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Ford Motor Co. is modifying its vehicle-launch procedures to catch problems earlier, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas. The changes come after quality problems hobbled several important launches of Ford vehicles, including the Ford Escape and Lincoln MKZ.
"We've done a complete analysis," Hinrichs told Automotive News, "on lessons learned in the last couple of years, including the recent MKZ launch, and are now incorporating a number of changes in our development and new-model launch process."
Ford is "trying to be a lot more proactive earlier in the development process to identify the issues and get in front of them," he said.
The process improvements, many instituted in the first quarter, include:
• Monthly launch reviews, including more extensive quality comparisons with competitors' vehicles.
• Greater use of technology, including three-dimensional computer simulations, to spot potential quality problems earlier.
• Hiring engineers and assigning them to supplier plants to make sure suppliers have the capacity to keep up with an increased pace of vehicle launches and midcycle model changes.
Hinrichs admitted that the frenetic pace of new- and redesigned-model launches during the past two years strained Ford and its suppliers as they were recovering from the recession. Because the rapid pace of launches will continue, Ford and its suppliers have to be prepared, he said.
"You have to look at what the North American team has taken on in the last couple of years. We launched new global platforms -- not just new products but all-new global platforms on the Focus, Escape and Fusion -- all within a two-year time period. In a couple of those cases we redid the whole plant at the same time," Hinrichs said, citing the Wayne, Mich., and Louisville, Ky., assembly plants.
"We've gone through some growing pains getting those new processes and plants launched, and we've learned a lot from that."
 

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Good thing they are working on it, but this should have been implemented sooner. Lincoln cannot afford botched launches.
 

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some of what was said, specifically
"• Greater use of technology, including three-dimensional computer simulations, to spot potential quality problems earlier."
sounds to me like stuff that I thought they had a handle on;
remembering articles (& videos?) about 'virtual modelling' the build process so completely to EVEN prevent repetitive motion injuries.
Guess that needs to be an on-going effort?
&but
"• Hiring engineers and..."
I kinda wonder if FLincMoCo cut a bit too far (in)to the bone when they were firing people to save the company? ...Wonder if their turn-around has been quicker than even their most optimistic projections?
otoh
"• Monthly launch reviews, including more extensive quality comparisons with competitors' vehicles."
sounds like (finally) extending Mr. Mulally's practices to suppliers;
wonder how the suppliers feel about that?
 
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