Collaboration: More Decision-Making Structure is Required

Last week, the Manufacturing Leadership Council held a special meeting and tour of the historic Ford River Rouge plant—now known as the Dearborn Truck Plant—where the dramatic changes that have come to automotive manufacturing over the past 85 years were on dramatic display. When it opened for business in 1928, the 16-million-square-foot River Rouge plant was the largest integrated factory in the world. With over 100,000 workers employed there at its peak, the River Rouge plant was highly vertically integrated, over the years pumping out Model T parts, the Model A, and a succession of Ford vehicles destined for worldwide distribution. With its own ore processing facility and forge, its own railroad, and power plant, the River Rouge plant was able to take in raw materials from docks on the river and turn them into cars. Today, the River Rouge site is still a bustling place. At the Dearborn Truck Plant, which opened in 2004 in a portion of the River Rouge plant, 3,600 employees produce 350,000 F150 trucks per year, working 3 shifts, 6 days per week. But today the business of making trucks is a much more distributed and much more collaborative affair than it was when River Rouge opened. Like all of its OEM competitors, Ford relies on suppliers to innovate new parts and entire subsystems and to get them to the assembly plants where they...

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