The one steel factory here occupies about 350 acres and its annual production of 3.5 million ingot tons makes its owner the ninth-largest steel manufacturer in the United States.
The same corporation owns the nation's second-largest producer of flat glass, much of it used in new buildings; one of the world's largest manufacturers of iron, steel and aluminum castings; the second-largest North American producer of plastic components and automotive paint and third largest manufacturer of vinyl materials; a growing electrical and electronics business; one of the world's largest tractor builders and a major aerospace and communications subsidiary.
These businesses are among the little-known operations of Ford Motor Co., the nation's third-largest industrial corporation and one of the most diversified multinational enterprises in the world economy.
To a large extent, these non-automotive operations and Ford's booming international car and truck business (a record 2.14 million vehicles sold outside the U.S. and Canada last year, up more than 5 percent) are sustaining Ford's health today as the company's North American car and truck business has sagged substantially.
Moreover, Ford Diversified Products Operations chief Thomas Page said in a recent interview the company's non-automotive enterprises will be expanding in coming decades.
"Overall, the company must continue to diversify to protect itself against industrial ups and downs . . . and we have a foot in the door in many markets of the future, with 10,000 people engaged in high-technology . . . some 4,000 scientists in the field," he stated.
Already, Page's operations amount to a large conglomerate on its own. If established as an independent corporation, Ford's diversified products business would rank about 30th in size among the largest U.S. industrial corporations (about the size of Westinghouse or RCA Corp., with annual sales of around $7 billion).
The diversified products group -- really six manaufacturing divisions, the worldwide tractor business and the aerospace defense subsidiary -- employ one-fifth of Ford's $22 billion in assets and about a fifth (86,000) of the company's workers. Included are 46 major plants and research centers on three continents; about 60 percent of its business is automotive-oriented and many of its products are "sold" to other Ford operations.
All of this reflects founder Henry Ford's goal of a self-sufficient company and his legacy is unique in the American automobile industry. In more than 75 years, Ford has grown from a Detroit wagon factory staffed by 10 persons and a capitalization of $28,000 to the multinational firm of today with manufacturing and sales in 30 countries and some 500,000 employes.
Nowhere is the ideal of a totally integrated factory more evident than here, at the Rouge complex on 1,200 acres -- the largest such industrial center in America.
Five Great Lakes vessels, owned by Ford, haul iron-rich pellets, limestone and coal here -- some from the company's own raw materials reserves and mining properties. The steel plant here then produces about one-half the Ford's own basic steel requirements in normal times; today, Ford is selling more than half its steel output to other businesses, because of reduced auto-truck sales volume.
Nearby are a production assembly line, now turning out Mustangs; a completely rebuilt engine factory, which will build motors for Ford's new Escort and Lynx "world cars," a modern computer headquarters, linked with Ford's European engineers by satellite communications; and dozens of other research, manufacturing, sales and administrative centers. Ford's own generating plant supplies the electricity needed -- or sells excess power to nearby utilities.
If one of Henry Ford's original ideas was to establish such an integrated production complex, one of the goals of today's Ford managers is to use the skills and knowledge of their employes to expand broadly in many endeavors.
Page said he anticipates "abnormal growth" in two of Ford's non-automotive businesses and continued expansion in the other lines, as well. The explosive growth sectors he sees are:
Electronics, ignited initially by new space technology that is being applied in the automobile business already but which is expected to expand to other complications. Compact electronic devices generally permit practical and multiple operations at low cost for mass output. Ford's people "are on the leading edge of technology," based on space program experience, and Page said Ford could "mass produce" a lot of different products.
Plastics, particularly more use of plastic components in autos to help in downsizing the fleets and making cars lighter.
Page also forecast substantial increases in satellite business, with a "standard mode of communications" in 20 years being home receiver stations; continued gains from defense spending and a role for Ford in building solar energy equipment.