Ford says that no date has yet been fixed for its US plants to restart vehicle production after the coronavirus shutdowns. Operations in China have resumed and some of Ford’s European vehicle assembly plants will reopen from 4 May. But Ford says that due to the nature of the “eco-system”, its US network must come back online together. Our AMS audiogram features Jim Farley and Gary Johnson explaining Ford’s return-to-work plan …

Ford outlines return-to-work plan but no date set yet for US production restart. Using lessons learnt from its activities in China and Thailand, Ford has devised protocols in preparation for a safe return of vehicle manufacturing in North America.

Officials said, however, it was unclear as to when assembly workers could return to duties and recommence vehicle production in the US. Office-based employees, Ford conceded, will continue to work from home until at least late June or early July.

Ford wants its full US production network to come back online together together. 

Ford already has begun instructing its global workforce on the new operational guidelines for dealing with production during pandemic measures. A playbook has been compiled and circulated to employees along with personal protection and hygiene items, such as masks and sanitizer. A return-to work-date for production plant staff has not been set.

Download playbook

Audiogram transcript

Gary Johnson, Chief Manufacturing and Labor Affairs Officer: Our plan and we’ve done this globally, we come up with a limited production crew. So we’ll have staggered shifts. We would be on straight time.

We’ve allowed time at the beginning of shifts for safety stand downs, also time for employees to clean their stations to prevent any issues between shifts. We’ve also limited the number of shifts we’ll bring back across the globe and at certain plants. We’ve done a lot of work on safety systems, working through and putting fibre glass shields – like you see in grocery stores – between stations, we’ve stretched out our material logistics group, so they’re separated.

And those stations that we have with people with inside six feet, we’re going to have a mandatory requirement for `safety glasses or [face] shield, along with the masks they’ll all have on for `safety glasses or [face] shield, along with the masks. We’re very confident, we’ve proven that out in China and also in Europe.

The line speeds will stay the same. Because it’s so complicated to make changes in the line speeds themselves, but there may be certain areas we’ll have spacing or gaps in the system, based on the schedule.

It’ll be in the shifts, how we do it – and also separating the shifts to allow time between the shifts but there will not be a line speed change to accommodate the process. But there will not be a line speed change to accommodate the process. It’d be almost impossible do that across our assembly operations globally.

Jim Farley, Chief Operating Officer: I think our playbook is benchmark. By the way, we’ve been running for many weeks already in China and FCSD. We haven’t had an issue. The reality of our industrial system in the US is that it’s completely intertwined.

We have multiple suppliers in Michigan, for example, that supply Kansas City or our Kentucky plants. We have multiple plants that rely on Mexico. We’ve always approached this as an integrated start.

Now in Europe is a bit different – our UK engine facilities there will be starting later than our [vehicle] assembly plants. And the reason for that is, we have the powertrain supply on-site at many of our assembly plants. We can do it and everything is safe. But in the US, we look at it as a complete eco-system, like I mentioned. And we have to bring up the system all at the same time.

Ford Return-To-Work Playbook