'We're Ready' Says Ford COO As Company Awaits Lockdown Easing

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Ford Motor Company’s chief operating officer, Jim Farley, joined the company’s chief human resources officer, Kiersten Robinson, and manufacturing and labor affairs boss Gary Johnson for a media Q&A Thursday, offering up details on what it will look like when the automaker returns to the business of cranking out cars trucks and SUVs.

That’s already begun in China, where 90 percent of the company’s employees are now back to work. It’s Europe’s turn to come back online now (the region is due to start a ramp-up on May 4th), as the Blue Oval awaits the go-ahead from the state of Michigan.

It all hinges on Michigan, apparently, given the critical mass of manufacturing and suppliers in that locale. When Gov. Whitmer eases shelter-in-place orders, Farley said, the company will leap into action.

Health protocol enacted in China and Taiwan will guide the automaker’s restart in other regions, the company claims, with personal protective equipment and distancing becoming the norm at the job site and health questionnaires and thermal scanning greeting workers who can’t do their jobs from home. The tally of Ford employees who’ve turned their living room into an office stands at 125,000.

Through agreements with local hospitals, anyone fitting the bill of a COVID-19 case will be turned away for testing, with results pending in 24 hours. Robinson said the company “will not have a reliable and scalable testing solution for some time,” meaning self-validation and thermal scanning at the front door and a potential day lost for individual workers will have to be the fallback.

Everything from the (pre-packaged) food served in cafeterias to the organization of break rooms, plexiglass dividers between work stations, and masks and shields worn by workers who have to exist, on occasion, within six feet of each other will reduce transmission potential to a minimum, the company claims. Workers will be provided with a kit that contains all the things they need, including disinfectants. Via its experience in China, Ford developed its “Return to Work Playbook” — a digital document being sent to all of its sites that outlines proper protocol. Ford says it is consulting with epidemiologists and health officials to keep daily tabs on regional and local outbreaks and threat levels.

Would Farley feel safe sending his family to work at, say, a Michigan assembly plant?

“I would feel confident,” the COO replied to exactly that question, adding that he has “complete trust in the process we’ve come up with.”

Given the heavy presence of both Ford and its many suppliers in Michigan, and the fact that the UAW is apparently on board with Ford’s health protocol, the easing of Gov. Whitmer’s shelter-in-place orders will be the key to returning to work. Michigan recently extended those orders through May 15th.

Even though other states are opening themselves up for business, Farley said the close integration of Ford’s scattered plants and its suppliers means production can’t return piecemeal. “We’ve always approached this as an integrated start,” he said. Stamping and powertrain operations would resume at the same time as vehicle assembly, not sooner. The company’s suppliers will also be ready to go whenever production resumes, Farley said, and they’ll be privy to Ford’s health protocol, too.

“We feel comfortable with our suppliers’ start dates; we just need clarity from our government leaders because we’re ready,” he added.

When production does resume, overtime and extra shifts will have to wait. While the line can’t move any slower, limited production crews will have to be the norm for a number of weeks to accommodate lengthy disinfecting procedures. All-out production on many shifts is something the company will have to ease into after the course of several weeks.

Will Michigan relent and make Monday, May 18th the beginning of business-as-not-so-usual for members of the Detroit Three? Stay tuned.

[Image: Ford]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 30, 2020

    I am tired reading the same old banalities again and again.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 01, 2020

    Whoa, wait a minute. Ford produces vehicles in China??

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 04, 2020

      Ford has a partnership with Mazda and it's Chinese partner to make the Mazda BZ engine, and another partnership with Jing-Jiang to make the Ford Transit for the Chinese market. All other Ford products sold in China are imported. They were looking into building a Lincoln in China, but needed to develop a stretched wheelbase model first.

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
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  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
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  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.