Oakville on the Edge...
|(Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre)|
Oakville, Ontario. The automobile industry in North America is huge. It is so big that it has created and continues to generate hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, including my own. The importance of this industry is undeniable and to hear Buzz Hargrove talk about it, it should rate even higher on our collective conscience than it does now. In fact, according to Buzz, a huge effort should be put into developing an equal trade agreement with the Japanese and Korean markets but I will end before an argument ensues. As far as today is concerned, the Harper, Martin (before him) and Ontario Governments at least agree that it is imperative to keep assembly plants open in Canada and specifically, in Ontario. Together, these bodies have invested $235 million ($100 Federal and $135 Provincial) into the Oakville Assembly Complex. The total amount poured into the plant is of a cool Billion.
This large sum of money has transformed the Assembly Complex into
|Oakville Assembly Complex (Photo: Ford)|
Ford's first ever flexible plant. This means that instead of huge downtime (months upon months) and expenses when retooling, the whole operation can be done in mere days. The savings in time and money in the future will be considerable.
According to Allan Mulally (ex-Boeing boss), two weeks into his new position as President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, the Oakville Assembly is the Future as it will produce new products faster and with outstanding quality. He even added indirectly that with the way things are going, he will take Ford flying. Other than Mr Mulally, Bill Osborne, President and CEO of Ford Canada, Joe Hinrichs (Vide President N.A. Manufacturing FoMoCo) and surprise special guest hockey
|Allan Mulally (Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre)|
the Great, Wayne Gretzky was present. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and I dare say hope as the Edge and the MKX are poised to do very well in their Crossover Utility segment and could very well turn Ford's fortunes around.
The complex itself houses 5.4 million sq. ft. (486,000 sq meters) of assembly lines, parts and the state-of-the-art body assembly facility. To further elaborate on the "flexible" of the plant, this facility can build multiple models on unique platforms using the same machinery. As with any business and like I mentioned before, all of this is about quality and the bottom line. Estimated savings with this new procedure is of 10-15% with new product launches and 50% for mid-cycle makeovers. The whole area as it seems is connected by wireless technology that monitors inbound trucks and their cargo. Every step of the assembly is also carefully verified through a series of Laser and Vision tracking systems, smart servo-electric weld guns and a system that tracks each individual vehicle to make sure all the components are right for the vehicle and that every last phase is completed.
|Ford Fairlane Concept (Photo: Ford)|
The Oakville Edge is set to be sold in 40 countries around the World thanks to the joint efforts of nearly 4,000 employees. The Ford Freestar minivan, also put together in Oakville, will bow out by the end of the 2007 model year. It will be replaced by an as-of-yet unnamed 7-passenger CUV (Crossover utility vehicle) based on the Ford Fairlane Concept. The production of the Edge and MKX have just begun. By staying tuned, you will be able to read my first impressions on the Edge shortly once I return from the official Press presentation in the next few days.