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100% Wireless Ford Plant To Open

Ford Motor Co. has long prided itself on innovation. So when the automaker set out to build a new assembly plant at its historic compound on the banks of the River Rouge in Dearborn, Mich., it decided to go full speed.

The state-of-the-art F-150 truck-assembly facility, expected to be operational by summer and running at full capacity by year's end, is a body shop and final staging area where trucks are assembled and prepped before being shipped to dealers. It's also Ford's first completely wireless assembly factory.

Unique to the facility is the flexible body shop, automated-materials-replenishment system, GigaMan Ethernet infrastructure, RF Ethernet, self-adjusting platforms at each bay station, and software-driven systems that monitor maintenance for tooling, conveyers, robots, and other machines. "These systems detect and record system faults and variances in cycle times and throughputs," says George Herman, vehicle operations IT manager-assembly.

The flexible body shop is completely automated. As vehicles on platforms move through the assembly plant, software programmed into the conveyer system automatically raises and lowers them, depending on the model and the function the operator will carry out at the workstation.

"The technology Ford has implemented at its new Dearborn plant is advanced for the automotive industry," says Bruce Hudson, program director of enterprise applications at Meta Group, adding that Ford's plants "range from Flintstone to cutting edge." BMW has two wireless plants in Europe and is setting up another in the United States, Hudson says.

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