UK:Ford diesel plant adopts 'clean' standards considered critical to modern assembly
Ford diesel plant adopts 'clean' standards considered critical to modern assembly
BY ANNA KOCHAN
DAGENHAM, England -- Ford Motor Co. has converted most of its engine plant here to a clean-room environment to produce common-rail diesels.
The entire assembly-line hall for the 2.7-liter V-6 diesel jointly developed by Ford and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA is maintained with clean-room standards of positive pressure and filtration. That's a departure from other diesel operations, which take such stringent measures only for locations where the critical fuel-injector components are installed, says Dagenham Production Manager Tung Buingoc.
Phil Lake, Ford's chief diesel engineer in Europe, says cleanliness is critical in modern diesel assembly.
"We are now working with clearances of microns (1 thousandth of a millimeter)," Lake says. "It is important to do everything possible to obtain a clean facility. We even store parts outside."
The assembly hall uses a filtration system that ensures that no more than 100,000 particles larger than one-half micron can be found in 1 cubic foot of air.
Air inside the hall also is kept at a positive pressure so when doors open, clean air exits rather than dirty air entering. As an extra safety measure, double doors at each exit minimize contamination. Employees cannot smoke in the assembly area.
Ford and PSA invested £325 million, or about $613 million at current rates, in the engineering and manufacture of the V-6 engine, also known as the Lion.
Production started last April. Total 2004 output was 35,000 units. This year's goal is 100,000 units, or full capacity on two shifts five days a week. Ford could raise capacity to 150,000 units with a third shift but has no plans to do so.
The engine block uses compacted graphite iron, or CGI. Because the material is harder than gray iron, the cylinder wall can be thinner, so the engine is 22 pounds lighter and 1.12 inches shorter, Lake says.
Compacted graphite iron costs more and is harder to machine, he says. "While CGI provides advantages for a V-6 engine, it would make no sense to use it on an inline design," Lake says. He does not anticipate its use for the new DV4 and DV6 engines to be launched in 2007.
Ford created the spacious V-6 assembly hall by refurbishing and putting a new roof on an old warehouse. Engine variants for Jaguar, Land Rover and PSA are assembled in the hall. More variants are planned as PSA and Ford develop models.
Buingoc says the new assembly line is flexible enough to build engines ranging in size from inline-fours to V-8s.
German machinery company Johann A. Krause built the assembly line.
The line has two robots from automation technology maker ABB and several test stations from equipment manufacturer Comau.
Engines are transferred from station to station on flat metal plates, known as platens, common to all engine variants. Some variants require adaptor plates for the platen. The Jaguar and Land Rover variants share the same adaptor plate as both are mounted north-south. The PSA engine is mounted east-west and has a different adaptor.
Production requires 130 people per shift. Employees work together closely in multidisciplinary six-member teams. Each member is trained to do the job of any other member, and they rotate between jobs. The cycle time is 100 seconds.
Ford assembles the engine in batch sizes of 10 to 20, though Ford's goal is to schedule individual engines.
The Dagenham plant developed a lean logistics system to support random assembly and minimize the volume of parts held in the plant and at the assembly line.
Larger parts, such as ladder frames and turbo manifolds, are delivered to the line in sequence. But a kit system is used for smaller parts. Two boxes of kit parts travel with each engine down the line.
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