Following its $550 million transformation, the plant will start by producing the new Ford Focus, a gas-powered small car with an automatic transmission that gets 40 miles per gallon.
"The Michigan Assembly Plant epitomizes the best of what Ford stands for - fuel efficiency, quality, smart technology," said Ford Executive Vice President Mark Fields.
"This new car could not arrive in the market at a better time," said Fields, as gasoline prices soar, driven by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and increasing global demand for oil.
The Focus Electric zero-emission battery electric car is slated to go into production later this year at the same plant, followed by production of the new C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid in 2012.
Fords roll off the new production line at the Michigan Assembly Plant. (Photo courtesy Ford)
Reprogrammable tooling in the body shop and 500 new robots capable of 4,000 welds per vehicle; standardized equipment in the paint shop; and a common-build sequence in final assembly make it possible to build all these vehicles on the same line.
Michigan Assembly is the first U.S. plant to commercially use what Ford environmental engineer John Nowak calls a "three-wet paint application" that will save about $3 million in production in natural gas and electricity, without compromising Ford's paint quality or durability.
"In most other automotive plants, we apply a layer of paint called the primer coat and we bake the unit, and then we put on the base coat and the clear coat, and we bake it again," said Nowak. "The three-wet process allows us to put on primer, base and clear, and bake it only once. We save all the electricity from the blowers that run the booths and the ovens, plus all the natural gas from heating the air and the ovens. Ford is leading the way on this greener, cleaner paint process."
Because of the differences in technique - including robotic processing, elimination of equipment and associated pollutants, and increased line speed - the three-wet paint process reduces emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 6,000 metric tons a year compared to waterborne systems and 8,000 metric tons a year compared to conventional high-solvent systems.
The Michigan Assembly Plant has a new 500-kilowatt solar generation systems, one of the largest in the state, which feeds the energy-efficient microgrid, helping power the plant.
The plant also has 10 electric vehicle charging stations that recharge electric switcher trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities, saving an estimated 86,000 gallons of gas a year.
Plus, the Focus parts that arrive at the plant from Europe are packed in cardboard that is collected, sorted and recycled, as is the bubble wrap, and the styrofoam and water bottles used by employees. Even the temporary wooden partitions that were put up as the plant was revamped and remodeled were donated to the local Habitat for Humanity for housing projects.
"We have taken steps great and small to make the plant as green as possible," Nowak said. "Our goal was to help the 4,000 Ford employees make this several-million-square-foot facility truly environmentally friendly and cost-efficient."
The plant first opened in 1957, building station wagon bodies and has since produced trucks and large SUVs.
Ford's partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy helped the automaker build the latest green improvements into the Michigan Assembly Plant.
The plant is one of 11 Ford facilities in the United States participating in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program initiated by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration.
This green loan program is helping to develop advanced technology vehicles and strengthen American manufacturing across the country. Ford, Nissan, Tesla, Fisker and Vehicle Production Group are all participants.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.