Inside Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant

16. DTP
By G.R. Whale

At a recent Ford Commercial Truck event, was among those given a detailed tour of the Dearborn Truck Plant where many Ford F-150s are built. This plant primarily builds the SuperCab and SuperCrew (the Kansas City plant does all 8-foot-bed F-150s), and after an hour and a half on the floor, I counted three regular cabs.

The Dearborn plant is part of the larger Rouge Complex, a 1,100-acre site made up of eight facilities, including steel, stamping, tool and die making, modular production/assembly and the Dearborn pickup assembly plant. It also has water access, rail, a fitness center, a 10.4-acre sustainable sedum-planted roof with honeybees and a water recycling system that keeps plant temperatures around 70 degrees. In 2003 the Rouge Complex was certified as a green building by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The first vehicle assembled here was a 1921 Fordson tractor. Other notable names include the Model A beginning in 1927, the 1954-57 Thunderbird and 1964-2004 Mustang. 
Opening next year at the Dearborn Truck Plant is a personalization center where accessories like striping, bug deflectors and side steps may be “factory” options, and the Raptor will get final finish.

Beyond the machinery built there, the Rouge Complex is also known as the site of the Battle of the Overpass. On the afternoon of May 26, 1937, labor union organizers and Ford security guards known as “service men” under the direction of Harry Barrett fought on the overpass near Miller Road and the plant’s Gate 4. The union was campaigning for an $8 six-hour day when the current rate was $6. In today’s dollars that’s about $25 per hour and $12 per hour, respectively.

Ford didn’t approve of unions, and when two union organizers, Richard Frankensteen and Walter Reuther, posed on the overpass for a photo by Detroit News photographer James E. Kilpatrick, the service men came from behind and beat them and others handing out leaflets. Dearborn police believed this was a Ford issue and did not actively intervene.

The service men tried to acquire all the photos, but Kilpatrick hid the plates under the rear seat of his car and handed over blanks on the front seat. The photos appeared across the country, Kilpatrick’s work led to the Pulitzer Prize committee establishing a prize for photography, the National Labor Relations Board came down on Bennett and Ford, and the court of public opinion turned in favor of the union. Ford signed a contract with United Auto Workers in 1940.

The only time the Dearborn plant is not producing trucks is Saturday evening and Sunday morning. That time is used for maintenance, retooling and so on. There are three crews that work four-day 10-hour shifts. It takes 3,800 employees, at least 347 robots, 4.2 miles of conveyor belt and about 18 hours to build a truck, and a new truck is built every minute. The aim along the lines — five trims, one box build and one door build — is to finish a job in 40 seconds, with plenty of automation since there are 580,000 permutations of the F-150. 

At the trim plant we visited, the tools record torque and quantity so that no fasteners get missed or improperly torqued. We wouldn’t call it quiet in there, and if we weren’t listening to a tour guide, we’d be wearing headphones like most of the people on the line. To ease the assembly process, the vehicles run on scissors-lift skillets on beechwood floors for working at the right height.

On the line, there are “marriage and divorce stations” because of all the separating and joining of parts and pieces. Since there’s a four-mile conveyor on a site much smaller, there’s a lot of up-and-down or side-to-side movement in various states of assembly. It seemed there could be a better solution, but it takes us 19 months to build a truck, not 19 hours.

The typical tour, many of which are done in conjunction with a visit to the Henry Ford museum, walks a one-third-mile elevated catwalk. Since we were ostensibly better behaved than the average grade schooler, we walked the trim section of the plant floor; we did not get to see the meat-and-potatoes underneath a truck. Follow along for some observations.

1. DTP
Status boards are found around the plant, and they remind us how much this place runs on acronyms. There’s no space-wasting “EcoBoost” here; that’s a “3.5GTDI” in production and engineering speak.

2. DTP
These automation station markers tell people what the computer already knows. Affectionately referred to as “cheese heads” (our pal Allyson Harwood, from Motor Trend's Truck Trend, thought “blue cheese” was more accurate).

3. DTP
This is how the cab arrives from paint. Note the woodwork floor, lifting skillet and door tabs.

4. DTP
Like a Transit Connect losing its seats and windows, the first operation removes the doors for safe keeping.

5. DTP
The cooling stack is installed as one assembly. It’s attached to the body, demonstrating that good cooling and body lifts don’t go together.

6. DTP
Dashboards arrive in one piece, and a fancy one with nav can weigh more than 100 pounds. That’s why a robot maneuvers it and two techs handle the installation.

8. DTP
This is how the chassis arrives. Note the front bumper is already attached — you can do that with a stiff-enough frame, and the 729 engine will read 6.2L when you open the hood.

9. DTP
There is no one around when the machinery marries an F-150 body to its chassis.

10. DTP
As with any circumstances involving more than one vehicle, the best place to leave the key is in the door, even if the door isn’t reattached to anything yet.

11. DTP
One of the quality control sections at the plant has completed trucks for special occasions; these three are expected to be at the Detroit auto show. No more handmade specials are needed.

12. DTPThis sticker is self-explanatory; what isn’t is why you would want to keep a Raptor inside.

13. DTP
The paint-check room at Quality Control. Don’t you wish you had one for used-truck shopping?

14. DTP
Final checks are carried out in the “garage” in the background. Trucks in front are waiting for shipping, mostly by rail. 

15. DTP
Taken literally, this sign could stop the Dearborn Truck Plant. We respectfully suggest they should add a period after STOP.

17. DTP


These tours, no matter which brand, always amaze me.

Great little virtual tour.

Great story! Thank you, Mr. G.R. Whale!

I love seeing what makes The Great Ford Motor Company tick.

nice work Mark

Impressive Facility

I'd love to take that tour. Thanks

Cool Story!


At first I saw that bottom pic and thought, why is there a 30' wall around the compound and what are those glassed in picnic shelters?

Then I realized I was looking at the roof!

Looks cool! I sure like the looks of that FX2 with the red F-150 symbol.

So that's the factory where all those CRAPY trucks are made. That's the factory where they make the "man step"

Ford, stands for
1. fix or repair daily
2. fourth on race day
3. fudged over rebuilt Dodge
4. found on road dead

Bob, get a life. You're comments are not needed here, or anywhere else on this planet.

G.R. thanks for taking us along for the tour!

Let's all ignore the obvious troll and keep the comments mature for once!


One day the troll will find out that they are inefficient, gutless and old as GM 5.3L. GM just died today at the age of 103. Why can this troll just DIE!

@ Bob You should take a tour of the plant and see how Ford builds a real ,safe truck that hauls more and gets better MPG's than any other trucks out there bar none!!!

ps. Don't roll that GM over LOL!!!

good story

so sorry for my stupid comments. In reality I do know that ford trucks are great. Thanks for the awesome article. I'd like to see a tour of the gm dodge and toyota plants too. I wonder how they compare.

For the imposters posting under my handle "Michigan Bob" and notice they use michigan bob instead of Michigan Bob like I do you know it's not me.

What's a matter little ford girly men? Can't handle a little teasing and brand bashing??? Did I hurt your whittle feelings???

Now to settle this argument over which manufacture produces full size trucks with the BEST FUEL ECONOMY. The undisputed FUEL ECONOMY CHAMPION IS GM. NOT FORD AND I HAVE THE FACTS TO BACK THAT UP.

Sure ford likes to tout 23 miles per gallon. Please tell me what ford truck in 4 wheel drive modes can you buy that is rated at 23 or 22 miles per gallon??? Answer there isn't any period!

NOPE, the best fuel economy ford offers in a 4 WHEEL DRIVE MODEL IS TADA 21 MILES PER GALLON! and they have to use a friggin V6 to get that EPA RATING. What is fords best V8 fuel economy in a 4 WHEEL DRIVE MODEL??? ANSWER 19 MILES PER GALLON.

WHAT IS GM'S best fuel economy in 4 WHEEL DRIVE MODELS??? ANSWER IS 23 FOR THE 4 WHEEL DRIVE HYBRID AND 21 FOR THE 5.3 LITER V8 WITH ACTIVE FUEL MANAGEMENT. and don't give me that B.S. about having to use a 3.08 rear axle to achieve that either because that is a outright LIE!


Nice FORD RANGER!!!! The real compact Truck!

@ Todd

I cant wait for all of the towing and fuel economy standards to come into play to stop this goofiness of saying one truck tows the most and gets the best fuel economy. those are different trucks with different rear diffs. I hope you really do realize this, if not you should study up on it a bit.

@ everyone else

looks like its a pretty nice tour, i would like to go on that tour to check it out. I been to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Tour and its INCREDIBLE! i think it would be really cool to go on this tour too.

@ Michigan bob

dude get a life, seriously you need to get control of your blood pressure (not that your the only one on here) but come on man your gettin ridiculous anymore! your like the pot callin the kettle black. The GM model that boasts top fuel economy is a much of a farce as the ford model. NOONE buys the 2wd OR 4x4 model with a damn 3.08 gear in the rear end. They buy a 3.42 or optioned tow package 3.73 and the fuel economy ISNT RATED FOR THAT REAR DIFF! just as i said to Todd in the above post you'll change your tune in 2013 when everyone is supposed to adopt the J2807 towing method and the manufacturer MUST USE THE HIGHEST NUMERICAL REAR END IN THEIR TOWING TESTS. That will stop all this BS of building 1% of your vehicles with this tiny rear diff and posting these numbers that mislead the average consumer. So IF they wanna put in a 3..08 then their towing numbers will reflect as such. Good luck with explaining why all of the numbers dont add up anymore! LOL LOL Happy Holidays

Well hemi lol, if you read my post above you would know that I knew you would say that the 15/21 miles per gallon was only with the 3.08 rear axle ratio which is totally FALSE.

Why did you believe this crap??? probably because some Ship In High Transit for brains person posted that on this very site. You don't need a 3.08 rear end to get 21 miles per gallon on a 5.3 liter V8 with ACTIVE FUEL MANAGEMENT and SIX SPEED AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION.

Your assertion that you need a 3.08 rear diff to achieve that 15/21 miles per gallon is totally NOT TRUE! I knew some idiot would make that claim and that is a LIE to try and mislead the posters on this site.

So, does ford offer a vehicle that gets better fuel economy than GM in a 4 WHEEL DRIVE MODEL??? NOPE! GM does with it's 6.0 liter Hybrid model and matches the 3.5 liter V6 Eco-Boost engine at 15/21 with their 5.3 liter V8 engine.

that is lies bitchagain boob lies i tell you how can you even compare the eco boost to that gutless wonder 5.3

I'd love to go on a tour of a assembly plant. I don't care which brand. It would be great to see.

@hemi lol - I am looking foreward to standardized testing procedures.

I don't recall GR Whale mentioning MPG anywhere in this story.

Awesome. Would love to work there.

@Michigan Bob- Your right, Chevy builds a 4x4 V8 truck that is rated for 21 mpgs but you split hairs. Have to get awful specific dont you? "If the moon and the sun are aligned just right and its the 3rd Monday of the month and Rosie ODonnell is on her period then bla bla bla". Ford does not build a truck exactly like that. Instead they build a V8 truck that is rated for 19 and makes much more power (5.0) and a v6 truck that gets 21 and makes even more power. I would happily sacrifice 2 mpgs for much more power and so would the majority of people. That is why no one cares.

Seriously Bob.

That GM Hybrid engine? You have to spend $40k on a truck to get it.

That Ford engine? You can get it with a truck costing as little as $25k.

What's the point of better gas mileage again?

Michigan Bob must be half blind, a complete moron or a troll. Sorry Bob, I've read your nonsense before. GMC is a pathetic corporate badged knock off brand supported by taxpayer money. I literally hate that brand. Chevrolet sucks now as well even though they were great once upon a time. In the "Chevy vs. Ford" world Chevy will NEVER take down Ford! Too much Quality and too much Class is built into a Ford Truck. Chevy Trucks have neither one anymore.

They're Also made in America! Those 4 door Chevrolet's are built in Mexico and ride on rims made in China. What a joke Chevy has become. Nice to see a real American factory at work building the best line of trucks that ever existed.

It is so nice to see Ford operating Toyota's TPS system...

Toyota is still the benchmark when its comes to manufacturing in the automotive industry!

Note: Why on earh is an employee operting machinery with headphones on? I can tell you he is listening to music, what a SAFETY violation. Nice job UAW, allowing workers on an asembly line to wear headphones and listen to music...

1st Bob, now Oxi.
Someone needs to write a song - "I'm wishing for a troll free Christmas", or the "12 trolls of Christmas".
@Bob , Oxi - how about "Silent night"?

@ hemi
where in my post does it say that the Ford that pulls the most gets the best MPG??? Is there a 1/2 ton truck rated to pull more than the F150??? NO. Is there a truck rated to get better MPG than the F150??? The Hybrid Gm trucks Match it on the Highway @23MPG but get better city MPG's than the Ford. GM needs to add an electric motor to match the highway MPG'S of the Ford V-6 costing thousands more.MAybe Gm will top the Fords When the new engine line comes out and that is good for them and us. But you have to give Ford alot of credit for designing 4 new engines that are vastly improved in every way to the old Mod motors and are currently the class of truck engines today!!! It is a good time to be a truck owner and lover!!!

Holy CRAP!! You mean I could have a gutless 5.3 or a 6500lb tow rated 6.0 hybrid and gain a whole 1 mpg? !!! And all I would have to give up is around 60hp 110lb ft of torque or 5000lbs of towing capacity compared to my Ecoboost? Whatever was I thinking? Oh yeah, I was buying a truck based on capability. Sure am glad I can afford to feed this gas hog....

You guys have to stop feeding the troll. It isn't the troll that is ruining this site, it also includes those who constantly have to feed it.

G.R., thanks for the write-up and virtual tour. The only thing wrong with this article is that it didn't come with a new truck ;)

The "DO NOT TAKE THIS TRUCK OUTSIDE FOR ANY REASON" sign was probably put on this truck because it was a defective pile of crap, just like every other Ford truck on the road.

I like how ford has 90% robots and 10% real people. I would like to see Ram and chevy's plants to see if they are the same way

Hey oxi, how do you know the line worker is listening to music?!?! The headphones maybe being used for noise suppression!!

Headphones EQUALS music!

OSHA does not approve headphones for noise reduction!!!

Awesome and great timing. I took this tour two years ago. My new F150 is being built there today. Can't wait for it to arrive.

Now I see why F150s are sold with such terrible paint... there's nobody inspecting that truck!

I toured this plant in the Summer of 1965 as a teenager. It was interesting to see them produce steel and stamp out fenders and body parts. At that time Ford was making the Mustang at the Rouge Plant. We arrived at the plant in a GM bus which a Ford tour guide said because Ford didn't make one. This is a tour I would recommend for anyone interested in cars or trucks. Great tour. Another great tour is the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

"OSHA does not approve headphones for noise reduction!!!" - oxi

The exact oppositie is true.

FPS was made by Henry Ford before TPS . Just Japanese copied America again. I ride my American made Polaris off road in Harlan county kentucky. Place called black mountain. Would like you to come down and ride with my group of friends and we will show you around the abandoned coal mines. You need to move to Japan!Ford Production System,look it up who came up with it.

@Oxi- OSHA does indeed approve them, only specific ones. At the Cargill plant I work at some people are allowed to have an ipod, mp3 player, etc. They just have to have the specific ear buds the plant has approved of and provides as the volume on them will only go so high yet still provide protection from loud outside noise. Even then, only certain jobs are allowed them. None of the fork truck drivers are allowed to have them.

no wonder the quality control on the trucks is so dreadful. it is a Ford in the first place, secondly they have workers goofing off and listening to music. looks like another Ford Loss to me...

Michigan Bob missed the point of 4x4 fuel economy as well. the 5.3 has 315 HP; gutless; outclassed; well really just the bottom of the pack. Many towing demonstrations have shown that. All doubts are answered by a simple test drive.

cheers bob


I agree, this TROLL touts that horrid 5.3L GM Turd!!!!!

Laughable at best!!!!

Been there done that. Id reccomend any one car guy or not to take this tour. Its amazing, and no better car to see become one then an F-150

Since MPG keeps being mentioned, here are the results of PUTC under 30,000 dollar shootout. Please note, these are 4x2 trucks.
1. F150 5.0 V8 21.2 mpg
2. Ram 5.7 V8 19.0 mpg
3. Nissan 5.6 V8 18.8 mpg
4. Chevy 5.3 V8 18.7 mpg
5. Tundra 5.7 V8 18.0 mpg

In the real world, the 5.3 Chevy was in 4th place in fuel economy.

Lets look at performance:
1/4 mile time/speed
1. F150 15.48 sec/93.31 mph
2. Tundra 15.7 sec/91.94 mph
3. Ram 15.76 sec/89.64
4. Titan 0.2 seconds faster than last place Chevy
5. Chevy

7% grade
1. Tundra 17.55 sec/78.14 mph
2. F150 17.96 sec/77.25 mph
3. Ram 18.29 sec/77.99 mph
4. Nissan 19.24 sec/73.99 mph
5. Chevy 19.35 sec/ 70.92 mph

In the real world, the Chevy 5.3 was dead last in performance.

I can't see how someone has the audacity to argue the superiority of the 5.3 when it fails miserably in real world testing.

They must be the victim of an exhaust leak.

Man have I been away from this site for to long...

@Lou - could not have put that any better and you even went and got the facts to back it up. Sadly no matter how much you tell Bob he still doesn't get it. Like another famous Bob says, you can't fix stupid.

I would love to take a tour of this plant. I mean really the plant itself is a modern marvel (there you go history channel get your butts up there) but the trucks they make inside are even better than the plant.

It is great to see modern factories having machines to make sure the paint is applied correctly. It was a bit more hit and miss in the 1960s up the early 1980's.

well put Lou

Here is the GM Tour, it is very current as well.

I want to tour a Ford Motor Company, manufacturing plant someday.

That would be AWESOME if I were able to walk along side my 2013 F-150 S.V.T. Raptor SuperCrew, down the assembly line, as it is being built.

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