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Ford Motor Co.'s stamping plant in Hamburg is getting a new $62 million press that will allow it to make parts that are bigger and speed up its production, company officials said Tuesday.

"To me, it's what I call the life blood of the plant," said Andrew Herbert, the manager of the stamping plant, which employs nearly 1,600 hourly and salaried workers.

The new press, which will replace an existing press, will give the stamping plant new equipment that uses the latest technology and could speed up production compared with the plant's current capabilities, he said.

"It definitely gives the plant a better competitive edge, in terms of being able to do a wider variety of parts," Herbert said. "We can get more parts through faster."

The Hamburg plant sends parts, mainly metal door panels, hoods and side panels, to about 16 Ford plants in North America and Europe. It makes parts for a variety of Ford vehicles, including the Freestyle minivan, its F-series pickups and the Explorer sport utility vehicle.

The new press, which will be made by German manufacturer Schuler, will have a 3,000-ton capacity, a 50 percent increase from the plant's current capability of 2,000 tons, Herbert said. The speed of the press also will be about 50 percent faster than the plant's current capability.

"We're right on the edge of our press capabilities," Herbert said. The ability to handle larger pieces could be significant in the future as higher-strength materials are used in the stamping plant's components.

Initial work modifying the stamping plant to make room for the new press is expected to begin in January, Herbert said. The new press, which will replace an existing press within the plant, is scheduled to begin operation in June 2006.

The investment in the new press is being funded by Ford, Herbert said.


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