It apparently took all hands on deck and some remarkable salvage and logistics work, but Ford's F-150 and Super Duty pickups are returning to production after a "massive" fire brought that to a halt for a week, the OEM said.
The fire hit May 2 at the Eaton Rapids, MI facility of Meridian Magnesium Products, a Ford supplier for the trucks. It's no secret what was at play: the F-150 is and has been the top-selling vehicle in America for years, and as the automaker noted, its earnings and financial results "are dependent on sales of larger, more profitable vehicles, particularly in the United States."
So before the embers were even fully out in Eaton Rapids, "teams removed and remediated safety concerns — including dangling siding — and restored electricity, gaining approval to access the site while debris still smoldered inside," Ford reported.
Ford and Meridian retrieved 19 dies used to cut and shape materials for the pickups from the burnt-out plant, testing and repairing them as necessary. Some were enormous: one of them, Ford said, was an 87,000-lb. tool used to make bolsters for Super Duty trucks.
That had to be shipped about 250 miles south to Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, OH, which "both had the capacity to handle such a large piece of equipment and allowed an Antonov An-124 Russian plane, one of the largest in the world . . . to take off as soon as the equipment was loaded," the automaker noted.
The An-124, a military transport behemoth first flown the year after Ronald Reagan took office as president, was to bring truck tooling to Nottingham, U.K. so it could get cranking out parts at another Meridian facility while the one in Eaton Rapids is brought back up to speed.
While the sheer equipment transport feat Ford reported is quite something, what's even more impressive is the red tape the company managed to cut through. "Under normal circumstances, moving tooling the size of a bolster die would take approximately 10 days just to get the proper import and export approvals," Ford contended.
Somehow, though, the company cleared those hurdles, even securing the green light to touch down in the United Kingdom mid-flight. "The Ford team received a U.K. import license for the die a mere two hours before the plane touched down," the OEM said.
As a result of what sounds like an epic logistics hustle, the F-150 is expected to return to production Friday, May 18 at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant, the company said. Super Duty and F-150 are "targeted" to resume production May 21 at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant and Kansas City Assembly Plant, respectively.
Boeing 747 jets will make daily flights to ship parts in from the U.K. until Meridian's Eaton Rapids facility "returns to pre-fire levels," Ford noted. Meanwhile, production of Ford's Expedition, Explorer and Flex and Lincoln Navigator and MKT vehicles, which also was affected by the supplier fire, is anticipated to continue without a blip, according to the OEM.
Ultimately, Ford said it expects to lose $0.12-$0.14 per share in the second quarter this year due to the truck production shutdown, but reaffirmed earnings-per-share guidance for 2018 from $1.45-$1.70.