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A Look Inside The Ford Torrence Plant's 'Command Center'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole got an inside look at a critical spot in Chicago's Ford plant following a $1 billion investment -- the command center.

Five hundred robots, 110 employees per shift, and two buildings make up the Ford Torrence plant's body shop, where a good part of the vehicles come together.

"I can tell it's running," said Ed Buistrom, the body shop's general manager. "It's green, and I made 314 units."

If you called the corner with computer monitors, work stations and video screens its command center, you'd be right. And there aren't many like it.

"It's unique," said Buistrom. "It's almost like you have your hand on the pulse of the shop in one place, and it's very visual."

Plants have been capable of measuring their activity electronically for years, but this center allows managers to monitor it all from one location and make adjustments.

"I can be watching my JPH -- jobs per hour -- in every segment," said Buistrom. "Because we want to be at maximum JPH. I can know if my area is running slow, if I am having manual faults."

Buistrom said if a system is down, he can observe it visually on camera. Software helps determine performance efficiencies like numerical output or color coded slow downs at various points along the line.

"At the end of the day I can have my top ten faults per zone and by occurrences, and it helps me manage the business, send the right resources," he said.

After a billion dollar makeover in March, which saw the addition of hundreds of new robots and a refashioned assembly line, Ford's Torrence plant is still working up toward maximum efficiency. The command center helps managers ramp up production and adjust procedures daily toward that goal.

The plant is now "manned" by more than 600 robots.

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