FORTY CARS A DAY
THE FORD FACTORY
NEW ZEALAND INDUSTRY
The ceremony of laying the conventional foundation-stone is commonly postponed-until ,;the foundations are already well arid truly in position and the wall work above ground level, and on the same principle factories are not as. a rule declared, open until they have been working at full stride for weeks or months for the removal of this hindrance or that to the smooth running of the whole machine. The new Ford factory, off Seaview Road, Eastern Hutt, has now been operating for about three months and is running at full capacity. The official opening took place yesterday afternoon. The erection of the Wellington factory, where the whole of the output of Ford cars for the Dominion is made, was decided upon in accordance with the,desire of the Government and the public for the development of industries for the employment of New Zealand labour, and both the Canadian and the English Ford Companies have met that desire by transferring to the Dominion as much work as may economically be done in the New Zealand factory. Many of the main manufacturing processes could not be carried out in New Zealand except at uneconomic cost, for instance, the building of the engine, the making and fine assembly of electrical equipment, or the. pressing of chassis, members or the panels for the all-steel bodies, for such processes require an enormous outlay upon plant, only justified by huge output. However, far more than mere assembly of partially-built' cars and trucks is involved in the work done at the Eastern Hutt factory, and the proof of that is given in the size of the factory itself and the number of men engaged, between 600 and 700, working to-.the fully designed capacity of the organisation of. forty vehicles, cars, anU trucks, or other commercial vehicles, per day. There are over forty men arid girls in the office section. A NEW ZEALAND FACTORY IN FACT. ' ■■'■ ;- ■ The. work is highly specialised, but an 'outstanding point is that it is a New Zealand factory which employs New Zealand draftsmen and workmen throughout. There are only two exceptions, Mr. E. J. Hooper, factory superintendent, and Mr. W. Wilson, ' assistant superintendent, are Canadians. Mr. Jackson, the managing director of the Ford Company in New Zealand,* is. also•, .ai.Canadian, but all others in-^the? factory are New Zealanders, though , the , same high and exacting standards of quality :i and workmanship are put into the vehicles assembled at the _ Wellington factory as are observed in the factories of Canada and England, and the same elaborate machines, equipment, and assembly jigs are used. ■The land area is about 13 acres, and of-.this the building covers three and
a half acres and may. as the output demands. increase, be extended. Great as the floor area is, it is all required as working room or for the transport of materials or partially-built chassis or bodies by one or other of the systems of overhead, travelling slat, or light truck conveyers. About these conveyer systems the whole factory system is built: bits and pieces converge from bins and stacks, to be welded or rivetted or sewn arid to be passed a stage nearer the actual assembly workers, on the main line, sub-line, or trim line, till at the last stage the finished- machine—whether the VB, the English 10 h.p. de luxe, or the light 8 h.p., or truck or commercial vehicle—comes off the main assembly tof the petrol pump, and is driven off to the park of cars for the final check arid full test before being dispatched by road, rail, or ship. The building is of modern earth-quake-resisting design, with many aetai'ls of construction new to New Zeaiand, though it is all of a pattern with other modern Ford factories, following exactly the lines laid down by the company's engineers at headquarters. The roof design, technically styled the M andH monitor construction, takes unexpected slopes and angles to give maximum light and evenness of lighting. 'The glass area is equivalent to more than half the floor area; there are almost two acres of skylight and glazed wall panels. Walls and pillars are of steel frame
construction with bricked panels and lower walls, and the great floor area, clear of pillar and division obstructions apart from the natural divisions between administrative section and factory proper, is a huge reinforced concrete slab, 305 by 400 feet, the laying of which presented real problems of its own, for this was no tennis court to be laid level and true, but over three acres of flooring, the specifications for which were rigid.and exacting. CSANE BAX ON NORTHERN SIDE. The exterior has a finished appearance, very different from blank walls and blank glass windows. The wide frontage faces upon a concrete roadway running between lawns and greenery. The building, seen from Seaview Road, has an unsymmetrical appearance, dictated not by any designer's futuristic fancy, but by factory economics. On the north side a great bay runs down the full depth, of two storey height, though the rest of the factory is single-storeyed, for this is the storehouse of the factory, 400 feet long, 65 feet wide and stacked today to a height of just over 40 feetgiving a total stacking space of 660,000 cubic feet—with cased parts received from Canada and Britain and with bales and packages from New Zealand suppliers of bulk material. An overhead crane runs the length of the bay and stacks from the railway siding or lowers to the trucks and conveyors cases and packages, from pounds of
flock for the seating to tons of nested panels or chassis members for the main assembly lines. The crane driver is an artist in his own line, with a steady and fast-moving day ahead of him each time the morning whistle blows. CONVERGING OPERATIONS. The first impressions of the visitor are that a minor chaos holds over the whole great working floor—clatter of metal, din of riveting, glare of welding, rattle of trucks, high pressure whistle from air blasts, whizz and hissing of the paint sprays; but first impressions are wide of the fact. The separated operations are tied one to another, leading always nearer the conveyor lines, which do not run direct from end to end, but wind and turn to pass closely by the tributary truck lines bringing welded, riveted, or sewn details from this and that assembly section. There are four of these main lines: the sub-assembly, where the engines are set up, the metal finish line, the trim .assembly, and the final assembly. Three of these lines are fairly short, about 40 yards, but the overhead monorail conveyor, which leads the main body parts on a grand tour of welding, wash, acid wash, heat treatment (several times repeated), grinding and polishing, priming, underrating, more washing and fine polishing, before they reach the enamelling room, winds round and about for 850 feet. Some-, thing is being done to body, chassis, or engine over each foot of the slowly moving way. The chassis and body-building lines are the most spectacular. The chassis line is manned by craftsmen who handle rivets as plain men deal with tin tacks and who profess to ignore (and probably really do) the infernal racket of high-speed riveters. They contribute 80 per cent, of the din and a large part of the sturdiness of the finished job. JIGS FOR EXACTITUDE. The body builders work more quietly about a series of remarkable and absolutely exact "jigs," welding and jointing, and, further down the line, with rasps, grinding wheels, and buffers, till they turn over the one-piece body to the colour experts. The bodies do not, of course, come from the Canadian and English factory presses in one piece, and floor steels and door panels and fittings arrive in cases of their own, but each pressing and fitting is far more .■ like the next in the case than two peas from the same pod —next door peas look alike, but these pressings are alike to two or three decimal places of > measurement. The accuracy of assembly is ensured by accuracy of the Jigs-on which panels and pressings are apparently casually dropped, for pins engage punched holes and stops fix the panel edges precisely. Then a dozen quick action clamps are thrown with a single action to hold the sections in place while spot-weld, butt-weld, or the oxyacetone - pin-point join them inseparably, with the weld in fact stronger than the original sheet. There are fifteen of these exact jigs along the main assembly lines, to hold floor or body right way up, sideways, upside down, or the other side. FINING THE BODY CURVES. Welding is only the first step of the body assembly, for the weld lines are rough and unfinished. The panel edges are pressed with a recess, and after the joined bodies have left the welders and passed through a series of washes and oven dryings the sunken weld
areas are brushed with flux and given a heavy coating of special solder, plastered on above the general panel curves. Then for the next forty or so feet of the line this excess solder is rasped, fine rasped, ground, and buffed till the sweep of the curve is as perfect as long practice can make it and oversight can fairly criticise. Then the body, one piece in fact now, passes along to another sequence of wash, acid wash, dry out, priming coat, double undercoating, with polish and fine emery in between. Then it reaches the finishing expert, who works in a glazed and air-conditioned chamber, with even the floor kept saturated with oil to catch dust that may still work in. His spray-gun coats square feet of surface while a brush would be spreading the first dip or two, and when he has done with the body and the surface gleams spotlessly it slides to a minor Hades, where the cool of the day is 250 degrees F., for the final baking of the enamel.
From the enamelling section the body slides past the trim section, at the back of Which sewing machines would give a homely touch if they were not run by men, for no girls are employed except in the offices. Cloths and artificial leathers are cut on a grand scale here. Over the long cutting tables thirty or forty layers of material are spread, and on the top cloth the master pattern is placed; it is a cardboard sheet perforated <to give the outlines. French chalk is sprinkled over it, and there is the pattern. Electric saw cutters run along the chalk lines, and forty sheets are cut at once. Not so with hide leather, for every hide is different and each is hand-cut, separately. Linings, seat swabs, roof fabric, arm rests, and floor rugs reach the line from this section.
Meanwhile the other assembly lines and sub-lines have been sending along their finished contributions, lamps and electrical equipment, wings, bonnets and radiator guards, wheel caps, and over a short line by itself, engine assembly, for the engines are cased in the overseas factories without carburettors, oil lines, or ignition. As the finished body takes a final turn from the trim line it meets the chassis with engine in place and is lowered from the monorail conveyer to sit truly and exactly upon the chassis curves. There still remain the wheels, on the last few feet of the final assembly, the petrol pumps, and, off the lines at last, the pressing of the starter. _ .
So the visitor's impressions were incorrect, for the din is inseparable from metal working; the score of separated activities are tied to one or other of the converging conveyer lines, and if six men are working at once upon a chassis* or body it is not that they all want to have a finger in it, but that each man is doing one expert piece of work, carrying on from what the last man did and.making all clear for the next.
There are many side departments under these three and a half acres of glass and asbestos roofing. There is a moving picture theatre for fine demonstration and instruction, a testing-room with laboratory equipment which looks into the inside of the, cylinder block by electrical measurements, a first aid section with attendants constantly on duty but not often called upon. The spare parts section has bins for every bit and piece for every ■ Ford model built, even back to the old model T, the father of the mass-production car. The staff cloak-room disappears when the morning and afternoon work commences, for it is hauled up to the
roof for safety of belongings and cleanliness. The office has neither a winter nor a summer, and for all its ..expense of plate glass no pane will open, for every foot of air is filtered, warmed, or cooled to tire arrow mark on the thermostatic control. The factory embodies the most modern overseas practices, amended to. meet local conditions, and employing New Zealand craftsmen throughout, except in purely administrative positions, and using New Zealand materials where it, is economically practicable.
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FORTY CARS A DAY, Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 82, 8 April 1937
FORTY CARS A DAY Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 82, 8 April 1937
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