Ford Motor Co.'s flexible manufacturing system in use in five plants is on track to yield savings in the range of $2.5 billion, said Bill Russo, Ford's director of manufacturing, vehicle operations.
The savings come in part when Ford has to carry out a facelift or revamp a model. Russo said, for example, Ford will save about 55 percent on a facelift or second cycle change to a vehicle such as the F-150 pickup compared to the costs of a non-flexible plant.
Fewer work stations, quicker changes of tools, dies and stamping machinery, and common assembly practices reduce downtime and improve quality, Russo said in comments at the Management Briefing Seminars on Monday.
Russo said flexible manufacturing also is expected to help Ford's struggling British brands - Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover - cut costs. All three brands lost an estimated $800 million in the first six months of 2004.
"Flexible manufacturing helps them achieve some of the personalization they are looking for in their products," he said. "Perhaps they are not going to build as many models or as many platforms, but they are more and more tailoring their premier products towards personalization."
He said Ford's Premier Automotive Group are moving toward more flexible manufacturing technologies that will enable them to compete with their rivals in cost and features.
Russo said that Ford will have 80 percent of its plants converted to flexible manufacturing by 2010.
Ford five flexible plants are Norfolk, Va., Louisville, Ky., and Dearborn, Mich., which all build the F-150 pickup; Auto Alliance in Flat Rock, Mich., where the Mustang and Mazda 6 are made; and the Chicago plant, which will build the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle.