By Deepa Seetharaman
WAYNE, Michigan, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co mapped out a plan to build one-third more vehicles globally by adding more plants in emerging markets, overhauling its production methods and running most of its factories around the clock by 2017, executives said on Monday.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker aims to build around 8 million vehicles worldwide by the middle of the decade, up from about 6 million cars and trucks this year.
These efforts build on Chief Executive Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” system to cut costs and boost output by adopting a unified manufacturing strategy. This strategy is the cornerstone of Mulally’s restructuring of Ford over the last seven years.
“As we’ve restructured and kept with our core principle of keeping capacity sized with demand, we’re now able to fully utilize capacity around the world and get our absolute maximum from them,” John Fleming, Ford’s head of global manufacturing, told reporters at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant.
By 2017, when Ford will have around 80 factories, Ford plans to build nearly all its cars and trucks off nine platforms, down from 15 currently. By that year, Ford factories will be able to build an average of 4 different models or derivatives, up from an average of just over 3 currently.
Ninety percent of Ford’s global plants will run three shifts by 2017, which would boost production by 30 percent. Currently about 65 percent of Ford factories run three shifts.
Ford is also building 14 new factories as part of a global expansion that began in 2011 in countries like China and India.
The automaker is betting these moves will allow it To respond more quickly to changing consumer tastes. By 2017, Ford will launch 114 new or modified vehicles worldwide.
Ford aims to further improve its manufacturing flexibility and speed by adopting such advanced techniques as 3D printing of prototype parts. The technology, dubbed F3T or Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology, allows prototype stamping molds to be made within three business days, compared to up to 6 months.
Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technical officer, would not specify the cost savings of this technology but said they were “very significant.” He added that Ford could license its F3T technology “if appropriate.”
Ford executives spoke at a ceremony marking the centennial of Henry Ford’s moving assembly line.
Monday’s event comes as Mulally weighs other high-profile roles to follow up his successful tenure at Ford, people familiar with the matter have said. He has been mentioned as a candidate for Microsoft Corp’s top job, although Ford has repeatedly said he plans to stay CEO through 2014.