Trial build of new models has started. Kenyata Thomas at Chicago Assembly learns his way around the redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer

Trial build of new models has started. Kenyata Thomas at Chicago Assembly learns his way around the redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer

Ford is spending US$1bn on Chicago assembly and stamping plants and adding 500 new jobs as it prepares to launch three new SUVs later this year.

The transformation at the plant, which will begin in March, will expand capacity for the production of the redesigned Ford Explorer line, a new police interceptor utility and the redesigned Lincoln Aviator. The work will be completed in the spring. The additional 500 full-time jobs bring total employment at the two plants to approximately 5,800.

Ford is building a new body shop and paint shop at Chicago Assembly and making major modifications to the final assembly area. At Chicago Stamping, the company is adding new stamping lines in preparation for the three new vehicles. Advanced manufacturing technologies at the plants include a collaborative robot with a camera that inspects electrical connections during the manufacturing process. In addition, several 3D printed tools will be installed to help employees.

Ford claims to be the top producer of vehicles in the US and the leading exporter, building almost 2.4m in 2018, and also claims to employ the most hourly US autoworkers. 

Employee-related improvements to make the plant a better place to work total $40m and include new LED lighting, cafeteria updates, new break areas, and security upgrades in the parking lot.

Chicago Assembly, located on the city's south side, is Ford's longest continually operating vehicle assembly plant. The factory started producing the Model T in 1924 and was converted to war production during World War II. 

CNBC noted Ford was undergoing an $11bn restructuring that would shrink its salaried workforce of 70,000 and was also cutting thousands of jobs in Europe, where Ford has struggled to maintain solid footing.

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