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Auto blogThu, 22 Aug 2013 00:01:00 EST
Knowing how the bacon gets made rarely entices us and, in the same vein, the same usually goes for knowing about how new cars get painted. But in both instances, however, quality - or a lack thereof - is instantly obvious. In terms of the latter, Ford is showing off its new paint quality process with 3D Dirt Detection Technology to find imperfections in vehicle paint more easily and more quickly.
This process - being performed on the F-150 SVT Raptor above - uses 16 computer-controlled cameras to create a three-dimensional model (inset) of the vehicle to detect flaws in the paint including dirt particles, which can then be buffed out manually. Ford says this new technology cuts down on time spent looking for paint flaws and gives workers more time to correct those that are discovered.
Currently, Ford only uses its 3D Dirt Detection Technology system at three factories (the Dearborn, MI facility, along with those in Louisville, Kentucky and Valencia, Spain), but it will soon spread to five more plants in North America. Ford has released a video and press release for this innovative and unexpectedly interesting process, both of which are posted below.
With a new boss at the helm, Ford is looking at new ways to improve its vehicle launches in North America to prevent recent issues that have popped up with models like the Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape and Ford Fusion. Speaking with Automotive News, Ford's new president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, revealed a few ways the automaker plans to avoid early build issues such as the engine fires on certain 2013 Escape and Fusion models and months-long delays for customers to receive their MKZs.
It sounds like the root of the problems may have been Ford's relationship with suppliers compounded by the fact that the product surge came on the heels of the recent industry-crippling recession, and in the AN article, Hinrichs says improvements are being made to reduce problems during the launch of new or redesigned models. Three such improvements that were implemented during the first quarter of this year including more rigorous quality comparisons, better use of computer technology to catch major problems sooner and hiring engineers to work closer with suppliers.
Ford is doing well. It can't make enough examples of its new Fusion, it can barely make enough of the aging F-150, it's getting good brand rankings, people like its turnaround story, it's selling oodles of product and its quarterly profit numbers end in the word "billion." As other high-flying examples have demonstrated over the past few years, though, big numbers can come with problems that aren't exactly small.
Automotive News has published a good "nutshell" report of Ford's progress and problems. The Dearborn automaker's optimistic "general label rule" determination of gas mileage for the C-Max Hybrid has led to lawsuits, hybrid software updates, a downward revision of C-Max fuel economy and millions in rebates. AN notes the C-Max was the "worst-scoring model in this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study," but Ford will probably be happy that it managed not to be mentioned further in the study's results after last year's mediocre showing. Its MyTouch and SYNC systems, the bugbears sabotaging Ford's J.D. Power results, have also led to lawsuits, software updates, more software updates and a center console rethink. On top of that, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost in the 2013 Ford Escape that Ford called a "hero" was soon catching fire for three different reasons. And let's not even get into the troubled launch of the Lincoln MKZ.
The Automotive News piece notes that industry observers have been surprised at Ford's stumbles because everything has been looking so good. Nevertheless, there is still the issue of those billions in profits - the company is doing plenty of things, plural, right. Ford says it is tackling its problems, hiring engineers and instituting new quality control processes as part of its effort to find solutions. The test will be to see if in a year from now we begin the discussion of these issues with "Remember when Ford...", or "Problems continue at The Blue Oval."