Ford’s Rouge Complex Celebrates 100 Years

Karen Dybis

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From its green roof to its high-tech interior, the colossal automotive assembly complex known as the Rouge is one of Henry Ford’s greatest achievements. Opening in 1918, the Ford Rouge complex inspired awe as it brought raw goods into one side and completed cars and trucks rolled out from the other.


Today, as the Rouge celebrates its 100th anniversary, we are honoring the legendary factory by highlighting its historical significance as well as investing in its future. These investments include an expanded nearby training center, a manufacturing-innovation hub and a volunteer program to pay tribute to the Rouge River itself, the waterway that inspired Henry Ford to build his dream factory along its banks in Dearborn.


The commemoration of the 100th year of production at the Rouge includes preparing the plant for its next stage as we will start to produce electrified Ford F-150 in two years. Through environmental initiatives such as its massive green roof, zero-waste-to-landfill policy and patented aluminum recycling system, the Rouge will remain a vital part of the company and Ford Motor Company’s environmental commitment.


“To us, it’s more than a factory,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company. “It’s a source of pride for generations of workers who have built the best cars and trucks in the world. It’s an all-American symbol of strength, opportunity and hope, a place where we’ve always been creating tomorrow together.”


To bring the Rouge into its second century, we are investing millions in the plant and supporting facilities. Our new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center in nearby Redford – which will be fully operational by the end of 2018 – will provide the latest in robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality, allowing the Rouge to make transformational vehicles, including the F-150 Hybrid. We are also investing in a $35 million expansion of the UAW-Ford training facility near the plant.


“When it comes to building the best trucks in the world, we never rest,” Bill said. “Whether they’re gas, diesel, hybrid – or when the time comes, fully electric – the smartest, most capable, most dependable trucks in the world will always be Built Ford Tough.”


The Rouge also will continue its environmental commitment through a new volunteer program with Friends of the Rouge, a local group that focuses on cleaning and preserving the Rouge River. Ford employees and the Friends of the Rouge will help clear the waterway, remove excess vegetation and hike its expanse to learn more about its renowned history across Metro Detroit.


For the past 100 years, the Rouge has been a self-sufficient manufacturing powerhouse. Its contribution to the industrial revolution cannot be overestimated – at its peak, more than 100,000 workers punched in at the complex every day. It had its own fire department, police force and hospital to help take care of this massive workforce, which would have ranked the plant as the fourth biggest city in Michigan in the 1930s.


Our innovations within the Rouge is also steeped in history. Workers sought employment here not only for the famous $5-a-day wage, which built the middle class, but also because the company hired people with disabilities when other businesses would not. From its first days, the Rouge produced steel, glass and power to build everything from Eagle boats for the U.S. Navy during World War I to tanks, armored cars and engines for robot bombs. Ore came into the Rouge and vehicles emerged in as little as 28 hours. To date, the Rouge has produced more than 28 vehicle models, and it was completely redesigned in 2014 to build the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150.


The Rouge has seen good times and bad, including 18 different recessions, the Battle of the Overpass, which brought news of the union movement into everyday households, and the 1999 explosion that killed six Ford employees who were like family members to the company.


Today, the facility’s 7,500 employees work three shifts around the clock to manufacture America’s best-selling truck. Dearborn Truck Plant employees in the Rouge Complex produce a new truck every 53 seconds. More than 10 million people have toured the Rouge to observe the modernization of the factory floor, study the sustainability practices that have made the Rouge a beacon of environmental action and get a sense of its grandeur.

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