"This plant has absolute class-leading flexibility—beyond anything else in the world," claims Adrian Price, manufacturing manager of Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No.1 (CEP #1). CEP #1 is the latest and most advanced example of Ford's ongoing plan to re-make its powertrain operations to be both the most flexible and most standardized engine plants in the world. A technological showplace when it opened in 1951 to build advanced overhead valve engines, the old CEP#1 was slated to be mothballed after building its last 5.0-liter V8 in December 2000. But Ford decided to invest $350 million to completely renovate the plant to build the all-aluminum Duratec 30 DOHC V6 engine for the Ford Five Hundred, Freestyle and Mercury Montego.
Following its strategy of liberal use of CNC machining centers for maximum flexibility, Ford installed 84 Cross-Huller machines in the cylinder head and crankshaft machining areas. (Blocks are machined on a dedicated transfer line, since, according to Price, there is usually very little design change made to blocks, so the added cost of going with CNC machines does not justify the added capital investment.) In assembly, where practically every operation is manual, engines shuttle down the line on carriages that swivel to allow workers easy access from any angle. Adapter plates on each carriage allow them to accommodate practically any size of engine. The upshot of all of this built-in flexibility says Dave Szczupak, vice president, Ford Powertrain, is new model changeovers that can be accomplished "over a 3-week shutdown."
To keep quality high and warranty costs low, Ford employs its "birth history" tracking system that records every part measurement and torque value for every engine. When the system raises a red flag the engines in question are "electronically quarantined" and pulled or fixed before moving on. This system is especially important because the plant has no end-of-the-line inspection. CEP #1 is also the first Ford engine plant to do away with hot testing. Instead, engines are cold tested at 600 rpm, 120 rpm and 40 rpm. Szczupak says many problems are easier to find during lower rpm testing, and eliminating hot tests means no exhaust emissions in the plant.
CEP #1 is scheduled to begin volume production this fall and Price thinks that the speed and flexibility of the new plant could cause a fundamental shift in the role of manufacturing in Ford's engine design cycle. "Traditionally, manufacturing have been the guys who got in the way," he remarks, "Now we can react as quickly as the design guys can give us product."
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