“We’re basically building an R&D center here in China, and test track, that is on par with other parts of Ford,” in North America, Europe and Australia, said Mark Fields, the chief executive of Ford Motor. At the same time, he said, the company would protect its intellectual property.
Robots perform tasks like welding in exactly the same way every time, improving quality control. But they require a lot of fine-tuning along the way.
The painting process is also mostly automated. Elaborate spraying robots, their joints covered in many layers of plastic so that they do not become clogged with paint mist, snake back and forth across each car body. Workers still apply protective sealant to the vehicles’ interiors and underbodies, as Ford has been leery of depending entirely on robots for this step until it is sure they work well. More robots are scheduled to be installed in August, replacing manual labor for the protective sealant step as well.