Engine Plant Revs Up Production

Sept. 1, 2004
Ford Motor's flexible-manufacturing strategy pays off for its newly reopened Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1.

Ford Motor's flexible-manufacturing strategy pays off for its newly reopened Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1.

The newly renovated Ford Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 builds the Duratec engine for the 2005 Ford Five Hundred (opposite page), Ford Freestyle, and Mercury Montego.

From left to right: Roman Krygier, Ford group vice president for global manufacturing; Dave Szczupak, Ford vice president of powertrain operations; Mark Elliott, mayor of Brook Park, Ohio; Mark Payne, CEP1 UAW Local 1250 chairman; Willie Hubbard, UAW Local 1250 president; Dominic Coletta, CEP1 and 2 plant manager; and Gerald Bantom, UAW National Ford Department surround the new Duratec 30 V-6 engine being built at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1.

Chris Newell, a controls engineer at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, adjusts some of the flexible equipment used to build the Duratec 30 V-6 engine.

Workers assemble the Duratec 30 V-6 engine at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, which just wrapped up a $350 million renovation.

In 2000, the future looked bleak for Ford Motor's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 (CEP1). The facility, which opened in 1951 as one of the automaker's most advanced manufacturing operations, was shut down, seem-ingly for good. But Ford's Cleveland workers made a case for reopening the plant, and management decided to invest in sophisticated CNC systems and other flexible equipment — to the whopping sum of $350 million. Today, CEP1 is a model operation for Ford's global flexible-manufacturing strategy to build powertrains.

According to Dave Szczupak, vice president for power-train operations, Ford's strategy hinges on the use of identical CNC systems throughout all of its global powertrain facilities. These systems, arranged in cells containing up to eight machines, allow Ford to easily retool and reprogram for new jobs with only minimal disruption to production.

With such flexibility and equipment standardization, CEP1 can build multiple engines, make changes on the fly, and plan in parallel with its sister plants. If necessary, the facility can even shut down a line, make a small change to a part feature, and restart production in just a few weeks. Previously, such a design alteration mandated shutdowns of up to a year.

Another benefit: The plant can run prototype batches as small as one engine without halting regular production. It can also ramp up one engine architecture while simultaneously ramping down another.

Roman Krygier, group vice president for global manufacturing, expects the flexible strategy will save Ford more than $2 billion in changeover costs over the next decade. "This is the most dramatic change in production since Henry Ford's assembly line," he asserts.

Besides reducing the cost of changeovers, the flexible strategy should also slash Ford's purchasing costs. That's because the automaker gains economies of scale and volume by using the same equipment in plants in Ohio, Michigan, Canada, and the UK.

In addition to these benefits, the common plant architecture lets Ford address problems that crop up in one plant across all facilities at one time. And if one plant finds ways to improve production, it can quickly share this knowledge with its sister operations. "We're all learning from a standard base," says Adrian Price, manufacturing manager at CEP1.

In practice, the common architecture came in handy when the plant had an immediate need for a CNC machining center for one of its lines. Corporate management diverted the delivery of a machining center intended for one of Ford's UK powertrain facilities to Cleveland, where it was quickly dropped in place on the plant floor.

Plant Manager Dominic Coletta says the flexible-manufacturing launch has greatly improved product quality as well. "In quality alone, the assembly and machining areas are very innovative. The difference lies in our in-process test strategy, which checks the engine through every major step of the manufacturing process."

Mark Payne, chairman, UAW Local 1250 agrees. "Our in-process-testing system — also known as the 'engine's birth history' — enables us to put a laser-like focus on quality. The in-process tests track every step of production such as the torque-to-turn ratio of every bolt. If we see a quality issue, we can check a stock of three engines rather than 30,000."

Configuring the plant
CEP1 houses four lines: cylinder head, cylinder block, crankshaft, and engine assembly. Ford configured each of these areas according to lean-manufacturing principles.

Efficient material flow is particularly critical for plant flexibility and quick turnarounds. Therefore, receiving docks are located so that incoming material is close to its point of use either in machining or assembly. Once the cylinder-head, cylinder-block, and crankshaft lines finish machining operations, the finished components move directly to engine assembly. And final assembly is close to the shipping docks.

Tying together the lines is an array of new metalworking equipment. The cylinder-head line, for instance, consists of two machining modules, containing a total of 84 Cross-Huller CNC machines, 34 gantries, 8 in-line washer systems, and 4 Zeiss gaging machines. It also includes a cylinder-head assembly line totaling 145,000 ft 2 .

Each engine block loads onto a multipurpose pallet that can hold different engine types. An adapter plate that attaches to a cylinder head affixes parts to the pallet. This adapter plate also serves as a locator and carries a radio-frequency tag that communicates with CNC machines in the line. These tags let Ford track quality data throughout the manufacturing and assembly process — even indicating when to do in-process gaging.

CEP1's 93,638 ft 2 cylinder-block line incorporates eight Cross Huller metalcutting systems, two in-line washer stations, four honing systems, four gantries, and testing and inspection stations. It is capable of pumping out 650,000 cylinder blocks a year at a blinding cycle time of 23 sec. Currently, the line runs one 8-hr shift, but could expand to two if the need arises.

The crankshaft line — at 33,349 ft 2 , it's the smallest of the three machining areas — can deliver up to 250,000 cast iron crankshafts a year. It sports equipment made by Grob, Boehringer, Lamp, Landis, Impco, and Zeiss, among others. On this line, CEP1 plans to have two production operating shifts, with 10 production personnel assigned to each.

These three production lines feed into CEP1's 128,810-ft 2 engine-assembly area, which could produce 325,000 engines/yr at capacity. It also has the flexibility to run any engine architecture from in-line 4 to V8 and above.

Currently, the line is running the all-aluminum Duratec 30 24-valve dual-overhead cam V-6 engine that goes into the 2005 Ford Freestyle, Ford Five-Hundred, and Mercury Montego. But there is speculation that the plant could soon be producing the new 3.5-L Duratec 35 engine.

For more information on lean manufacturing...visit americanmachinist.com

Raising The Roof
As if gutting and renovating a 1,930,000 ft 2 facility in three short years wasn't challenge enough, Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 also got a roof lift that broke records.

Reportedly the largest engineering lift of its kind, this undertaking entailed raising 440,000 ft 2 of heavy industrial roofing four feet from its original location to accommodate new material-handling equipment.