Ford's Tough on New F-150's Nerves
By: Mike Levine Posted: 07-17-08 02:10 PT
© 2008

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Laid out in front of us like a digital cadaver on a wooden autopsy table is the nervous system of a 2009 Ford F-150. From headlight to taillight, every wiring harness, display, sensor or electric motor that makes up the F-150’s physical senses is laid out as they would be found in a production truck. Gauges, radio, navigation and HVAC controls sit vertically, where the instrument panel would be. Electric window switches are connected to motors that move phantom glass when you actuate them. The components are exact duplicates -- down to the length of the wires -- of what’s found in a production F-150.

Bringing to mind Rembrandt’s famous Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulip, assembly-line employees at Ford’s Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant will be drilled on how to diagnose and repair any fault or break in the F-150’s electronic components before they are allowed to build the new truck. Trainers simulate problems in the electrical system, and employees work individually or as a team to find and fix it, handling nearly every inch of the exposed wires and hardware.

The electric system we’re looking at is from a top-of-the-line Platinum model that comes optioned with every work and recreational component in the book. Assembly-line workers have also been trained on lower trims, like the XL and XLT, that have less complex electrical architectures.

All this work is part of Ford’s extensive training regime at its New-Model Quality Center, which recently opened at the historic Rogue Manufacturing Complex next to the truck plant. Ford is serious about building quality into its trucks before they reach the assembly line, and this autopsy table is one of many learning stations in the New-Model Quality Center. Others include stations where employees learn to attach and install new parts and components, or study mockups of the truck's updated chassis.

How successful has the new training been? We’ll find out when full-scale production of the F-150 starts later this summer.

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