FORD AUSTRALIA AIMS AT THE FUTURE

ford_product_development_centreThe future of the automotive industry in Australia is rapidly taking shape. While manufacturing is slowly grinding to a halt – Ford has stopped, Holden and Toyota are preparing to do so, the future is looking increasingly bright.

If you’re in design and engineering that is, sadly many people on the shop floor are losing jobs, thankfully with a great deal of assistance from the respective car companies.

The Ford Motor Company currently employs about 203,000 people and has 67 plants worldwide. It plans to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, data and analytics.

Ford Australia, with its long history of vehicle design, engineering and technology, will continue to be one of the most important links in the vital field of ongoing product development. Mark Fields, the president and CEO, of Ford Motor Company flew to Australia to announce details of the forward plans. This includes a further $450 million investment in research and development (R&D).

The company’s head office in Melbourne will become a new product development centre tagged Asia Pacific Product Development Centre. It will have state-of-the-art virtual design and engineering capability and be the centrepiece of Australia’s most advanced automotive development campus. The centre will have a 2000 person strong team, including 1750 engineers, designers and technicians.

(It’s interesting to note that Ford’s head office is happy for the Aussies to use Centre in the title rather than the American spelling of Center. Perhaps as a hat’s off compliment to the local people for their excellent work in the past?)

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There’s also going to be an expansion of the Ford Asia Pacific Design Studio, increasing the modelling capacity and nearly doubling the state-of-the-art milling area with the addition of a new five-axis mill.

The company’s 950-hectare Lara Proving Ground outside Geelong will get additional test facilities, including durability, crash, noise vibration and harshness research.

We did a comprehensive tour of the Ford Lara facilities a couple of years back and came away extremely impressed with the clever work being carried out.

A new test area is to be built at the Lara proving ground to support validation of a greater range of driver assist technologies. Autonomous vehicle are certainly on the way and Ford has always been keen on being at the forefront of innovations in all fields. We anticipate being invited to Lara in the not too distant future to sit in a Ford and watching a car doing all its own driving.

With an eye well into the future Ford is also increasing its commitment to helping develop the next generation of engineers and designers. Ford recently raised $300,000 to expand student robotics programs in Broadmeadows and Geelong partner schools. Ford engineers will personally mentor students in these Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) programs to develop and program robots for competition around the world.

Holden is also looking to the future and has given details of its plans to become very much part of the GM empire. Toyota tends to take the Japanese approach of not saying too much until things have been put in place. We will keep an eye on what the two companies do as they approach factory closures late this year.

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