Ford Dagenham Diesel Centre – the diesel revolution

Posted on 4 Jan 2012 by Tim Brown

Tim Brown takes a look inside one of Britain’s iconic manufacturers, the Ford Diesel Engine plant in Dagenham and talks to manufacturing manager, Martin Everitt about the Ford journey.

Ford Dagenham Engine Plant at a glance

Staff Numbers: 2000 employees

Turnover: $1.1bn

Customers: Ford,JaguarLand Rover and PSA

Export/domestic: Approx 80% of Engines are Exported

Output: Approximately 1 million engine units per year. Of that less than 10% of units are made for Jaguar Land Rover

KPIs: OEE Assy line Uptimes between 85% and 95% excluding Launch effects. Lost time case rate 0.23 (four incidents a year to date). Quality Repairs per 1000 @ 0MIS 0.07 to 0.27 for Ford Products

Key figures: Dave Parker, plant manager and Martin Everitt, manufacturing manager

Ford in Dagenham has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in the past eight years. Not only has the company seen a growing demand for its diesel car engines but, off the back of that success, the company has undertaken a number of class-leading initiatives to help drive further improvements.

Following the steep increase in oil price which has occurred since the turn of the century, diesel cars have increased tremendously in popularity due to their increased mileage capacity. As the only Ford diesel engine plant in Europe, the Ford Dagenham Diesel Centre has experienced a large increase in demand for its diesel engines with production at the site reaching nearly a million units in 2010, compared to just 600,000 in 2000.

“We’ve done a lot of work here in Dagenham to increase our efficiencies and productivities to meet those customer demands,” says Martin Everitt, the site’s manufacturing manager. “We’ve been working very hard, as a team here in Dagenham, to deliver the efficiencies we need to meet what has been an outstanding customer demand for diesel engines.”


Part of that hard work has meant considerable investment in technology, facilities and tooling but has also included a concerted effort to ensure connectivity within processes and roles. One of those areas of focus has been to ensure a solid design capacity at the plant. “We have co-located product design engineers that are resident here onsite,” says Everitt. “We don’t just make engines here we have a design community here that are creating new engines.”

From a manufacturing perspective, the benefit of having these teams onsite is so the designers and engineers can be involved in the process and see any issues firsthand. “We walk the lines with the designers so they can understand if we have a manufacturing concern or not. In addition it means we can work together to help achieve new opportunities that they want to realise.”

As well as the close relationship between engineers and production, the management at Ford Dagenham has actively sought to ensure an amicable relationship with the employers unions. This relationship has been built over time and now involves a weekly Friday meeting where the company picks one of the engines and sits down with theUnionto discuss the status and challenges of producing that particular product.

The Ford Dagenham site produces four main engines architectures.

  1. 2.2L diesel engine used in: Ford Transit, Citroen Relay, Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Boxer, Peugeot Expert, Fiat Ducato, Fiat Scudo, Land Rover Defender
  2. 1.8L diesel engine used in: Ford Transit Connect
  3. 1.4/1.6L diesel engine used in: Ford Fiesta, Ford C-Max, Ford S-Max, Ford Fusion, Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo, Mazda 2, Mazda 3, Volvo V50, Volvo C30, Volvo S40
  4. 2.7/3.0L V6 diesel engine: used in the Jaguar XF, Jaguar XJ, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Peugeot 607, Peugeot 407, Citroen C6, Ford Territory TS.

The site’s continuous improvement strategy has also reaped important rewards for the Dagenham plant which are fed their improvement objectives from the very top. Ford has a balanced scorecard approach which details a number of metrics from which Ford plants are to be measured. Those objectives, which include safety, quality, delivery, costs, morale, maintenance, and environment, work their way down to the work groups and individual operators on the shop floor.

“We do regular reviews with each work group which are either completed by the foreman, production team manager, the area manager, myself, or Dave Parker and we will sit down with the work groups and figure out where they are and what progress they are making and what support they need.”

The Ford mentality is very much a team centred approach. Improvement is not achieved simply through the addition of more technology. It is about working with people and getting those people aligned so that everyone know what needs to be achieved and getting the tools in place to achieve those objectives.

“We have workgroup boards where all the objectives are stated and the groups track their performance against those objectives,” says Everitt. “Some of the information is automatically generated and some of it is manually created. We then review performance against the scorecard objectives.”


According to Everitt, all the work groups have achieved important and interesting improvements. However, he says, one area in which they have been performing very well has been the cycle time improvement on CNC machines.

“We buy our CNC machines from a major machine tool company and we buy them as a part of a programme for a new engine for example. That company will do all the programming of the machines and all the CNC codes.”

Recently, the production team on the 1.4/1.6L TDCi diesel engine noticed an opportunity within the CNC programming code, and over the last year, they have improved the cycle times on the pretty much the whole of the CNC lines by up to 20%. That has meant an important improvement in the efficiencies of those lines over the last year.

Traditionally CNC coding is an engineer’s role but Ford has sufficiently up-skilled its workers so as to have the skills on the shop floor. That means operators of the equipment are capable to interrogate the code and find ways to improve performance through the machine tool code itself.

“From a staffing and skills perspective, the people around us are one of if not the most important assets that we have,” says Everitt. “Making sure that they are engaged and also skilled to right levels is paramount in the success of the Dagenham engine plant. We’ll continue to engage with the workforce and continue to, where we can, up-skill the workforce to make sure that we can face the challenges coming towards us.”

Environment is on the cards

The environment is one of the criteria which help make up Ford’s balanced scorecard formula. For that the company looks at environmental compliance as both legal requirement but we also as an area to drive potential innovation. “We track and task ourselves against energy consumption, water usage, chemical consumables, landfill waste and also making sure that we have the right operating systems in place to ensure that we continually monitor and track the environment and react to any issues.”

One of the issues that have impacted the Dagenham plant along with all other industrial sites in theUK, is the increase in energy costs and carbon reduction requirements. As a result, like other Ford sites in theUK, Ford Dagenham has undertaken a collaborative project with wind turbine company, Ecotricity, to install three wind turbines.

In October of this year, the company completed construction of its third turbine and the site has the potential for at least one more. The turbines provide green electricity which is fed into the grid to offset the power used on site. At their current capacity, the three wind turbines now fully offset the power used in the estate’s Dagenham Diesel Centre.

Ford has just finished launching its new range of EU5 emission standard engines and its engineers have already started working on the EU6 engines for the next level of EU emission standard requirements. With the market demanding more efficient and lighter engines, Ford is continuing to work on developing new engine architectures to meet those customer demands as well as to satisfy the company’s own environmental considerations and regulatory compliance requirements. As a result the company have committed to invest £1.5bn into R&D and manufacturing over the next five years so as to rise to the challenge and continue to make engines that are best in class.

While Ford’s footprint in the Dagenham area is not as extensive as it once was, it is clear that the diesel engine plant which still remains draws on the considerable experience and expertise of the Ford brand. Taking the initiative and drive which saw Ford of Britain develop into an industrial powerhouse of the mid twentieth century, the site continues to demonstrate the forward thinking attributes for which the parent company was originally made famous.