Since the start of the pandemic, Ford has ceased vehicle production across factories in North America, Europe, as well as in India, Vietnam, South Africa and Thailand. Despite temporarily stopping the production of vehicles, Ford kept itself busy by making PPEs, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), as well as medical gowns to help front line, health workers.
Now, Ford is looking to restart vehicle production at their North American facilities starting on May 18. Taking a phased approach, the Blue Oval brand is targeting to restart operations and bring back the first wave of employees that are not able to do their jobs remotely. Those that can work remotely, however, can continue to do so off-site.
Beginning next week, Ford's North American assembly plants that used to operate on three-shift patterns will revert to two-shift operations. Meanwhile, factories that work on a two-shift pattern shall be on a one-shift pattern to minimize the workforce's exposure. Facilities like the one in Flat Rock, Michigan, and the Oakville Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada are expected to resume production on May 25, 2020 on one-shift.
The ramp-up process will be gradual as the company wants workers to adjust to the new health and safety protocols and the entire supply chain comes up to speed. Some of the safety protocols Ford has come up with include:
1.) Daily online employee and visitor health self-certifications completed before work every day. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to Ford facilities.
2.) No-touch temperature scans upon arrival – anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will need to be cleared of symptoms before returning to work.
3.) Required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit including face masks and other items to help keep them healthy and comfortable at work.
4.) Safety glasses with side shields or face shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.
5.) There will be more time between production shifts to limit interaction between employees and allow for additional cleaning.
"We’ve developed these safety protocols in coordination with our union partners, especially the UAW, and we all know it will take time to adjust to them," said Gary Johnson, Ford’s Chief Manufacturing and Labor Officer. "We are in this together and plan to return to our normal operating patterns as soon as we are confident the system is ready to support."
With Ford's North American factories restarting next week, could this mean that other Ford factories will follow suit? There is no word yet coming from Thailand, Vietnam, or India as of now. But with the rest of the world appearing to flatten the COVID-19 curve, perhaps it might not be long before other Ford factories restart operations. If Thailand ever resumes operations, it could mean deliveries of the Ranger, Ranger Raptor, and even the Everest will eventually normalize once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed in the Philippines.