LONDON - Pulling forward the launch of the Fiesta by six to eight months will seriously test Ford's abilities to make the most out of the latest computerized engineering, design and manufacturing processes.
'We'll be running tool shops 24 hours a day, seven days a week,' said Nick Scheele, Ford of Europe chairman.
Ford had planned to bring out the car in mid-2002, but poor sales of the current Fiesta forced the company to accelerate the timetable. The new Fiesta is now scheduled for introduction in November 2001.
Ford will also attempt to reduce assembly time from about 22 hours for the current Fiesta to 12-14 hours on the new model.
If Ford achieves similar reductions in future programs, its European capacity needs would be lessened further.
John Crew, Ford's B Car (Fiesta) program operations manager/manufacturing in Dunton, England, is the man in charge of keeping the Fiesta on its aggressive new schedule. Although the cars will be made first in Cologne, Dunton is the lead engineering site for Ford superminis.
'The speed with which the new elements are coming to use in the engineer's hands is a huge factor in this pull-ahead,' said Crew. 'The biggest thing we will do is encourage the rapid explosion of sub-modules.'
The increased use of modules means Ford suppliers will play a vital role in the speed-up.
The program will rely heavily on computerized design, engineering and manufacturing processes, Crew said. So Ford will not need to build more actual prototypes to prove out the car, but it will require more computer-generated 'virtual' prototypes, he said.
'The obstacles we face are really applying today's tools to yesterday's traditional timelines,' Crew said.
To get ready for the new program, workers at Cologne are now clearing the old Scorpio body construction shop and will begin installing the Fiesta line at the end of this year. By using the vacant space in Cologne, Ford can build the new line while the old car is still being produced elsewhere.
Starting in August, production of the current Fiesta at Dagenham, England, will be reduced to one shift, resulting in a layoff of 1,500 workers.
For the next-generation car, Dagenham will be the source of right-hand-drive models. With the strength of the British pound, production of left-hand-drive models at Dagenham is uneconomical, Scheele said.
Due to poor demand, Dagenham had been running only four days a week for the past 16 to 18 months. The short time resulted in inefficiencies that cost the company A32 million last year and would have cost another A36 million this year, Scheele told reporters.