Part shortage spreads beyond microchips

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Ford Motor Company’s two Windsor engine plants have experienced downtime in recent weeks due to various parts supply issues unrelated to the ongoing shortage of microchips.

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The Essex Plant was not operational Tuesday through Thursday last week while the Annex Machinery Plant was closed Thursday afternoon and is not scheduled to resume production until Thursday (September 8).

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Essex Engine workers were asked to work on Friday, which was scheduled to be a holiday, and Sunday and the plant has resumed normal production this week.

“We have days off or missing shifts, not all week,” said Unifor Local 200 president John D’Agnolo. “They’ve turned the crop.

I don’t want to see people being hired to be laid off

“These down days have nothing to do with microchips, although those problems will last for a while. The challenge now is the different sections across the board.”

Unifor Local 200 vice president Tim Little said the built-in Windsor engine was in high demand for use in Ford’s popular F-series trucks and Mustangs.

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The Ford Windsor Engine Plant Appendix on Seminole Street is shown on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The Ford Windsor Engine Plant Appendix on Seminole Street is shown on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

“If the (Appendix) plant has spare parts, it will work six or seven days of production,” Little, a Ford official, told the union.

“It was unheard of how badly they wanted the bike.

“They want a 7.3 (liter engine) in super duty (F-series trucks) in Kentucky. The factory prints money.”

D’Agnolo said friction in the supply chain made it difficult to know exactly when the promised third shift would be added at the Annex Plant. The plant produces 7.3-liter “Godzilla” engines and will add a new 6.8-liter engine to production in 2023.

“The third shift should have happened in the New Year,” said D’Agnolo. “We should have called people in late fall.

“I don’t want to see people being hired to be laid off.

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“They have to make sure they have their ducks in a row when making this machine. People will quit their jobs to go to this job.”

The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

While the local plant’s near-term prospects are safe, D’Agnolo has seen the future during a recent tour of Ford’s electric Lightning pickup truck factory. He was struck by the automation, the fewer parts needed, the oddity of not seeing the machine and the reduced number of workers needed.

“There are a lot of things companies would do differently,” D’Agnolo said.

“I see the workforce as a comparison. They just don’t have much left.

“If you’re on the burning side, the number of engineers (they don’t need anymore), I can’t imagine. 1,200 parts in a machine, you don’t have to make any more.”

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The impact of what that means was seen a few weeks ago when Ford cut some of Windsor’s management staff as part of 8,000 layoffs worldwide.

“They didn’t give me a number,” D’Agnolo said. “They basically tell you you’re done and they take you out of the factory.”

With Unifor’s contracts expiring in 12 months with each of the Detroit Three automakers, D’Agnolo hopes to secure the future of the local plant at the negotiating table. He is chairman of the Ford Unifor Masters Bargaining Committee and also chairman of the national union Automotive Council.

The entrance to the Ford Windsor Engine Plant Annex on Seminole Street is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The entrance to the Ford Windsor Engine Plant Annex on Seminole Street is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

He said that until now Ford has given no clue about his future plans for Windsor.

“There can never be a round of bargaining where you don’t see an investment,” D’Agnolo said.

“Now you have to bid for it and what are you going to do to get it. It’s hard because you just want to do the day-to-day things — retirement, benefits, problems at the factory you’re trying to solve.”

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D’Agnolo said Ford officials had informed Unifor that Windsor engines for his trucks would still be needed for years.

However, he knew the rapid pace of technological change would shorten the current time.

“I would love to supply parts for the plant in Oakville (which will produce electric vehicles),” said D’Agnolo.

“There must be a future after the combustion engine.

“We still have some square footage we can work on that I’d like the company to invest in. I can’t see the tiny motors they’re using for EVs needing a lot of space to build.”

One dynamic in contract negotiations that will be different is that Unifor and the US-based United Auto Workers union have timed their contracts to expire at the same time.

D’Agnolo said his hope was to increase the union’s influence and reduce the company’s ability to toy between the two unions.

“This coincides with America for the first time in years,” said D’Agnolo.

“It is important for us to communicate with each other, the leadership on both sides of the border.

“Both sides will work to ensure we continue to secure investment in our community.”

dwaddell@postmedia.com
twitter.com/winstarwaddell

The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
The Ford Essex Engine Plant on Lauzon Parkway is displayed on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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