Managers at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant get information on seven big-screen monitors (Photo: Ford)

Ford Motor has invested a further 25 million dlrs to increase line speed at its plant in Louisville, Kentucky, to meet a 25 pc increase in output of the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition SUV models as retail sales surge in the US.

The carmaker’s investment includes 400 new robots and a data analytics hub that relays minute-by-minute production updates via seven large screens. The information lets plant officials know if production is meeting hourly targets or if there is a problem on the line.

Ford said the data updates also alert workers to any pending parts shortages, so they can arrange for new batches to be delivered to workstations before running out.

Ford has also put in place what it terms “an enormous spare parts vending machine” that allows workers to more quickly locate parts while keeping inventory at optimal levels. And it installed a 3D printer onsite to print individual parts for tools needed to keep the plant running.

“Manufacturing a prototype part using traditional methods can take 8-16 weeks at a cost of more than 250,000 dlrs in tooling alone,” the company said in a statement. “Producing the same part using 3D printing can take days – and sometimes just hours – and can be done for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.”