The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 24, 2020

Trades' work sets up Wayne Assembly for new Bronco

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

WAYNE - The Bronco is back. 

And building trades union workers worked a 24-hour, two-week shutdown over the holidays in the plant where it will be built, as part of an effort to gear up the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant to be the manufacturing site for the iconic Ford Bronco, whose nameplate is being resurrected by Ford Motor Co. 

Sheet metal contractor H.M. White managed the work that went on during the shutdown, which primarily focused on paint shop modifications at the plant to serve the next generation Bronco. And the tired trades workers - some of whom worked 12 or even 18-hour days, achieved their goals during the shutdown, and even earned H.M White a safety recognition award from Ford for their efforts.

"It was a lot of work during a short amount of time, but with a good team and a good plan it all came together," said H.M. White Project Supt. Stuart Ingalls, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 80. "It's a busy industry and we were battling to get the manpower, so we had to depend on BAs around the region to help us, and they came through. On behalf of myself and H.M. White I would like to thank everyone who gave up their holiday to get this one done."

The 14-day shutdown at the plant began Dec. 21, and many in the crew of 140-or-so sheet metal workers (H.M. White), electricians (Lake Erie Electric), pipe fitters (IPS) and iron workers (Gem) chose to exercise their option of working Christmas Day and New Year's Day. 

Ingalls said the job was primarily populated by more than 100-plus tinknockers, who hailed from Michigan, as well as others who traveled in from Indiana, Ohio,  Kentucky and the Chicago area.  Mission accomplished: they renovated both e-coat ovens, and installed four new heater boxes, new flue ducts, fans, enamel ovens, and re-worked existing internal ducts. The filter house was divided into two sections, and multiple bulkheads and an upper plenum were installed.

The paint shop works at the Michigan Assembly Plant are located on both the north and south sides of the plant.  "We still had time to put the shell of a new sealer oven in that is part of (a scheduled) July shutdown," Ingalls said. He said a handful of sheetmetal workers will remain on site for "pull-ahead work" for the July shutdown, focusing on the new sealer oven and some energy savings project involving duct work.

The iconic Ford Bronco,was introduced in 1965 as a 1966 model. The Bronco would continue in production through 1996, seeing a total of five generations, and growing from what was considered in 1966 to be a compact SUV to eventually share height and width specs with the Ford F-150. Ford said available options during the 10-year production of the first Bronco included a CB radio, an auxiliary gas tank, a power take-off, a winch - and even a post-hole digger. 

The new Bronco will be a midsize SUV, and will be part of the Ford vehicle lineup later this year. It joins the Ford Ranger pickup on the plant's assembly lines.
“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable yet fun to drive,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of The Americas. “Bronco will be a no-compromise midsize 4x4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.”

The Ford Ranger pickup will also be assembled at the 5 million square-foot plant, which opened in 1957. The work during the shutdown allowed Ford to start running vehicles through the paint process on Jan. 10.

A CREW OF SHEETMETAL workers on their break at the Ford Michigan Assembly plant.