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OM in the News: Recycling and the New Ford F-150 Truck

December 26, 2014
Scrap from the F-150 is shredded and shipped back to suppliers to be turned into new sheets

Scrap from the F-150 is shredded and shipped back to suppliers to be turned into new sheets

Ford’s decision to build a lighter-weight pickup truck using aluminum body-panels has been billed largely as a way to achieve better fuel economy, reports The Wall Street Journal (Dec.17, 2014). It is also a recycling play. The 2015 F-150, perhaps the most important vehicle to hit Ford dealerships in decades, goes on sale this month. By the time a new truck exits the factory and heads for the showroom, it will have left behind $300 worth of scrap aluminum on the plant floor.

That scrap is collected, cleaned, and sent back to the aluminum plant on the same trucks that delivered it fresh—creating what CEO Mark Fields calls a “closed loop” that helps offset the expense of building its best-selling vehicle with a material that is far pricier than steel. “Every single scrap of aluminum is reused,” says Fields.

Every day, 50 semi tractor-trailers drive out of Ford’s F-150 plant in Dearborn, Mich., with thousands of pounds of shredded aluminum, scrap that was stamped out of 6-foot-wide aluminum rolls used to make F-150 body panels. Only 60%-65% of a roll is actually used in the stamping process because many body panels have big holes, such as windows. Ford installed systems to separate the six different aluminum alloys it uses and return them to mills in Iowa or New York, to be turned back into aluminum sheet for delivery to its Dearborn stamping plant. Ford’s aluminum recycling system, installed as part of a $359 million overhaul of the Dearborn factory, allows the company to recoup up to $300 a truck, helping offset about 20% of its higher production costs.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why was an aluminum F-150 a big risk for Ford?

2. What is a “closed-loop” system?

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