World’s biggest single aluminum factory puts Canada workers to work

By Hala Gorani, CNN

It’s been compared to the North Korean regime, one that oversees citizens’ every move, but with a little less research and a lot more manual labour.

These are the conditions thousands of people face on a daily basis in Ford’s plant in Ontario, Canada, where aluminum is being made for the new Ford Ranger off-road vehicle.

A new battery and four-wheel drive version of the Ranger is due in 2019. It will debut in a number of markets, including China, Russia and the US, which means the production of the vehicle could increase the appetite for aluminum — and government requirements will have to be met.

But creating a new variant hasn’t meant getting rid of its current models.

The Ontario plant manufactures the Mustang, and currently Ford is experimenting with a hybrid production process, which is part of a larger push toward using more environmentally-friendly materials and energy within its product line.

Recently, a spokesperson for Ford India told CNN that the hybrid Mustang will be made using different aluminum materials than the Ranger.

But what has pushed Ford’s Ontario plant to look more closely at using aluminum in its production processes has been a change in order logistics.

Growing up on a cattle farm in Wyoming

The facility is where aluminum is typically made. But after Ford decided to launch a five-cylinder engine version of the new Ranger, manufacturing costs started to climb.

By the end of 2018, Ford is projected to spend $600 million on expanding its battery production facility. New power train manufacturing will be carried out at the Highland park facility, but the operation will focus on conventional powertrains for the time being.

The production of the Fusion, the Mustang and the Focus in this facility will continue, but it’s the Focus that’s driving the growth of the facility to begin with.

The plant is, by design, flexible. Its production line ranges from thousands of bits to thousands of parts. So, to further capitalize on the success of the car, and to meet government mandates, the latest facility has been designed with the same kind of flexibility.

Originally built as a BYD plant, it is dedicated almost solely to developing hybrids.

“We got a call about five years ago, asking if we would be interested in taking the tools that we already had and having them modified to incorporate battery electric motors. We were intrigued at the time, and there were a lot of benefits to this,” said Tammy Hohlt, marketing and sales engineer at the plant.

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