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Mr. Embargo
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The first 2004 Ford F-150, a yellow SuperCab FX4, rolled off Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant line today using an all-new flexible manufacturing system.

"No other product has contributed more to our success or been more important to us in recent years than the F-Series," said Nick Scheele, Ford President and Chief Operating Officer. "We are confident the improved power, styling cues and interiors of the all-new 2004 Ford F-150 will help preserve its place as the number one truck in America."

The F-Series has been the nation's best-selling truck for 26 consecutive years and the best-selling vehicle for 21 years in a row.

During today's celebration, 500 employees and guests applauded as Nick Scheele drove the plant's first new Ford F-150 off the line with Charlie Hoskins of the United Auto Worker's National Ford Department.

Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, who participated in today's ceremony said, "The people of Missouri and Ford Motor Company have enjoyed a successful partnership for nearly five decades. Our business partnership should serve as an example for the kind of reinvestment in people and facilities that can stimulate regional economies and the corporate bottom line."

"I am pleased to join with the employees of Ford Motor Company for this important announcement," said U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, (R-Mo.). "Ford 's Kansas City Assembly Plant is key to jobs and economic growth in the area, and the plant is known around the world for meeting the highest standards of excellence in manufacturing. I congratulate everyone at Ford on the production of the new 2004 Ford F-150 truck."

Flexible Manufacturing Start-Up

With the launch of the new 2004 Ford F-150 at Kansas Assembly, Ford also introduced its new flexible production technology at its second assembly plant in North America.

The new system allows Kansas City Assembly to build up to eight different models off two platforms. "Kansas City Assembly now has the ability to change the mix, volume and options of products in response to consumer demand and market segmentation – all with minimal investment and changeover loss," said Dave Savchetz, Kansas City Assembly's plant manager.

Over the next decade, Ford expects to save up to $2 billion because its flexible system costs 10 to 15 percent less than traditional systems, with an added 50 percent savings in changeover costs.

Ford's flexible body shops employ an industry-first system of 16 standardized cells, or modules, all built from about 300 components. Only product-specific tooling needs to be changed, or computers and robots reprogrammed, to launch new products.

By mid-decade in North America, about half of Ford's body shops, trim and final assembly operations will be flexible. That number rises to 75 percent by the end of the decade.

Ford's Norfolk (Va.) Assembly Plant, which began building the new 2004 Ford F-150 earlier this summer, was the first plant to install Ford's flexible production system.

Other plants to install the flexible system include the new Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant, which will begin building the F-Series truck in 2004, the Chicago Assembly Plant, which will build the all-new 2005 Ford Freestyle, Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego and AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Mich., which will build the new 2005 Mustang beginning next year.

Ford's new system standardizes the assembly process, which improves productivity through reduced changeover downtime. Standardization helps improve quality through increased repeatability. Plus, improved ease of access results in improved safety and ergonomics for operators and maintenance crews.

The new body shop will be able to handle two distinct platforms while producing four different derivatives off each platform. The lines can be configured to accommodate front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, unitized-body and body-on-frame vehicles.

The same type of standardization found in the new body shops also is also being used in final assembly. Final assembly operations have a standard sequence, with standardized workstations that can be changed or modified quickly to accommodate new vehicle options or features.

Kansas City Assembly Plant, which began operations in 1957 with production of the Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, currently has 5,500 employees. Kansas City Assembly builds the F-150 Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew models in five versions: XL, STX, XLT, FX4 and Lariat plus the Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute sport utility vehicles.
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