LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Ford's work at its retooled Louisville Assembly Plant is about 80% done. In fact, they've just started pre-production - or practice versions - of the Escape SUV. Friday, plant leaders invited state and local leaders and members of the media in for a sneak peak at what the future looks like for Ford and its Louisville workers.
When LAP starts rolling the Escape off the line, it will be with the help of dozens of robots and they're much different than the robots the plant used to have.
Plant Manager John Savona said before, "it was put in to weld, put together parts for a specific vehicle. Now we have the flexibility either on the end of the robot or the end of the pallet to change over products by moving details or by reprogramming,"
LAP will open with space available make additional vehicle models and that could include hybrids.
Savona says once suppliers are ready, which should take about six weeks, they can switch the plants equipment in a matter of hours.
"It's really just a matter of going down the line robot by robot and changing programs and so we can do it pretty quick," he said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear went along for a first look at the changes at LAP. The governor believes he's getting a good look at the future.
"What this does, folks, is it puts Kentucky right at the cutting edge of all of these advanced manufacturing processes," Beshear said. "It's going to tell the world that not only do we know how to work with companies to bring this process here but we've got the skilled workforce right here in Kentucky ... Advanced manufacturing is the wave of the future. We can either get on board and make it work to our advantage or we can be victims."
Even though robots typically eliminate jobs, as we've reported, LAP will actually add 1,800 workers. Savona says that's because they're going to be turning out many more and more complex vehicles.
The Louisville-made Escape will be unveiled at the L. A. Auto show in November.
As for the people here in Louisville who've applied for the new Ford jobs, the company will notify those who are at the top of the heap after the round of testing over the next six weeks.