A Fanuc M-2000iA robot lifts a Lincoln Navigator body at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. Ford is spending $25 million, in addition to $900 million spent last year, to boost production of the highly profitably, very popular SUVs.
Louisville, Kentucky – With orders and sales outstripping expected demand, Ford Motor Co. is spending $25 million to boost productivity of Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition sport utility vehicles (SUVs) by 25%.
“The response from customers regarding our new full-size SUVs has been exceptional,” says Joe Hinrichs, president, Global Operations. “Using a combination of Ford’s advanced manufacturing and American hard work, and ingenuity, we’ll deliver more high-quality Lincoln Navigators and Ford Expeditions to customers than originally planned.”
The $25 million investment for additional manufacturing enhancements brings Ford’s total investment at Kentucky Truck Plant to $925 million and allows the company to increase manufacturing line speed. Upgrades include:
- 400 new robots, including large systems and collaborative cobots from Fanuc. The plant last year added a robot lab, where employees can test out software tweaks or troubleshoot issues away from the factory floor
- A Stratsys Fortus 3D printer that enables workers to make parts and tools more quickly and cheaper that traditional methods. Manufacturing a prototype part using traditional methods can take eight to 16 weeks and cost of more than $250,000. Using 3D printing can take hours and cost a few hundred dollars
- Enhanced data analytics. A data analytics hub includes seven big-screen TVs that provide minute-by-minute updates, letting plant officials know whether production is meeting hourly targets or whether there is a concern on the line that should be immediately addressed. An enormous spare parts vending machine allows workers to more quickly locate a necessary part while automatically keeping inventory at optimal levels
While luxury SUVs have been successful for the past year, demand for high-end Navigator models surprised Ford’s product planning team. Nearly 85% of all Navigator buyers are choosing high-end Black Label and Reserve models.
Customer demand for the highly-equipped Black Label and Reserve series contributed to an average transaction price increase of more than $21,000 in January versus a year ago. Navigator retail sales were up triple digits in every region of the country last month. Navigator sales more than doubled last month, thanks to growth in key markets including Florida, Texas and California, a competitive conquest rate of 40% and new interest from younger consumers. For the Expedition, top-of-the-line Platinum trim models represent 29% of sales – pushing transaction price increases up $7,800 in January.
In addition to the technology upgrades, Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) assembly line workers are working overtime and voluntary weekend shifts. KTP, one of two Ford plants in Louisville, also makes F-Series Super Duty trucks. The other plant makes the Escape small SUV.