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Supplier Spotlight: Pick-Up Equipment Suits Pickup Truck Line

The Ford Dearborn Truck Plant (DTP), home of the new 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck, is the flagship of Ford's next-generation lean and flexible manufacturing facilities. The heritage site signals the e...

November 1, 2003 | By MRO Magazine

The Ford Dearborn Truck Plant (DTP), home of the new 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck, is the flagship of Ford’s next-generation lean and flexible manufacturing facilities. The heritage site signals the expansion of the company’s manufacturing vision and the first step toward making the legendary Ford Rouge Center an industrial icon of the 21st century.

The DTP, consisting of a new body shop, paint shop and assembly plant, occupies 1.7 million sq ft (158,000 sq m) and was planned for versatility and longevity. It will accommodate up to three vehicle platforms and nine different models on one assembly line, allowing for rapid production changes.

As might be expected, Ford sourced suppliers for the new plant with extreme care, with particular consideration for those with a proven track record and advanced technological capabilities.

One such company was SailRail Automated Systems Inc., considered by Ford as a Tier 1 full-service material handling system integrator. The Markham, Ont., company was approved by Ford to implement material handling integration and automation for the DTP as well as for part of the stamping plant.


The whole project for the production of the F-150 was known as P221 and includes assembly plants in Kansas City, Missouri, and Norfolk, Virginia, as well as the Dearborn, Michigan, facility. SailRail performed work at all locations. It was completed in mid-2003.

That work involved line-feed automation and included such equipment as:

Over & Under machines, for providing a continuous, uninterrupted supply of racks filled with components to the assembly line under operator control, while enabling the removal of empty racks

Side-by-Side machines, which automatically index racks on the assembly line with zero pressure zone accumulation and complete footprint support, and

Ergonomic Lift & Tilts, to enable operators to retrieve assembly components fast and efficiently in a way that promotes good workplace ergonomics and reduces the risk of back injury.

“We are honoured to participate with Ford at its heritage plant and elsewhere,” says Ian Scarth, president of SailRail. “We see our role not just in terms of helping Ford to achieve high levels of productivity but in promoting the kind of flexibility that allows for rapid production line changes to meet customer demand and fast, economical conversion to new model lines.

“During model changeovers, our level of participation will allow Ford to concentrate on retooling and reprogramming robots without having to worry about material handling and systems integration.”

SailRail uses a sophisticated Parametric Automated Design (PAD) tool for all its engineering work and has been an ISO 9001 QSTE supplier since March 2000. As a supplier of automated material handling systems, it focuses on the automotive industry, paying special attention not only to equipment but to its full integration with other aspects of the plant.

“We specialize in line-feeding, conveying, exchanging and presenting racks and containers for assembly and stamping operations,” says Scarth. “Equipment interfaces range from manual operator control with or without forklift loading and unloading to fully automated solutions with robotic and SGV (self-guided vehicle) delivery functions.”

Among parts that SailRail equipment handles at Dearborn are engines, door panels, transmissions, glass and gas tanks.

For the stamping plant at Dearborn, SailRail provides side-by-side machines as well as pickup and delivery stations to interface with FMC Technologies’ equipment. SailRail’s contribution to the Kansas City plant is also important, since it handles frame racks for the first component at the complete truck-build plant.

“We have a history of supplying exceptional and reliable equipment, as well as an extremely high level of after-sales support,” Scarth says. “We are as excited as Ford at the prospect of helping to create a new benchmark for automotive assembly facilities everywhere.”

DTP is a prime example of Ford’s commitment to establish a next-generation flexible manufacturing system in its North American assembly operations. By mid-decade, Ford expects about half its body shops, trim and final assembly operations to be flexible, rising to three-quarters by 2010, with expected savings to the company of between US$1.5-billion and $2.0 billion.

For more information on SailRail Automated Systems Inc., contact Ian Scarth at 905-948-1500 ext. 222, or e-mail


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