Work Prepared: Ford outfits the ultimate work trucks with Work Solutions products
Ford chose the City of Broad Shoulders, aka the City that Works, to unveil a new line of factory-order dealer-installed accessories designed to transform its tough pickups and vans into job-site command and control centers for busy contractors (they will be busy again someday, right?). The suite of four products was developed in conjunction with name-brand suppliers, like the Cable Lock system developed with Master Lock. A high-strength retractable eight-foot cable can be strung through the handles of valuable tools and then shackled to a tie-down ring or the heaviest tool for security when parked.
DeWalt helped develop the Tool Link system, which ensures that all the tools necessary for the job are loaded before leaving for the site, and that they're all back aboard when departing. Simple non-powered radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are fixed to all the tools and registered in the truck's onboard Window CE Microsoft Auto computer system. A contractor can group tools by job, then simply select a particular job from the menu screen, whereupon two sensors in the bed hail the RFID tags, indicating which tools are present and which are missing.
Need to download a schematic or access invoices from your office computer? The in-dash radio head unit, developed with Magneti Marelli and Sprint provides broadband internet access (using EVDO Rev A, coverage for which is not yet universal). A wireless keyboard and optional Bluetooth printer connection allow document printing. Files do not reside in the vehicle but they can be viewed, printed, and saved to an office computer. (Officials swear the Microsoft Auto system is inherently more immune to computer viruses than your laptop.) The unit incorporates a Garmin navigation system with a touch-screen user interface exactly like that of the company's aftermarket Nuvi systems. Find an address using Google or Mapquest and drag it to the Nav screen to program for route instructions. Bluetooth phones also connect to allow voice activated hands-free calling.
Finally, the Crew Chief component allows a fleet user to track and monitor all its vehicles. A tracking device mounts in the engine bay and reports position, fuel economy, idle time, and can monitor the vehicle diagnostic systems, notifying the fleet administrator of malfunctions or impending maintenance needs, minimizing downtime. Ford's Work Solutions products will be offered on 2009 F-series pickups, E-series vans, and the upcoming 2010 Ford Transit Connect microvan, and many components can be retrofit to earlier models.