Of the Big 3 American auto manufacturers, only Ford had not yet confirmed the date of the resumption of activity at its North American assembly plants. The Dearborn-based automaker has now confirmed what was predicted by many: it will, like GM and FCA, restart its activities on May 18.
As with the others, the resumption of operations will be gradual. Ford says that, as of that date, it will invite back some employees whose work cannot be done remotely, such as those responsible for testing vehicles and working on their design. This includes about 12,000 workers in North America.
The company also indicated that it will restart component manufacturing to support the dealerships. That is underway as of today.
Ford also specified that activities in its assembly plants would gradually pick up speed. Factories that normally operate with three shifts will start with two shifts; those previously working on two shifts will make do with one, as will those that had only one shift before. The gradual increase in pace will help workers get used to the new coronavirus precautions. These include:
- Workers and visitors must certify they are in good health every day before starting work. They will have to do this online before reporting for work. Anyone reporting symptoms or possible exposure to someone with COVID-19 will be asked not to come to work.
- All workers will be temperature-monitored at the plant entrance.
- Face masks are mandatory for anyone entering a Ford plant.
- Each worker will receive a "care kit" that includes a face mask and other items to "help keep them healthy and comfortable at work".
- Safety glasses with side shields or protective front shields will be required when social distancing is not possible.
- More time will be allowed between shifts to move workers in and out and to allow for disinfection of work areas.
“We’ve been working intently with state and federal governments, our union partners and a cross-section of our workforce to reopen our North American facilities. We have reopened our facilities in China, successfully begun our phased restart in Europe and have been producing medical equipment in Michigan for more than six weeks and are using the lessons from all of that to ensure we are taking the right precautions to help keep our workforce here safe.”
- Jim Farley, COO, Ford
The big question now is whether the measures will suffice to prevent large outbreaks, which could eventually force authorities to intervene to impose more closures and confinement measures.