Ford Motor Co. will decide by year end whether to build supplier parks at two more North American assembly plants.
Ford is studying redevelopment plans for plants in Atlanta and Oakville, Ontario. Each plan includes adding equipment for so-called flexible manufacturing - the ability to assemble several models on multiple platforms within the same plant. Ford could add supplier parks at those sites, executives have acknowledged.
Supplier parks, more common at Ford plants outside North America, save shipping costs, reduce inventories and can improve vehicle quality.
"We'll be looking at them as much as we can," said Matt DeMars, Ford vice president of North America vehicle operations.
Decisions on the Oakville and Atlanta projects will be made by year end, said DeMars and Roman Krygier, Ford group vice president of global manufacturing and quality.
A supplier park may be more likely for Atlanta. Sources say a supplier park is in the Atlanta plan. That plan has Atlanta producing at least two new Lincoln sedans and the Ford Five Hundred. Production could begin in 2006 or 2007.
In Oakville, many suppliers already are nearby. That makes a new park less advantageous, a Canadian Auto Workers official said. The Oakville plan calls for production of the 2007 Lincoln Aviator and a related Ford-brand sport wagon, suppliers say.
Ford opened its first North American supplier park this summer on a site just a half-mile from its Chicago assembly plant. The 1.5-million-square-foot park is shared by 12 suppliers making instrument panels, headliners and other parts for the new Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle and Mercury Montego. The vehicles went into production July 12 and go on sale in September.
Ford and suppliers spent $250 million on the park. It supplies 60 percent of the Chicago plant's parts. Ford is saving $50 per vehicle in shipping costs because of the park, said Tony Brown, Ford vice president of global purchasing.
Chicago Plant Manager Peter Lawson said the facility keeps on hand just a couple of hours' worth of parts from the supplier park.