be perfect. This is not the first time Ford is retooling a plant due to change in platforms, it has happened many times before. I understand minor issues have to be ironed out, but when you have hundreds of vehicles with issues when only a few thousand have been built, that shows there is a systematic defect in the way they are manufactured. Pointing fingers at import vehicles is not going to help Ford. Solving the problem at hand to improve quality is what Ford needs to do, and is doing.

  3. I would not be happy with crap quality. Negotiations for a new UAW contract have anything to do with it? We thought that was in the past but maybe not.

  4. anyone ever heard of don’t buy the first year of any car? ford is not alone when it comes to quality issues in the beginning of any new production car. my wife works for a company that does quality control for all the big three and their suppliers and yes most of the foreign brands thats located in the US. They all have headache’s fine tuning equipment and getting bad part’s from their suppliers in the beginning and not discovering it till thousand of them are on the road in consumers hands. That’s why they have recalls.

  5. I took delivery a little over a month ago of a 2020 Aviator Black Label – an $80K+ purchase. I bought several new Explorers over the years, and my expectation was that this Lincoln would exceed those perfectly fine Explorers in all the little pampering ways you pay an extra $25K for. But sadly the Chicago Ford assembly plant did a poor job of building these vehicles. The build quality of my “premium” Aviator is far below that of any of my previous Explorers.

    Here is what we have so far:
    -One of the door glasses fell down into the door the second day I owned it.
    -The drivers seat mount cladding was stained.
    -Exterior plastic body cladding was misaligned.
    -The seat upholstery up front was not carefully constructed and has a wrinkle.
    -The door seals do not seal, and they allow the door jambs to get filthy.
    -There is a wind leak at the top of the driver door.
    -There is a rattle in the driver door.
    -The entire Flight Blue paint job has an “orange peel” surface.
    -The base coat of the finish is so thin in the door jambs that in a couple of places you can actually see the gray primer coat through the clear top coat.

    At some point you run out of excuses and you have take action to change the procedures and attitude on the assembly line. And where are the final inspectors who are supposed to keep poor workmanship from rolling out the door. Some of this stuff coulda/shoulda been caught and stopped. At this time the dealer is doing his level best to correct what the assembly plant messed up on. But what correction can be done for a bad paint job that doesn’t decrease the value of the vehicle? The last I talked to the dealer’s service rep, he suggested that they may find it necessary to “de-trim” both sides of this Aviator and repaint it!

    It’s not that Ford simply can’t build a nice car. The loaner the dealer has me in is a 2019 Lincoln Nautilus. It was built in the Oakville, Ontario plant – and what a difference! The black paint is glossy and I have not discovered a single defect in the vehicle.

    Perhaps it is folly to build police Interceptors and ordinary Explorers on an assembly line – with the attendant acceptance of lower build quality requirements – and then expect these same employees to seriously step up their game, and the procedures, and the inspections when the premium Aviators are rolling through. It’s simply not going to happen. The Oakville plant has shown they are up to the task, and the tempting thought is that they should perhaps have been handed the Aviator production rather than burden the Chicago plant with greater quality expectations than they are prepared to meet.

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