COLOGNE - Ford of Europe is mounting a major reassessment of its logistics and parts supply operation at three key plants. It is also moving to integrate logistics with Volvo, Jaguar and Mazda.
Suppliers will be closely involved in the quest for new efficiencies at Ford's plants in Cologne, Germany, Genk, Belgium, and Dagenham, England.
The three factories will benefit from many of the techniques developed for Focus manufacture at Ford's other plants in Saarlouis, Germany, and Valencia, Spain.
'We have to look at total Ford family movements within Europe,' said Peter Heller, Ford of Europe's director of manufacturing.
'We have delivery harbors in Germany and receiving harbors in Belgium. There seems to be room to improve, perhaps with one big harbor.
'Volvo is the biggest opportunity. The integration of Volvo within Ford has accelerated the business of finding synergies and benefits. The distance between NedCar (the plant in Born, the Netherlands, which makes the Volvo S40/V40) and Genk is only just over 30km.
'Obviously, Volvo is working on its own industrial program. But we are talking to them, and there is potential for sharing fixed costs. I believe we have still not explored everything.'
Among Ford brands in Europe, only low-volume Aston Martin is excluded from the logistics integration.
Ford's modern logistics processes were first introduced at Genk for Mondeo production - although the new initiative will see logistics at Genk modernized further. The company built its first supplier park at Genk after persuading suppliers that the logistics of on-the-spot production made more sense than investment far away in a low-cost country.
'For Ford, the advantages included not only just-in-time deliveries but also quality control and swift response to any problems,' said Heller. 'It was also our experience that engineering quality and cost improvement were both easier with direct access to the supplier base.'
Ford took a further step forward at Valencia, where the supplier park was linked by bridge-borne conveyor with the Ka production line. A similar facility is now being built to link the Genk supplier park and Mondeo line.
Heller said Saarlouis represents current best practice. 'Whenever we launch a new model, that is the best time to talk to suppliers and develop a strategy,' he said. 'As new models are introduced at Cologne and Dagenham, inbound logistics at those plants will be revised. We will always try to include the Saarlouis conveyor system.' (See story below.)
Ford is talking to Volvo, Jaguar and Mazda Motor Europe in a quest for synergies that will include inbound and outbound logistics, Heller said.
'This is a matter of great significance to Ford,' he said. 'Finding all the synergies and benefits is already an ongoing program, and obviously we are still learning. At this stage, it is difficult to say what scope we have. We have not yet explored enough of these synergies.
'There are no targets, percentages or time scales, but there is big potential. We have some contractual liabilities, and full implementation of a new logistics program could not happen before the end of next year. For example, we have Ford-owned trucks delivering between plants, but all other movement is bought in.'