Just-in-time cripples Ford

A software error on the production line at German door latch supplier Kiekert has held up Ford’s Fiesta production lines in Dagenham and Cologne for at least five days, costing millions of pounds and stopping production of more than 10,000 cars. Ford teams were holding emergency talks with Kiekert as The Engineer went to press, […]

A software error on the production line at German door latch supplier Kiekert has held up Ford’s Fiesta production lines in Dagenham and Cologne for at least five days, costing millions of pounds and stopping production of more than 10,000 cars.

Ford teams were holding emergency talks with Kiekert as The Engineer went to press, with the stoppage set to enter its first full week.

It was also not clear how much financial liability would be borne by the German company.

Supplies of the latches, costing £10.20 each, ran out on Thursday night last week. A limited number of cars were part-finished and stocked for reworking later. When space ran out, the production line stopped.

‘If necessary we’ll airlift supplies in,’ Ford said.

Workers on the Dagenham production line were reassigned to training or cleaning duties.

The Dagenham plant builds 1,300 cars a day over two shifts, while Cologne builds 1,200. Both had introduced a 6-hour Saturday shift in an attempt to keep up with heavy demand.

Production of Fiesta-based models such as the Mazda 121 and Combi vans is also affected. The cost implications are serious for Ford and it is believed that they could run to at least £10-£15m.

Kiekert said on Tuesday it was close to resolving the problem, and that talks with Ford over ‘different contractual interpretations’ were reaching a solution.

The incident brings home the high risks to component suppliers working to just-in-time schedules since liability usually lies entirely with the supplier and is written into the contract with the car manufacturer.

However, Kiekert told shareholders this week it did not expect any adverse effects on business this year.

‘As the industry increases inventory turns and gets closer to just-in-time production delivery times, these things are likely to happen,’ said Paul Fleming, Delphi UK country director.

Opinion, page 12