The post auto industry bail-out narrative seems to be one of innovation and resurgence. USA Today
takes a look at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and how it represents the industry's way forward.
"The system is impressive in operation. At the step where the sides of a
Focus are created, workers take panels from a rack and position them
with other metal parts on a machine. Then robots take over, gripping and
spot welding the body parts together electrically to create one side in
an operation that creates almost no sparks, which would leave unwanted
metal dust in the air. It could be a sedan or hatchback. Doesn't matter.
The robots can tell them apart.
In the past, such assembly required specific machines built to repeat
the same task. The tools had to be laboriously and expensively changed
to build a new model. Now, most of the time, loading new software does
the trick of telling the flexible robots how to do a new task.
"Instead of buying new tooling, we just program" the robot to recognize
parts and weld them, says Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North
Other areas of the plant show similar flexibility. Vehicles on the line
ride on "skillets," for example, that automatically raise and lower to
the ideal height at each station for the task and model."
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