TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co.'s flexible manufacturing system used 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 complete a face-lift or revamp a model, Russo said. For example, the automaker will save about 55 percent on a face-lift or second-cycle change to a vehicle such as the F-150 pickup compared with the costs of a nonflexible plant, he said.
Fewer workstations; quicker changes of tools, dies and stamping machinery; and common assembly practices reduce downtime and improve quality, Russo said last week at the Management Briefing Seminars.
Flexible manufacturing also is expected to help Ford's struggling British brands - Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover - cut costs, he said. 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," Russo 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 toward personalization."
Russo said Ford's Premier Automotive Group is moving toward more flexible manufacturing that will enable it to compete with its rivals in cost and features.
Ford will have 80 percent of its plants converted to flexible manufacturing by 2010, Russo said.
The automaker's 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 Mazda6 are made; and Chicago, which will build the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle.