Canadian Manufacturing

Ford preps 1,400 new hires using simulated factory

To prepare Flat Rock’s newest hires for Fusion production, the simulated factory was introduced to provide hands-on training in a real-world environment.

FLAT ROCK, Mich.—Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant is training its 1,400 new hires using a simulated factory, helping to prepare workers for the manufacturing front lines before the first U.S.-built Fusion sedan emerges from the facility this fall.

Ford announced last fall it will build the all-new Fusion in the U.S. and hire 1,400 new employees to meet surging demand for the award-winning vehicle.

Currently, Fusion is being built only at Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico.

Fusion sales were up 18 per cent in the first half of 2013, with a 20-day turnover in hot markets like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

To prepare Flat Rock’s newest hires for Fusion production, the simulated factory was introduced to provide hands-on training in a real-world environment. New workers master the tasks they may be performing on the line, from simply tightening nuts and bolts to complex tasks like connecting brake lines or fitting weather stripping.

Until now, new hires moved directly from classroom training to the assembly line.

“The simulated factory provides workers with a much smoother transition to the assembly line, and the net benefit to the company is improved quality,” said Aris Janitens, manager, launch planning and workforce readiness, Ford Motor Co.

Janitens says the training process—initially developed at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant—is now considered the company-wide best practice, and will be rolled out to other plants worldwide. Flat Rock is the second plant in the world to institute this training process.

Each activity is timed to give trainees a sense of how quickly the assembly line moves and how quickly they are expected to perform their duties. When working on the line, each team member must perform his or her job within a specific amount of time to keep the line running smoothly.

The simulated factory training accommodates 50 trainees in each eight-hour session with a 5:1 trainee-to-instructor ratio. Workers train on 10 stations—one every 40 minutes—including electrical connectors, engine build-up, brake line and radiator hose install, and DC electric tools. Workers also receive one-on-one training from hourly instructors, as well as instruction on safety procedures, tooling and operator instruction sheets.

“Before simulated factory training, you could always tell when it was someone’s first week on the line,” said Tim Young, plant manager, Flat Rock Assembly Plant. “They were a little unsteady and unsure of what they needed to do, and it usually resulted in having to stop the line multiple times that first week.”

Young says the investment in workers is really paying off. “Now, our new hires are able to jump right in on the line without causing any delays or quality issues, and do so in a safe manner.”

“We have found employees truly appreciate a realistic job preview. Some workers have realized through the training that they are not interested in working on an assembly line after all,” said Anna Gedman, human resources manager, Flat Rock Assembly Plant. “We want the most committed and capable workers helping to produce our vehicles, so learning this within the first week of training rather than three months down the road is beneficial for everyone involved.”

Flat Rock Assembly Plant will kick off Fusion production in the third quarter of 2013. On two shifts at full line speed, the plant will have approximately 3,000 employees building Ford Mustang and Ford Fusion.

Here’s a video outlining Ford’s training initiative:

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