The River Rouge plant is outfitted with business-IT advancements, including automated inventory-replenishment triggers and radio-frequency technology.

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

April 15, 2004

1 Min Read

Ford Motor Co. is preparing to open in June what it says is its first completely wireless assembly factory. The state-of-the-art F-150 truck assembly facility--a body shop and final staging area where cars are assembled and prepped before being shipped to dealers--will occupy a renovated old plant in Dearborn, Mich.

The plant, part of Ford's historic compound along the River Rouge, is outfitted with business technologies, including automated inventory-replenishment triggers, radio-frequency technology, and an Ethernet GigaMan data-transport network with gigabyte uplinks for transferring and receiving data.

Ford is using a wireless infrastructure made by WhereNet Corp. throughout the area surrounding the factory. Most of the rest of the technology in the compound has been internally developed. The site could be used for other Ford vehicles, says George Herman, vehicles operations manager for IT assembly.

New to the site is what Herman calls a factory information system, in which software will monitor tooling, conveyers, robots, and other machines to detect and record system faults, and variances in cycle times and throughputs. The system also "drives all the process-control boards and paging system," he says. "If there is a tooling problem, [the system] could page a maintenance person."

The River Rouge compound is an icon in Dearborn. Henry Ford bought 2,000 acres of marshes along the river in 1915. The facility, which has two assembly plants as well as engine, stamping, and diversified manufacturing facilities, produced the first Model T in 1919. The site has seen tragedy. In 1999, six were killed and 30 injured in a power-plant explosion. The following year, Ford announced a plan to sink $2 billion into the Rouge River compound to renovate the facility.

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