Rouge Factory Tours are Proving Popular
By: Mike O'Neill | Ford Communications Network
Ford Rouge Factory Tours began last year. So far, reaction from visitors has been positive. For more information about touring the Rouge, visit thehenryford.org.
Of all the innovations coming out of the revitalization of the Ford Rouge Center, nothing has attracted more interest than the living roof now growing on top of the Dearborn Truck Plant final assembly building. Planted with a drought-resistant groundcover called sedum, the living roof offers many advantages over conventional tar and metal roofs.
DEARBORN, Mich.-- Owning an F-150 is popular, and so is seeing how the pickup truck is Built Ford Tough. That's evidenced by the large turnout of visitors since the Ford Rouge Factory Tours began last year.
When graduate student James Siira recently returned to Michigan from West Virginia to visit his family, he did something he had never had the opportunity to do -- see how cars and trucks are assembled.
"It was very interesting. I'm from this area, but never had this chance before. It was really neat to see how the cars, or in this case trucks, are made," Siira said while standing inside the Rouge Factory Tour Visitor Center.
Last May, with completion of the new Dearborn Truck Plant, Rouge tours resumed after a more than two-decade absence.
"It was demand pushed," said Scott Mallwitz, director of Experience Design at The Henry Ford, which operates the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. "It was the number one requested tour of our visitors and also from the Detroit Visitor and Convention Bureau. Seeing an actual factory in daily operation is a big draw for the region."
That interest in seeing the assembly process spurred Ford, the UAW and The Henry Ford to develop plans to make tours possible again by including a walkway above the work floor of the new plant. The walkway allows visitors to watch the activity on the shop floor without raising safety concerns or impacting workflow in the plant.
Newly compiled numbers show that nearly 145,000 people have taken advantage of the opportunity since it reopened -- viewing the final assembly area where F-150s are built, as well as the multi-media displays covering a range of topics from Ford Motor Company history to modern vehicle design and manufacturing technology.
"You couldn't ask for a better showcase for this state of the art facility," said Rob Webber, plant manager at Dearborn Truck. "We are all extremely proud of our relationship with The Henry Ford and of the vehicles we produce here everyday."
Visitors to the plant seem to agree. Robin Ross recently visited from Arroyo Grande, Calif.
"I thought it was wonderful. It was very enlightening. Very educational for the kids. Very exciting," she said.
Her son Miles agreed.
"It's cool," the 12-year-old proclaimed.
Both Webber and Mallwitz mentioned that it's easy for the people in the plant every day to forget how interesting the process is to visitors.
"It really is amazing to watch," said Webber.
Other visitors have noted how amazing it is to see how much technology has changed. Scott Tonnemacher toured Dearborn Assembly as a youngster and came back with his father early this year.
"The innovation now is incredible," he said. "It is so quiet now in the factory. I remember there being a lot of noise and air tools and everything. This is awesome."
According to Patricia Mooradian, chief operating officer for The Henry Ford, about 75 percent of the tour capacity has been sold during the first few months the tour was open.
"We continue to tell visitors to reserve tickets before they make the trip to The Henry Ford, because there have been so many days where we are completely sold out," Mooradian said.
"The response has been great," Mallwitz agreed. "We're right on target and looking for a real big year in 2005 -- our first full year in operation."