"" Writer's Wanderings: Mini Road Trip - Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Ford Rouge Factory Tour

The Ford Rouge Factory today is where the F-150 trucks are assembled. It is an amazing place but before I tell you about our tour, I'd like to tell you a bit about the concept that Henry Ford began with. We all know about his assembly line and how it changed manufacturing but his idea for the Rouge Factory was that raw materials would come in and the plant would be able to make cars starting with those raw materials. Steel was made, parts of cars shaped and formed, and then assembled. Everything that was needed was made from scratch. Amazing.

Today I believe many of the parts now come from other factories Ford has built and those parts are all compiled and supplied to the assembly line by quite a computerized choreography. The tour begins with two movies and a warning that no pictures are allowed in the factory area. One movie centers on the life of Henry Ford and the second is quite a production involving robots and a truck that rises from the floor amid theatrical smoke. Throughout the program, the truck that is all white turns different colors and appears to be a real truck through the magic of expertly placed projected video.

From the movie level you take an elevator to the viewing level which is probably about mid-level in the huge assembly building. You peer down at the assembly line while parts of trucks and some full bodies pass overhead moving to their place in the next part of the assembly line.

We watched with amazement at rear windows being installed by robot. Moved to a place where headers were being snapped into place we marveled at the organization. Each truck cab that came down the assembly line was a different color and differ size and some had a sun roof. From a mobile set of slotted cabinets the assembler would reach the next slot in line and pull out the correct header for the truck cab.

At another spot on the line a team of two men installed the gate to the back of the truck bed. As they worked, the platform they stood on moved with the assembly line. When it reached a certain point the platform moved back to work on the next truck moving down the line. The two had only a minute or two to set in the gate and hook up the cables that held it in place.

The engines were installed in another part of the factory that wasn't within view of the observation area that was a large walkway making a square around the assembly area available for viewing.

The orchestration of the whole operation was unfathomable. I wondered what Henry Ford would have thought of his assembly line today.

One last stop on the tour was the observation deck. From there you could look out on the rooftops of the factory building that have been planted with a special mix of succulent plants to contribute to a better environment. Then the guide stationed there pointed out a green line in the employee parking lot. Everyone with a car that was not a Ford had to park to the left of the line. Certainly would make me think twice about what kind of car I drove to work.

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