Starting tomorrow, F-150s will roll off assembly lines again. Here's how Ford made it happen.
Earlier this month, a fire at Ford supplier Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, caused a factory shutdown which in turn caused a parts shortage for the wildly popular F-150 pickup truck. The shortage also affected Super Duty output. In total, three Ford facilities in three US states had no choice but to stop building pickup trucks for one week's time. It could have been for much longer if it weren't for Ford's massive efforts to find a solution.
The automaker has just proudly announced that F-150 production will begin once again this Friday in Dearborn, Michigan. On Monday, Super Duty and additional F-150 production lines will start up again at Kentucky and Missouri-based production plants. How did Ford make this all happen? It's pretty insane – and it involves a Russian transport plane. Following the fire and a damage assessment, Ford gathered its global team of supplier experts and they put their heads together. The first thing done was to remove 19 dies (a tool used to cut or shape material using a press) from the fire-damaged supplier facility, which involved moving an 87,000-pound die.
The goal was to transfer these materials from Michigan to Meridian's Nottingham, UK, facility. Of course, not just any transport cargo plane would do. No, Ford required the biggest one in the world. That would be the Russian-built Antonov An-124, a plane used to transport trains, dump trucks and even a 25-foot yacht. Ford managed to get permission for the plane to land at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. The cargo was loaded and sent to the UK. All told, it was a 30-hour journey door-to-door. Ford managed to secure a UK import license only 2 hours before the plane landed. Meanwhile back in Michigan, repair work began immediately at the damaged facility.
Although there's still plenty left to do, the factory is now running again, though at a limited capacity. The UK facility is now up and running and shipping needed parts back to the US on daily 747 cargo jet flights. The combined efforts of both factories are making F-150 and Super Duty production possible once again, and this arrangement will remain in place until Eaton Rapids returns to pre-fire production levels. Impressive, Ford. Damn impressive.