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Ford's Powertrain Director Speaks at AFS Detroit Chapter's 'Management Night'.

The AFS Detroit Chapter's Annual "Management Night" drew many industry officials January 18. The gathering featured an address by Jim Solberg, executive director manufacturing, Powertrain Operations, Ford Motor Co.

Solberg's presentation centered on Ford's view of the ever-changing future of metalcasting. Among the factors that are repositioning Ford's approach to its operations are that castings are not identifiable to the image of the product, casting plants are asset-intensive and can be underutilized, and that engine blocks/heads are complex and crucial to today's powertrain.

His message was aptly summarized through a quote by Henry Ford, "Nothing fails like an old success." As he described critical changes for success, he conveyed how lean manufacturing and partnerships have become vital concepts at Ford.

In discussing the changing face of its powertrains, Folberg illustrated his point through trends on the castings' application/vehicles. In the early 1980s, a typical vehicle contained 605 lb of cast iron and 100 lb of cast aluminum. By 2005, iron is expected to drop to 215 lb, while aluminum grows to 375 lb/vehicle. Among the discussion of how these changes have influenced the automaker's structure, Folberg commented on last year's announcement of the expansion of the Ford-Alfa Group (Nemak, Monterrey, Mexico) joint venture, which now includes the management of the automaker's Canadian aluminum foundries. "It will still be run as a joint venture, but at an arm's length," he said.

In addition to allowing the automaker to better utilize available capital, the expanding partnership provides new opportunities for its people and strong synergies to Ford. Said Folberg: "It allows for a core casting-business focus as well as faster decision-making and growth." He also discussed the "industry-leading technology" that the partnership has brought, as well as its increasing global presence (a new facility is underway in Europe).

Folberg also addressed the challenges of the iron casting business and some of the restructuring that has already occurred. He maintained that a survival mechanism can be found through lean manufacturing concepts, which present benefits of waste-elimination, continuous production flow, quality at the source, process standardization and continuous improvement.

"When faced with slow- or zero-growth or a declining market," Folberg said, "lean manufacturing may be the only way to hold a business together and the only way to succeed."
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Comment:Ford's Powertrain Director Speaks at AFS Detroit Chapter's 'Management Night'.
Author:Lessiter, Michael J.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:378
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