Ford Australia Commemorates 80 Years on the Line
By: Emily Engelman | Ford Communications Network
The 1925 Ford plant in Australia (top) was a crude building stacked with wheels, tires and other components. The holding area for new cars in 1925 was the side of the street opposite the assembly operation. For more information on Ford of Australia, visit ford.com.au.
GEELONG, Australia -- Ford Motor Company is today commemorating 80 years of operation in Australia and a proud history that reflects the transformation of automotive manufacturing in the country.
Ford Motor Company of Australia was incorporated on March 31, 1925, in Geelong, Victoria and almost immediately began assembling Model T cars in a temporary plant in Gheringhap Street, virtually opposite the site of the Ford Discovery Centre today.
In the following 80 years since that day, Ford has been at the forefront of innovation, design and manufacturing in this country. It has a proud history of producing affordable, reliable transport for generations of Australians.
That first assembly line compared with today was a very crude affair with vehicles being pushed by hand from one area to the next as they were assembled. Only one model was available -- the ubiquitous Model T. It came with several different body styles but the choice of engines and transmissions were limited to one of each.
Assembly of the Model T was a simple task. Huge crates were offloaded at the nearby wharf from ships that came from Ford of Canada. Chassis components, engines, transmissions and rear axles were unpacked and stacked alongside the 40-metre line.
Workers used hand tools to bolt the components together and a block and tackle to lift the assembled body onto the spindly chassis. All the upholstery was hand stitched and the body frame was made of wood by skilled craftsmen and supplied by an outside vendor until Ford?s brand new factory was finished on Geelong's Melbourne Road.
As each car was built, it was pushed out the door and across the street where it was either driven to the railway station or picked up by a dealer.
Today, a group of 123 robots (top), compared with 50 just five years ago, undertake work such as welding and painting. And Utes undergo a final inspection before shipping to dealerships.
Over the years, Ford introduced many innovations and new technology into the manufacturing and assembly process. In 1936 it was the first Australian manufacturer to replace the wooden body frame with an all-steel frame with the body panels welded to it.
One year later, Ford installed a massive stamping press that was capable of stamping the entire roof panel of a Ford V8 sedan in one piece -- and so was born the complete steel body as we know it today.
Ford's engineers were constantly improving the assembly line process to increase production and improve the quality of the vehicles. When the first Model T rolled out the door of the temporary factory in Geelong in July 1925, production was around 30 vehicles a day.
Today, Ford's huge assembly plant in Broadmeadows on the outskirts of Melbourne builds 500 vehicles a day. Controlled by a master computer, dealer orders from all over Australia are programmed into a production sequence.
Up to 20 different models are built on the same production line, ranging from Falcon sedans, wagons and utes, Fairmont Ghia, Fairlane and LTD luxury vehicles to Ford's new award-winning Territory Sports Utility Vehicle.
Each different model comprises different components, colours and trim levels. To manage this complexity, each vehicle has its own "identity card," which specifies the exact component to be fitted. With more than 4,000 individual parts in each car, there is no room for mistakes.
Ford uses a "Just In Time" supply system to deliver components to the assembly line. Rather than waiting for parts to be transported from other locations, suppliers can transfer their products directly to the production line as they are needed.
Each new Falcon or Territory that starts down the assembly line at Broadmeadows passes a bar code scanner. This triggers an electronic data message to each on-site supplier, specifying the model, trim level and suspension requirements.
Ford was the first assembly plant in Australia to use robotics and today 123 robots (compared with 50 just five years ago) undertake work such as welding and painting.
Most importantly, the lives of people on the assembly line have improved dramatically. Gone are the images portraying manufacturing as dirty and dangerous. Today's modern facilities provide bright, clean, healthy and safe workplaces compared to 80 years ago when there was little understanding of the importance of the workplace environment.
The modern assembly line is a far cry from the crude line where men pushed the cars along in often-hazardous conditions. High-technology robots have replaced the hand tools, sophisticated water-based paints and automatic paint systems have replaced the original lacquer and brushes, and computer-driven machinery produces thousands of seat and door trims from materials never dreamed of in 1925.