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Ford F-150 Production Overcomes Obstacles, Inches Close To Restarting Production

Tornado-damaged part supply factory now won’t hinder F-150 production. As Ford’s production facilities look toward a mid-May restart, F-150 manufacturing will be a main focus.

To say 2020 has been a horrible year for Ford Motor Company is an understatement. With a worldwide pandemic bringing their production facilities to a halt, Ford has really felt the impact on their bottom line – to the tune of losing hundreds of millions per day.

Then, in the middle of production shut down, a major Ford truck supplier sustained major damage to their factory due to a tornado. As I reported last week, the Borg-Warner plant in South Carolina that produces transfer cases for F-150 was leveled by a tornado. At first it seemed like this destruction would hold up a production restart at Ford truck plants.

The Borg-Warner plant in Seneca, South Carolina has already been able to plan for production to start again, which means there should be no interruption when it comes to F-150. Finally some good news for Ford.

When Will Ford Manufacturing Start Back Up?
The biggest hurdle remains when exactly will the truck plants start back up with production. And while we don’t have a confirmed date, one source told me that May 18 was the expected date to begin production at Ford’s four truck plants. This is not confirmed by Ford or by the United Auto Workers.

During a press conference yesterday, Ford laid out a plan to begin the production process again.
“We’ve been working intently on how to restart our operations and safely bring back our employees and we’re ready,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “We have gone through and trialed these processes. We’re abiding by our first principles, and we are working with our union and government partners to restart. Getting back to work isn’t just good news for Ford employees. It’s also good news for our suppliers, car dealers and the ecosystems that provide services around them, like restaurants, shops and stores. This economic multiplier effect is going to help reboot communities around the globe.”

F-Series alone requires four U.S. plants, approximately 19,000 Ford employees and 2,000 U.S. suppliers – and generates an estimated $50.2 billion in global sales revenue annually. That’s more than the 2019 annual revenues of American Express, Coca-Cola, Cisco Systems and Delta Airlines.

Ford is working to safely restart manufacturing in the U.S. and North America. The company recently announced plans to begin that process in Europe on May 4, and a small number of hourly and salaried employees returned to work this week in North America to begin installing equipment and putting in place new safety protocols.
“The health and safety of our employees has been – and remains – our top priority as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief human resources officer. “We are taking extensive measures that apply best practices from around the world to make sure all of our facilities and workplaces will be safe, clean and secure for when we return to work on-site. Every team member will play a role in protecting themselves and their colleagues as Ford reopens facilities around the world.”

Ford Takes Safety Protocols To Ensure Production Can Begin
Reopening safety protocols include scheduling more time between production shifts to limit interaction between employees and allow for additional cleaning. Workspaces have been modified where possible to allow for social distancing, and all Ford people – hourly and salaried employees – will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn inside Ford facilities. Supervisors are being instructed to have salaried employees work according to specific schedules to prevent unnecessary contact. Cafeterias, small meeting rooms, fitness centers and other small common areas where social distancing is not possible will remain closed.

Personal Protective Equipment

According to Ford, they are taking the following safety actions:
• Daily online health self-certifications completed before work every day. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to work.
• No-touch temperature scans upon arrival. Anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will be instructed to visit a physician to be cleared before returning to work.
• Required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit including a face mask and other items to help keep them healthy and comfortable at work.
• Safety glasses with side shields or face shields as added requirements when jobs don’t allow for social distancing. Ford is evaluating workstations and work patterns and will implement other measures that protect workers whose jobs are typically performed within 6 feet of another person.
• Facilities that have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and will be cleaned with increased frequency when they reopen.
• Hand sanitation stations throughout Ford facilities and CDC signs with proper handwashing methods in all restrooms.
• A comprehensive playbook with procedures and protocols that detail how the Ford team will work together to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

“We continue to work toward the safest protocols available for the safety of our members, their families and their communities,” said Gerald Kariem, UAW vice president and director of the UAW Ford Department. “Our biggest concern is the health and safety of our UAW membership. We are encouraged by the results thus far of the safety protocols being instituted at the plants making medical equipment and in plans to implement these safeguards when it is safe for our members to report for work. We also recognize that we all have a role in self-reporting any exposure without repercussions and in following through on implementing these protections.”

What About Ford Dealerships?
Many Ford dealers have had intense layoffs and some have gone to online-only sales and home deliveries. It’s truly been a trying and unprecedented time for the Ford dealership network. They are eagerly awaiting many stay-at-home orders to be lifted so they can begin selling vehicles again.

As I reported there’s some aggressive financing options in place right now as incentives to lure people to purchase a new Ford vehicle, including the F-150.

According to Ford: They are assisting dealers as they prepare to re-open their showrooms. Among other initiatives, the company is supplying U.S. dealerships with staff and customer PPE, such as masks and hand sanitizer. Ford is producing some equipment and sourcing other items in bulk quantities to help expedite deliveries to dealers.

As Ford has been losing $165 million per day during the shutdown, nobody wants to get the factories back to work more than they do. The automotive industry is such a vital economic driver. As the auto industry struggles so too do so many other businesses. So hearing that we are only weeks away from a restart is some encouraging news.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.