Ford Motor Company revealed that production of its latest 2017 Ford Escape is ongoing with sales expected to start in May. It will offer a host of new features like helping drivers get out of a very tight parking spot, allowing drivers to retain a certain distance and speed while on the highway, and a driver-assist technology that enables drivers to stay in their lane. The 2017 Escape will also have the SYNC Connect technology and it even has the remote door locking and remote start through the FordPass platform.
It will be the first Escape to have the SYNC 3 with the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. By putting extra attention to detail during the manufacturing process, the company ensured that it can deliver to customers an Escape that is of high-quality. It was back in 2012 when the Louisville Assembly Plant started manufacturing the Escape and it will be in this same facility that the latest version will be made as well. Production for the Escape has steadily grown since 2012 in order to meet the increasing demand of the company’s top selling SUV.
In this same facility, 306,492 units of the Escape were made in 2015. While this is considered as a record high, the company continued to retain the high quality standard that let the 2015 Escape achieve a tie in the award by J.D. Power in Initial Quality as the Highest-Ranked Compact SUV. The Louisville Assembly has an area of 3.7 million square feet with 247 salaried workers and 4,722 hourly employees. Total length of the assembly conveyor is around 20.1 miles.
This same facility is considered as the company’s highest-volume production plant as it can make a maximum of six vehicles at any given time. However, since the demand for Ford’s compact SUV continues to increase, majority of the vehicles manufactured at this facility continue to be the Escape. Quality assurance all throughout the plant makes sure that craftsmanship is present despite the demanding pace on the assembly line. Going from one station to another, it is clear that there is meticulous human inspection coupled with methods based on advanced technology.
Vehicle quality is confirmed at every station in merely 45 seconds. The result is that the Escape that comes off the lines are sure to meet the highest standard that North American consumers demand from a quality compact SUV. One such station is known as the automated instrument panel decking. While the use of robots to mount the instrument panels is a standard practice in Ford’s different plants around the world, the Louisville facility was the first to utilize robots for this purpose.
What happens is that from a conveyor, a robot fastens the instrument panel of the Escape and then rotates it to face the shell of the vehicles. According to Escape chief engineer Milton Wong, what happens after that is the instrument panel is angled to the door-less opening wherein the robot then nestles it accurately in place and ensures repeatability. The same robot then secures some bolts in order to hold the panel while workers then labor to complete the detail aspects of this process.
The end result is that customers are able to experience an instrument panel that has a tighter fit and have fewer rattles and squeaks. Another station is the robotic arms hang doors, liftgate. In this station, the robotic arms pick up the liftgates and door panels from the conveyor hanger and then swing it in place with the aid of a computer. This task was originally done by humans but it was shifted to robots when production of the 2013 model year Escape was started in the Louisville facility.
For customers, the experience is that the body panels offer a tighter fit. The third station is called the easy speed testing. Here, the main objective is to make sure that closing the Escape’s door is possible with little to no effort. What happens is that a worker puts a suction cup, one that is supported with sensors, on either side of the door’s opening. The door is then closed by hand and the sensors get a velocity reading.
This is to determine how much effort is needed. Once it is confirmed that the amount of power needed does not go beyond the standards set by the company, the tools go to the next door in order to conduct a new test. For customers, this ensures that they would need the least amount of effort when closing the doors. Fourth is the vehicle on wheels cell. As each of the Escape units go through the assembly line, it will have to pass through this station.
Here, robots with lasers scan the gaps in the liftgate, hood, and door panels. Through the laser, the gaps are then measured and determined if it is within the 2 to 4 millimeter range. The end result is body panels with a tighter fit and a tighter finish. Finally there is the customer assurance line. For this part, an inspection team composed of 14 members goes over the finer details of the Escape units. A group of technicians for example conducts a test on the Escape’s electrical modules.
Another group goes over the engine. For some, a visual inspection is enough while others will need to use their hands. Though it is indeed a painstaking method, the inspection team works with the same precision like that of a pit crew working on a race car. Customers therefore are ensured that the overall vehicle quality is improved. To make sure that the pace is maintained at its Louisville Assembly Plant, three shifts of line workers are assigned to work 20 hours per day during weekdays and 10 hours during the weekend.
The company reveals that during the first two months of 2016, the Escape is projected to remain on the path of beating the record sales experienced in the previous year. With the new features and the company’s continued commitment when it comes to high quality, it will clearly increase the appeal of the Escape. Some of the new features in the Escape include its enhanced active park assist. Ford will also be offering two EcoBoost engines, a 1.5-liter one and a 2.0-liter twin-scroll. Both however will have the Auto Start/Stop function.