I mentioned in my Detroit auto show coverage that Ford that flew me and 100 other green bloggers out to the Motor City. The next day though, they took us on a special experience I’d like to share with you.
Due to the length of this article, I’m breaking it up into two parts. Part Two will be posted up a little later today. Enjoy!
It is important to me that you understand that well before any of this, I was a Ford fan. Indeed, I currently own three Ford-made vehicles (though my daily driver is a Jeep), so really, this was an awesome experience for me. But Ford asked us specifically to report honestly. That we don’t sugarcoat anything in Ford’s favor. Fair enough, so let us begin.
Ford River Rouge Factory Tour
On Tuesday morning, the Blue Oval took the lot of us to their Rouge plant located in Dearborn, Michigan. I’ve never been on a Ford factory tour before, and it was obvious from the get-go that this was pretty much your standard-fare tourist tour. It started with a movie that briefly encapsulated the history of Ford, and the massive Rouge complex (which is over a mile long and ¾ of a mile wide). The video was your standard-fare coporate back-patting, made in conjunction with the smiling faces of UAW workers. While a lot of time was spent on the early years of the complex, the video pretty much glazed over the last sixty years.
The Rouge complex currently builds America’s favorite vehicle, the Ford F-series trucks, so we were next treated to a “multimedia experience” of the vehicle building process. Aside from some strobe lights and a light misting, it was altogether unimpressive and hard to keep track of things going on 360 degrees around me. It was neat, I guess, but again I was left wanting.
While my tour did get off to a slow start, the trip to Ford’s “green roof” was the next stop, and it was a bit of an eye-opener. While there was no green to really behold, being it winter in Michigan and all, the green roof project essentially covered the assembly line facility in sedum. This thick ground cover, in addition to other plants on the roof, isn’t merely there to say “Hey look at this green nonsense here.”
Rather, the roof-top garden performs many jobs that would otherwise require more expensive architecture to resolve. For example, the sedum filters rainwater back into the nearby river. It also acts as a natural insulation, keeping the building cool in summer and hot in winter. On top of all that, this roof has double the expected lifespan of a normal, non-green roof. When you add this together with the natural lighting (that provides a surprising amount of light to the assembly line as I’ll later find out) it winds up being a huge money saver for Ford.
This is the point I want businesses to understand, more than anything. Green shouldn’t only be about saving the environment. It’s hard to get people to understand something they can’t see, like greenhouse gas emissions. But everybody understands money. Ford finally seems to have figured out that not only does going green look good from a moral standpoint, but they can save a ton of money too. Kudos.
The green roof isn’t Ford’s only green improvement to the plant, as there are porous driveways, a small crab tree orchard, and even a sun-heated water system. Indeed, Ford does a lot with clean water, especially in H20-starved areas like Mexico and India (more on that later). From the green roof, we went to the assembly line.
There’s not much to tell here. If you’re like me, you find the process of making and building things absolutely fascinating, and watching a truck get put together was beyond awesome for me. For you guys though, it’d probably be pretty boring, so I’ll spare you the details. I do want to point out though, that I did witness first hand some of the inefficiencies of UAW workers. For example, I saw one fellow whose sole job appeared to be driving the delivery cart, and another worker who just put moonroofs into trucks, so he was really only working every fourth or fifth vehicle while his neighbors worked on every one. Seemed a bit unfair to me, but that’s a debate for another day.From here though, Ford took us to their test track, where I finally got put behind the wheel of a Ford vehicle. Look for Part 2 later today to read about that experience.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.