Ford aims to make its factories more flexible, efficient

DEARBORN, Michigan (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co is expanding its manufacturing footprint in emerging markets and overhauling its production methods to give it more flexibility and reduce plant downtime, company executives said Monday.

A global expansion that began in 2011 will see the addition by 2015 of new assembly plants in China and India, as well as new powertrain plants in Brazil, China, India and Russia, Ford officials said here at a ceremony marking the centennial of Henry Ford's moving assembly line.

The automaker also said it is reducing the number of global vehicle platforms to nine from 15 by 2017, and plans to build an average of four different vehicles per plant in a bid to improve efficiency, reduce cost and respond more quickly to changing consumer tastes.

Ford aims to further improve its manufacturing flexibility and speed by adopting such advanced techniques as 3D printing of prototype parts.

In a statement, Ford said 90 percent of its global factories by 2017 will run virtually around the clock on three shifts a day, boosting production run time by more than 30 percent. (Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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