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Aaron works on the Ford Focus assembly lineEarlier this week I travelled to Detroit to get a sneak-preview of Ford's future. I also had a unique opportunity: I spent about forty minutes on the assembly line at the Wayne Stamping and Assembly Plant, where Ford builds the Focus.

What surprised me most about working on the line was how much there was to do. It wasn't just press a button, tightten a bolt and take a break. I worked at the station where the window glass is installed in the left-front door. That involved selecting the correct window, lowering it into the door (without scratching the paint on the doorframe) and seating it in its mounts, installing an anti-rattle strap, tightening the bolts that hold the window in place, testing and lowering the window, plugging in the power window motor, installing two grommets (one easy and one a *major* pain), and wrapping the door wiring harness neatly around the metal door-stop thingie, all while the whole operation is in motion. The regular workers do this about 65 times per hour. I found I could just about keep up if I simply ignored every other door. (Don't worry, porential Focus buyers -- Ford had plenty of people chasing after the doors I assembled, checking them and correcting my mistakes.)

Needless to say, I have a whole new respect for assembly line workers. I was aching after just 40 minutes, and these men and women do these same sort of jobs eight hours per day, day in and day out. Assembly line work may, by its very nature, seem easy, but trust me -- it isn't.

Special thanks to Kevin and Steve, the plant employees who showed me how it was done and corrected my mistakes, and to Anne Marie Gattari at Ford, who put the whole thing together (and snapped all the photos). It was a very, very cool experience. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Anne Marie Gattari

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