A few days ago on the USS CleanTechnica, our scanners picked up something interesting on the interwebs while scanning the Ford Constellation.
“On screen!” said Captain Shahan. “I want someone on the crew to do an analysis of this news item. Lean manufacturing is clean manufacturing, so we need all of the data we can get.”
“Just a moment, sir,” said Ensign Sensiba. “I think we’ve analyzed this before, just last month. The data should be in the ship’s computer already.”
“Very well,” the Captain said. “But last time, you picked this up while scanning for something else. Let’s make sure we take a closer look this time.”
Well, actually, this whole exchange happened in a Google spreadsheet because CleanTechnica is too futuristic and environmentally-friendly for in-person work (and they put up with my hectic family life), but if we had access to a Starfleet vessel, you can bet we’d have this conversation about Ford’s BlueOval City and its focus on lean manufacturing. But, hey, I did sort of actually get a one-pip commission from Starfleet recently, so I’m going to let it go to my head.
But seriously, though, it is true that we need to take another look at a news item that got covered toward the bottom of an article I wrote last month. Ford’s focus on lean manufacturing at Blue Oval City is very important and deserves its own article with some opinion and analysis.
What We Covered Last Month
Last month, Ford announced that it is working on a new electric truck to complement the F-150 Lightning. Ford has launched Project T3, or “Trust The Truck,” with the aim of designing a dependable truck that customers can rely on. The team behind the development of Project T3 is committed to a distinctive philosophy of creating a vehicle that is equipped with a host of capabilities, including towing, hauling, exportable power, and new-age features. The core of the project lies in regularly updating and refining the functionalities of the truck. Ultimately, Project T3 seeks to transform the driving experience by integrating futuristic technology into its vehicles.
But, if you read that last paragraph and watch the embedded video, there’s a lot of aspiration and not a whole lot of detail. Ford is apparently not ready to spill the beans on anything other than the fact that it is building a truck. Admittedly, that was probably not the best place to focus, but everybody loves vehicles, while all of the boring stuff that happens to make a vehicle isn’t as fun or interesting.
While Ford didn’t give us a lot of detail on the truck itself, the company did tell us a lot more about how it intends to build the truck and make its production more environmentally friendly.
Ford has announced that it will be setting up an all-new assembly plant for its next-generation electric truck. This new facility has been custom-designed to deliver numerous benefits, like a much smaller footprint (almost 30% less compared to other plants), along with exceptional efficiency levels and higher production capacity.
The automaker is taking a significant step when it comes to sustainability with this plant. Part of its commitment is to ensure the new plant is powered by carbon-free electricity right from its inauguration. Furthermore, an innovative energy recovery system is in place to generate heat without causing carbon emissions, resulting in a significant saving of nearly 300 million cubic feet of natural gas that is typically utilized in other similarly-sized vehicle assembly plants over a year.
BlueOval City, spanning over 3,600 acres, boasts a suite of sustainability measures that solidify Ford’s commitment towards environmental conservation. These include initiatives like water evaporation reduction, zero waste-to-landfill, and a dedicated stormwater management system, which are aimed at safeguarding the local environment.
Furthermore, the sprawling campus has an advanced battery manufacturing site co-owned by Ford and SK On, which can produce and assemble battery cells in under 30 minutes. These units are then directly delivered to the onsite assembly plant for use, further bolstering the plant’s production speed and efficiency.
BlueOval City continues to expand its sustainability efforts with its newly launched on-site supplier park and upfit center. It will cater to customers who can select features from dozens of Ford trucks, including spray-in bedliners and integrated toolboxes. The park will also include construction equipment rental firms and a Lowe’s hardware store, ensuring that customers have easy access to building materials while reducing vehicular traffic congestion and emissions in the vicinity.
For added convenience, the campus boasts three concrete batch plants that will support current and future construction projects, reducing transportation expenses significantly.
Overall, BlueOval City serves as a highly efficient and sustainable hub for Ford that’s poised to revolutionize the automotive industry. Through its various sustainability initiatives and state-of-the-art facilities, Ford is taking significant strides towards challenging conventional assumptions about vehicle production, often linked to higher emissions. The company’s decision to establish an on-site supplier park and upfit center, along with the use of advanced practices like water evaporation reduction and zero waste to landfill, strongly emphasizes its commitment to environmental conservation. By keeping suppliers in close proximity, Ford is furthering its mission to reduce emissions throughout the supply chain, thereby contributing to a cleaner and greener future for all.
Designing With Ultra-Lean Production In Mind
Since that article came out, Ford Authority and Automotive News took a second look at this concept.
“When you walk in, it will not feel like a plant that you’ve been in before,” Lisa Drake, Ford’s vice president of EV industrialization, told Automotive News. “Our target was to actually build this truck more efficiently than the best truck we build – and we build trucks pretty well. It’s more radical than just fasteners and brackets. We’ve done some systems engineering work where, essentially, we’ve taken pieces of the truck and reduced the design content down so it’s a much more reductive design with less tooling and less people needed to install.”
The key takeaway from this quote gives us a big clue about how Ford intends to make T3 one of the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly vehicles to build. Instead of looking at the vehicle and the factory as two different systems, Ford is designing the vehicle with not just manufacturing, but ultra-lean manufacturing in mind from the beginning.
This is one of the goals Tesla had in mind with the avant-garde design of the Cybertruck, but we’ll probably see Ford take a much more conventional approach. Project T3 will probably be a departure from Ford’s other trucks, but it likely won’t be a big enough departure to make problems for commercial users and people who want to customize their trucks for work.
One thing is for sure: it will be interesting to see how T3 develops to maximize Ford’s lean manufacturing.
Featured image provided by Ford.
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