Ford Announces Large-Scale Manufacturing Expansion

On the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line its founder invented, Ford (NYSE: F  ) unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its manufacturing capabilities that by 2017 will increase its global flexibility, add eight new assembly plants, six new drivetrain plants, and introduce new techniques such as 3-D printing and virtual simulation.

By rapidly expanding its capabilities, Ford projects 90% of its global plants will be running on a three-shift model by 2017 that will increase production time by more than 30%. In doing so, virtually all Ford vehicles will be built off nine core platforms down from 15 platforms today. 

Ford aims to further improve its manufacturing flexibility by adopting such advanced techniques as 3-D printing of prototype parts that would allow its engineers to test them within days instead of months. Robotics would be used to increase customer satisfaction in the final product while allowing workers to concentrate on other tasks.

It previously implemented various virtual technologies to improve workplace conditions, but will expand its "virtual factory" that will enable it to see the entire process along the assembly line, such as how, where, or even whether workers are bending, stretching, and moving.

With Henry Ford's assembly line innovation enabling the price of his Model T to drop by nearly two-thirds, it led to Ford selling half of all the cars sold at the time. Innovation by the carmaker today will allow it to increase the number of cars it sells from 6 million today to 8 million by 2017.


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