It was reported on Friday by Ford that it is hoping to resume the production of F-150 pickups as soon as next Friday, May 18.
The spokeswoman of Ford, K Felker, said, “Our teams are working tirelessly and around the clock to get our bestselling vehicle back into production as fast as possible. This situation remains very fluid.”
The automotive parts factory had caught fire this month which led to halting of production of the best-selling Ford F-150 truck and leading to thousands of layoffs around the country.
The plant is expected to start its work by June 1.
Benjamin Wu, chief legal officer and public affairs director for Meridian Magnesium Products of America, said, “We’re trying to have production up as soon as possible. It’s safe to say before June 1.”
Ford had said earlier in the week that it is seeking to relocate needed equipment to supply key parts from Meridian operations in Ontario, but is facing huge logistical challenges.
The May 2 fire at the factory in Eaton Rapids has led to dramatic production changes in Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama and Canada.
The plant, which employs about 400 nonunion workers, has about 250 people out of work. Meanwhile, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes and others have scrambled to figure out what to do as the automotive parts manufacturer is dealing with fire damage.
Ford executives said during a shareholder call this week that Ford has worked aggressively to assist with reconstruction and repair, as well as salvaging tools needed to make the “front bolster,” which structurally reinforces the engine where the radiator is attached, for the F-150, Super Duty trucks, Expedition and Navigator. The supplier also makes a third-row seat cushion pan for the Ford Explorer, Ford Flex and the Lincoln MKT, and a lift gate for the MKT.
F-150 trucks make up a multibillion-dollar brand that drives profits for the company.
The Eaton Rapids factory built some 30% of its product for Ford alone, which is the top seller of trucks in North America with its F-Series, as well as Expedition and Navigator.
Wu said that while the die casting work may be stalled, secondary production related to painting and assembly is being done in the complex.
Wu said, “We do magnesium high-pressure die casting. We take molten magnesium and form it into a part. Our competitors are people who make steel parts, aluminum parts, carbon fiber parts and magnesium parts.”
He also added, “Our Canadian facility started building parts three days ago. They’re building parts for us and then shipping them back to us so the machines in Michigan can do secondary finishing work.”
However, automakers are coordinating with each other and Meridian is working with competitors globally to fix this problem as soon as possible.
“We’re not going back to full capacity” by June 1, Wu said. “But we’ll be building parts for our customers. Essentially, by June 1 our customers should be getting parts globally. Our customers are coordinating. We’ll work with competitors to make sure the parts are running smoothly.”
Meanwhile, with 250 people out of work at the Meridian plant, company officials and their automaker clients wanted to emphasize that the company values its workers and plans to care for them.
“We are a self-insured company and we’re choosing to keep the health care and benefits for employees and their families for the next 30 days,” Wu said. “We’re going to pay for all that.”
By Monday, the supplier is planning to recall another setset employees to begin cleanup and repairs.
The production process is expected to start henceforth.