Every two minutes, a Ford Ranger rolls off the production line at the Ford Silverton Assembly Plant, bound for dealers and customers in over 100 markets around the globe.
From the moment a Ranger begins its life to the moment it rolls off the line, Ford employees take great care to ensure every single bakkie meets Ford’s stringent world-class quality standards.
Even beyond this, a specialised team of dedicated quality auditors at the plant’s Vehicle Evaluation Centre (VEC) are focused on rigorously monitoring every step of the manufacturing process and making sure quality control processes themselves are constantly updated.
What do these auditors do?
Every day, Rangers are pulled off the production line and sent for in-depth quality inspection and further testing. On a typical day, auditors will scrutinise randomly selected Rangers from the day’s production run using a series of stringent tests, measurements and checks to ensure every single one meets and exceeds Ford’s strict quality standards.
The VEC auditors, who have an average of 10 years’ experience in their role, oversee seven specially designed audits – the toughest of the tough tests. They include:
This test uses lasers to confirm the alignment of every wheel installed during production. At least one sample of every Ranger variant is tested this way, every single day.
Next, the truck goes to the on-site steering alignment test track to make sure the steering wheel is perfectly centred and the vehicle travels straight as an arrow.
The Ranger then undergoes a test to make sure the headlights are aimed properly. The Ranger is driven into a specialised space which blocks out all external light sources. Once the Ranger is positioned, the headlamps are then switched on and the audit begins. Cameras mounted above the testing area evaluate the aim and consistency of the headlight beam.
An airtight cabin is important to help maintain Ranger’s levels of refinement and keep unwanted odours and noise from entering the vehicle.
The auditors fill Ranger’s cabin air to ensure the rubber seals of the doors and windows, along with the recirculate function of the HVAC system, retain an airtight seal. When air is pumped into the cabin, auditors watch out for inconsistent interior pressure, which could show an air leak in one of the seals.
One of the final checks is to make sure the Ranger’s door and window seals are leakproof. More than 17,000 litres of water are fired at the vehicle, and some Rangers are also blasted with pressurised water for 20 minutes to replicate the worst rain conditions imaginable. After the water jets are turned off, auditors visually inspect the Ranger’s taillights, headlamps and foglamps, to make sure that no water has breached the seals.
Every door is then opened, and the rubber seals are inspected for any signs of water. To make sure the matting and cabin floor remain dry, auditors use a specially made probe that sends an audible alert if it detects any moisture.
Lastly, Rangers go through the Ford Customer Product Audit (FCPA) – a two-part test consisting of a dynamic, or driving audit, and a static touch-and-feel audit.
During the dynamic portion, an auditor will drive a Ranger on a prescribed route approved by the Ford Ranger’s Product Development team. The auditor checks and tests every system on the truck – everything from the simple warning chimes to the various advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).
The static audit requires the VEC Auditor to physically touch and feel every surface of the vehicle, checking for body work imperfections. Auditors also inspect the consistency of the panel gaps around the entire vehicle with specialised measuring tools. They also closely inspect the engine bay, ensuring that every part is up to specification and is securely fastened.
“At Ford, our customers are at the centre of everything we do,” said Chris Badenhorst Plant Quality Manager at the Silverton Assembly Plant. “Our goal is to make a high-quality Ranger that is ‘Built Ford Tough,’ so our customers have an exceptional experience with their Ranger and with Ford.”