Every 52 seconds, another Ford F-150 rolls off the line at The Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, making it the world’s best selling truck, and generating over $28 million in daily revenue. The Henry Ford Museum offers an elective tour of the Rouge as part of its a la carte admission package.
For Leah and me, it was never a consideration. We elected to take the tour to see how our beloved truck was assembled.
The self-guided tour consists of five parts:
The Legacy Theater, offering a short film charting the Rouge’s 100-year history–from Model A to present.
The Manufacturing Innovation Theater, a special effects homage to Ford’s F-150 truck, from vision to conception;
The Observation Deck Tour, with views of Ford’s 10-acre living roof of sedum and associated rainwater reclamation system, which provides a cost-savings of $50 million in annual maintenance.
The Assembly Walking Plant Tour, which carries observers along a catwalk above the production floor for a birds-eye view of the final assembly of an F-150;
and, The Legacy Gallery, which showcases some of the legendary cars manufactured at the Rouge.
To be clear, there is a strict no photography policy during the film presentations and assembly plant portion of the tour. However, being the renegade that I am, I was determined to capture a few frames as I walked the perimeter of the production walkway…but in a covert fashion.
The line never stopped moving with the exception of lunch at noon. It was an industrial pas de deux of human labor and robotic engineering, with components arriving from overhead conveyors and snatched for assembly.
My camera hung casually around my neck as I moved from station to station, where I’d stealthly point my lens in a general direction, always avoiding factory workers, yet hoping to record this dynamic performance. Along the way, I was mindful of patrolling docents, who were fountains of statistical information, but also doubled as picture police.
While I admit to taking a foolish risk, I also confess to the challenge of shooting blindly with the notion that something sublime might materialize.
Somehow, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who sneaks a shot or two! You out there, you know who you are, and you know what I’m talking about.
Nevertheless, I’ll surrender my digital files if I have to, but I will not surrender my ride.