Detroit: The Rouge Ford Factory Tour

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dear Friends,

Today we visited the Rouge Ford Factory. This tour started at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan and bused us to the Ford plant that manufactures F-150 trucks.

After a confusing start as to where to park, where to pick up the bus, and where to go inside the plant, we ended up on a self directed tour. This started with a movie on the history of the Ford Motor Company. The movie told how Henry Ford doubled the wages of the workers and had literally streams of people flocking for jobs, flooding the streets. Then a short time later, it said the workers formed unions. No wonder Ford questioned having a union since he felt he treated his workers much better than other companies at that time.

We then moved into a second theater where it showed generally how the truck design progresses from the concept to the build. This room had special effects, sound, lighting, and motion; much like something you would come across in Walt Disney World. While initially exciting, this presentation was kind of wrecked as I had to cover my ears from the sound being turned up too loud.

Next, we proceeded the entryway that modeled a few different car models that came off the Rouge line through the years. We also grabbed an elevator to head up to the observation tower. This identified some of the main factory roof tops and explained more about how Ford had everything made in-house, even the steel and glass. After being up there reading the plaques for some time, a guide with an extremely heavy foreign accent started saying something on his microphone. Disappointed that we couldn’t understand what he was saying, we just moved on.

This all finally built up to seeing the factory in motion. We were on an observation deck above the workers. Overhead, chained conveyor systems were moving subassemblies throughout the plant. I was amazed at the coordination that has to go into bringing each of the pieces together at the same time. With the “Just In Time” supplies and the large assembly line, I wonder how much the line goes down, since all 1000 workers are so interconnected.

While we watched production in motion, we couldn’t help noticing the union workers’ work habits. They casually were texting or talking on their cell phones both as they were screwing parts in. They had plenty of time to stop for pop or to grab candy bars that were being handed out on the moving assembly line. The family watched as a guy and girl hugged each other, groups of people stopping to talk, laugh and hang out on the production floor. No one seemed to be rushed at all in their work. Quality control only seemed apparent when they were checking it over briefly at the end of the assembly. Of course that was when the person leaned on the front of the vehicle, potentially scratching the paint on the front end. We stressed to the boys how it is important to work hard, and do good quality work making the most of the time they are at a job, unlike what they saw. I only hope they didn’t make my parent’s truck on a Friday afternoon like this one.

We were able to take as much time as we wanted to stand and watch the entire process. When we were through, we hopped back on the return bus. Rain poured down on the bus as it was storming outside. The driver plowed through the pooling runoff water sending sheets of water flying higher than the roof of the bus. The boys’ faces glowed with excitement. I only hope they’ll remember the Ford Plant as much as they’ll remember the storm water flying.

Until we meet again,

Regina

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