Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ford Progress

I'm a Ford guy -- always have been. Hey, I was raised in a "Ford" household (in the '50s and '60s, society divided like that -- you were likely either a Chevy family or a Ford family). Chrysler and Rambler families existed, of course, but they could be counted on the head of a pin in the little western New York town I grew up in (and still live in) and were, to a degree, considered automotive curiosities.

So, I still drive a Ford -- a '97 F250 -- and still follow Ford's progress and lust after its newest offerings, which seem to be getting better all the time. Of course, I'm very interested in its climb back to profitability and found this article to be encouraging and fascinating.

Ford will soon install its on-board consumer electronics software (to be called MyFord Touch) via Wi-Fi at the plant.

Ford previously had to stock multiple SKUs for SYNC hardware modules dependent on vehicle model, trim level, and options installed. However, thanks to the help of new Wi-Fi capabilities, Ford has designed a single SYNC hardware module that can be reprogrammed as the vehicle is making its way down the assembly line.

In simple terms, Ford says that the vehicle sends its unique VIN wirelessly to an assembly line router. The router then communicates with a central software server which stores the MyFord Touch software necessary for that particular vehicle. The sever then sends the appropriate firmware (as much as 300MB) back to the router and down to the vehicle which programs the SYNC hardware module.

As a result, Ford says that it was able to "eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made." In addition, cost savings are realized because Ford no longer has to assemble, stock, or store these additional parts thanks to the reprogrammable SYNC hardware module.

What an excellent illustration of how entrepreneurialism and capital can combine to improve the production process of a consumer good. It's very cool, too.

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