The shutdown in the Missouri plant lasted only an hour, and Ford completed its scheduled production for the day. But the closure is a sign of the difficulty of building cars while keeping workers safe from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The safety of our workforce is our top priority,” said Ford in a statement. “In this instance, our protocol calls for us to deep clean and disinfect the employees’ work area, equipment, team area and the path that the employee took while at the plant.”
The worker had been adding trim to the Transit van, one of two vehicles built at the plant along with the F-150 pickup. Most of the Transit assembly line continued to operate while the area was cleaned. The F-150 assembly line was not affected.
At Fiat Chrysler, once an employee tests postive for Covid-19, “our comprehensive, multi-layered safety measures of social distancing, mandatory use of personal protection equipment, and cleaning and disinfecting are in full use,” said Fiat Chrysler spokesperson Jodi Tinson. “These protocols are the most effective way we can create a safe and secure working environment for all of our employees.”
Virtually all auto plants around the globe were closed for an extended period due to the pandemic, but most have now resumed work. The three suspensions of work at Ford plants show that resuming production at auto plants will not be a smooth operation, said David Leggett, automotive analyst with GlobalData.
“Vehicle makers across the world are facing similar issues as they restart manufacturing facilities that were shuttered during Covid-19 lockdowns,” he said. “Even while first wave Covid-19 infection peaks have been passed, the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and fresh outbreaks can disrupt activity.”
“The supply chain is ultimately only as strong as its weakest link,” Leggett added. “Any disruptions to manufacturing companies along the supply chain anywhere in the world will impact others.”