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Ford invests 900 million euro in its plant in Genk

Ford has informed employee representatives of its intention to transform the Genk plant in Belgium into a highly flexible, state of the art manufacturing facility. The plans involve approximately €900 million of new investment, primarily in a new flexible manufacturing system, which will enable the plant to build at least four new models including, the next generation Focus and Mondeo, and the Galaxy replacement.

Annual capacity at the plant would increase to 450,000 vehicles, which would be produced on 3 shifts. The new models would be introduced from 2004 and would provide the plant with the opportunity to secure its long term future.

The details on the implementation of the new arrangements will be concluded after full consultation with employee representatives.

'Flexible manufacturing is a key part of our European Transformation Strategy,' said David Thursfield Ford of Europe Chairman and CEO. 'Having facilities which have the flexibility to switch production quickly between models will enable us to be more responsive to changes in customer demand, while keeping our capacity fully utilized.'

'Improving our responsiveness to customers, while operating at high levels of efficiency is a winning formula for everyone concerned,' he said.

A flexible manufacturing system is already in place at Cologne, is in the process of being installed at Valencia and is planned for Saarlouis. Introducing the system at Genk will mean all 4 Ford major vehicle plants in Europe will have the capability to operate in a fully flexible way.

In contrast, the system currently in operation at Genk has two distinct production processes for Transit and Mondeo, which duplicate facilities, restrict the opportunity to lay out the production process to lean production standards and hinder operational flexibility.

It would not be feasible to introduce a flexible system capable of building such radically different vehicles as Transit and Mondeo and the other car lines being proposed for the plant. So, the intention is to transfer production of the Genk Transit to the new Ford Otosan commercial vehicle plant in Turkey, enabling Genk to take on a new role as a fully flexible, state of the art car plant. Ford Otosan is jointly owned by Ford and the Koc Group. Southampton will continue as the second production source for Transit.

'The new proposals for Genk offer the prospects of a secure future as a key Ford of Europe facility,' said Jan Gijsen, Ford Genk Operations Manager 'We must now work towards delivering the changes, which can make our plant among the best in the European vehicle industry'

'Discussions are already taking place with employee representatives at Genk on a 'Masterplan' to significantly improve the efficiency of the plant. The Masterplan consists of a range of actions to deliver the required improvements, including the need to operate with less people,' he said.

'With the new sourcing plan there is still the need for fewer people to achieve the required levels of efficiency, but the new plan provides protection for 1000 jobs that would otherwise be at risk and means that the number of job losses could be reduced from 2400 to 1400,' he concluded.

It is the intention that these job losses are achieved by voluntary means over the next two years. To help facilitate this, a comprehensive employee support programme will be developed with employee representatives.

Genk is also a major user of components provided by suppliers, located on the industrial park adjacent to the plant, elsewhere in Belgium and beyond. Plans which provide for the future security of the Genk plant are also good news for these suppliers. While there will be changes required with different components and systems for the new models coming in, the expectation is that the work available on the Genk industrial park and Ford purchasing needs from the Belgian supply base will be at least at the level they are today.

Reported by
14 February 2002

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