Flexible manufacturing is changing the way Ford Motor Co. builds vehicles. Besides saving an estimated $2 billion by 2010, Matt DeMars, Ford's vice president of North American vehicle operations, says flexibility has other advantages.
DeMars discussed the topic with Special Correspondent Tim Moran.
Have you made a large investment in work force retraining for this process?
Absolutely. With the UAW partnership we have, we spent a lot of time in the training required to run, for instance, the body shops. Technologically, the workers are a lot better than they used to be.
Does the retraining add costs that affect your expected savings?
No, because we always spend money on retraining. It's just a matter of where we focus our attention and our training.
The good news is the re-skilling issues we have are more repetitive. Once they're learned in a plant, they stay there.
Does that mean you have greater work-force retention within each plant?
That's a tough question to ask just relative to the flexible manufacturing. Employees are happier.
Why are employees happier?
Some of our plants are much improved. The work environment is cleaner. It's more standardized.
So the chance of an employee getting hurt is less because it is more standardized, and the work is more standardized as we go through it.
Does flexible assembly allow for a smaller work force?