Ford workers load an 87,000 lb die for cast magnesium parts on an Antonov An-124 cargo plane in Columbus, Ohio, for shipment to the U.K. so the automaker could resume F-150 production.
Dearborn, Michigan – Ford Motor Co. plans to restart F-150 production at its Dearborn, Michigan, plant on Friday, about a week after it had to shut down following a fire at a supplier’s facility.
F-150 production at the Kansas City Assembly Plant should restart Monday, May, 21, along with F-Series Super Duty work at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.
“While the situation remains extremely dynamic, our teams are focused on returning our plants to full production as fast as possible,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, Global Operations. “The ramp-up time to full production is improving every day.”
The three plant shutdowns started last week after the March 2, 2018, fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. That facility makes lightweight magnesium castings for structural components in the pickups.
Ford teams, together with suppliers including Walbridge and other contractors, worked nearly non-stop to get the plants back online.
The teams removed 19 dies from Meridian’s badly damaged facility, and in one case, moved an 87,000 lb die from Meridian’s plant, to Nottingham, U.K., via an Antonov cargo plane – one of the largest in the world – in just 30 hours door-to-door. Between export approvals, shipping logistics, and actual transportation, such a die shipment typically takes about 10 days.
“Faced with unexpected adversity, the Ford team, including our global supply partners, showed unbelievable resiliency, turning a devastating event into a shining example of teamwork,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of Product Development and Purchasing.
When the team removed the die from the Eaton Rapids factory, it was shipped to Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. Rickenbacker had the capacity to handle such a large piece of equipment and allowed an Antonov An-124 Russian plane – typically used to transport trains, dump trucks, and even a 25-foot sea yacht – to take off as soon as the equipment was loaded.
Nearly 4,000 miles away, a team in Nottingham was waiting to receive the die and take it to Meridian’s nearby factory. In between, the Ford team received a U.K. import license for the die – two hours before the plane touched down.
Parts produced at Nottingham are being shipped via daily flights on a Boeing 747 jet until production in Eaton Rapids returns to pre-fire levels.
Ford officials say F-Series truck inventories remain high, and they don’t expect customers to have problems finding the vehicles they want.
Work started immediately in the aftermath of the May 2 fire. Teams removed and remediated safety concerns – including dangling siding – and restored electricity, gaining approval to access the site while debris still smoldered inside.
This allowed Ford and Meridian to safely retrieve and relocate tools to more quickly resume part production and work to minimize the financial impact of the stalled plants.
Ford recovered, repaired and validated most dies that were at the Eaton Rapids facility, and Meridian is now producing parts for the F-150 at two locations – Eaton Rapids and Nottingham, U.K. Production of bolsters for Super Duty is also restarting at the Eaton Rapids plant.