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DEARBORN, Mich., July 16, 2015 – Since 2003, Ford has reduced the injury rate by 70 percent for its more than 50,000 “industrial athletes” in the U.S., and many more around the world, through new ergonomics technology, lift-assist devices, workstation redesign and data-driven process changes.
“We refer to our assembly line employees as ‘industrial athletes’, due to the physical nature of the job,” said Allison Stephens, technical leader for assembly ergonomics at Ford. “We have made data-driven decisions through ergonomics testing that has led to safer vehicle production processes and resulted in greater protection for our employees.”
While automotive designers focus on a vehicle’s look and the customer experience, Ford virtual manufacturing experts focus on two key areas – design feasibility and the safety of employees on the production line.
Two to three years in advance of a new-vehicle launch, Ford ergonomists virtually simulate the build process using both human and virtual test subjects to assess the physical labor needed to build a vehicle. In an effort to reduce and help prevent employee fatigue, strain and injury, the data collected is used to guide engineering solutions prior to implementing tasks on the production floor.
Core virtual manufacturing technologies
On average, Ford ergonomists complete more than 900 virtual assembly task assessments per new-vehicle launch, centered on three core technologies – full-body motion capture, 3D printing and immersive virtual reality. Each provides critical data used to evaluate the overall safety of the assembly process for employees, while maintaining high vehicle quality for customers.
Virtual manufacturing experts at Ford use the following tools:
“Motion tracking technology has been used for more than 30 years to quantifiably assess the technique of athletes and reveal where they may be susceptible to injury from overuse or from forces that will damage tissues,” said Gary Scheirman, vice president for applications engineering, Motion Analysis Corporation. “Using similar technology, Ford can develop state-of-the-art, safe working environments for its employees and produce better vehicles for its customers.”
Virtual manufacturing program results
To date, Ford ergonomists have worked on more than 100 new-vehicle launches globally using virtual manufacturing tools – most recently the 2015 Ford Mustang, F-150, Edge and 2016 Explorer. Through significant investments in the program, not only has Ford achieved a reduction in employee injury rates, it has seen a 90 percent reduction in such ergonomic issues as overextended movements, difficult hand clearance and tasks involving hard-to-install parts.
“Our goal is to provide a healthy, safe and productive work environment at our Ford manufacturing facilities worldwide,” said Michael Torolski, Ford executive director, Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering. “The ergonomics and virtual manufacturing processes support our injury reduction strategy and enable early validation of production-technology changes.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams. The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for customers and deepen their loyalty. Ford develops and delivers innovative, must-have Ford trucks, sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and cars and Lincoln luxury vehicles, along with connected services. The company does that through three customer-centered business segments: Ford Blue, engineering iconic gas-powered and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, inventing breakthrough EVs along with embedded software that defines exceptional digital experiences for all customers; and Ford Pro, helping commercial customers transform and expand their businesses with vehicles and services tailored to their needs. Additionally, Ford is pursuing mobility solutions through Ford Next, and provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. Ford employs about 174,000 people worldwide. More information about the company and its products and services is available at corporate.ford.com.