FITS-Enabled Customization for the New Ford Maverick

FITS-Enabled Customization for the New Ford Maverick

Since joining Ford Motor Company in 2016, Scott Anderson has managed several design teams through the production design process for SUV/Truck interiors as part of Truck Studio Design Team Bronco Sport and Ford Maverick. He has led the team through human-centered design processes, starting from foundational customer research and building unique user experience content for interior design. In addition, Scott is an Adjunct Faculty in College for Creative Studies, mentoring and educating future transportation and vehicle designers, emphasizing on design as fine art and engineering integration, system-level thinking, sustainable design techniques, and project-based learning.

In an interview with Manufacturing Technology Insights, Scott Anderson, Interior Design Manager at Ford Motor Company, talks about the trends in automobile interior designing and how the new 2022 Ford Maverick will feature customization options leveraging 3D printing, supported by the new Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS).

What were the challenges you have faced in the manufacturing industry?

We had a lot of manufacturing challenges when we were into FITS (Ford Integrated Tether System). We were looking at leveraging advanced manufacturing, RP (rapid prototyping), and 3D printing to enable more flexibility in shaping geometry factors. It is an interesting premise because we first put on clay models and prototypes in the studio and got into intense negotiation with our engineering partners and PD teams to understand how to mold these into the plastic of the product part. Our console engineer helped us get through with parting line edges and simple designs that could be made to work in an injection molder with high volume capacity. It was all a fun process, though. 

Could you elaborate on your journey within the manufacturing space?

It has been a long road. Over the years, I've seen a lot of changes in what I do in a job role. I started with an engineering background but went back to school in 2000 to become an industrial designer at College for Creative Studies (CCS). I worked with a few companies before joining Ford in 2016, working on projects like Broncos and now finally with Maverick as a designer. My engineering background has helped me back up my design knowledge. It has been particularly helpful on the Maverick program with a lot of design manufacturing reductions to bring down cost and enhance the value of the plastics in the interior. We have created a design that gives customers the flexible space to customize; making sure it is applicable for high-volume injection molding.

How did you come up with this idea?

We did a lot of research on our customer base during the early stages. One of the significant things we gathered through research is that customization according to users is making the vehicle their own. We started working on making things modular and plug and play to make things that people could change on their own. 

 

The idea behind FITS slots is ingenious and adaptive, and that is what gets customers to the Mavericks. The FITS slots can be used as a device to enable simple customization without fasteners or special tools by just sliding it into the spot. 

How do you plan to scale FITS? 

We have great interest from customers for an open-source set of data that allows for personalization. FITS was designed to meet this purpose.

Essentially, it is parts that you can slide into the Ford Maverick that make it more customizable. Some of these parts are available for purchase through Ford, and many of them can be 3D printed with the slot geometry that Ford will be sharing with the QR code in the Mavericks FLEXBED. This means you can download the FITS app from our website and make your own parts in your own time and print out whatever accessories you like. This could potentially be an open platform for people to share what they have created or even sell and make a small business out of. 

Ford accessories might start making special elements down the road based on the customer needs. Moving forward, more people would want to customize and individualize their vehicles. We also hope to trigger interest with the initial set of things we have made. With the 3D printing aspect of it, users can make their own special elements for customization at home. That is what we are stretching for.

To what extent is this customizable?

The sky is the limit on color choice if you can imagine printing your own or even have a file that can be sent to a company to print for you. This opens up doors for the user to make almost any pallet they like or want. The user can also choose to rubberize the pieces on the instrument panel or 3D print in any color or customize storage pockets and bends, or even put their name and logo to make your own custom accessory.

This is just the beginning of something we have created in our Ford catalog, and as an interior designer, I am keen to take it to other places too. We are looking at all kinds of possibilities for customization and cargo management systems.

What is your vision for the company as well as the designing industry at large?

We at Ford have a vision of being customer-focused. We pay attention to how people use the products and make sure to give the user the feeling when they are inside a Ford interior- that we thought of them and how they would use that interior. That is what we are passionate about.

Secondly, Ford has always been very purposeful and ingenious with the products they bring to the market. We keep pushing from our end what we can do better for our consumers. We believe in doing more with less and being smart and intelligent about applying and presenting our molded technologies and plastics to the customer. FITS slots are a good example of that, where a simple item, but with a very specific shape, helps lock things in as it's molded right into the geometry of the plastic. It is low cost, simple, and easy to do, and manage technically but allows the customer to customize their vehicle and be flexible with the storage space more than ever before. 

We also acknowledge the fact that we are building a platform for people to be creative. That is really important, especially in the truck space, because truck people tend to be makers for doers and think of a product or service from that viewpoint. Products for them have got to be purposeful and intentional, which was a big part of how we sorted through Maverick interior designs. 

What advice would you give to young professionals looking to embark on the same journey as you have?

I would advise them to keep an open mind. They should be able to think laterally and creatively. What is important, especially in the automotive sector, is to take inspiration from what is outside of the automotive space. 

I also teach transportation design at CCS in Detroit. So whenever I am with students, I always remind them that inspiration can come from anywhere. It is also critical to find the right education path for you. For the growth of the designer in you, it's important to challenge yourself and keep your eyes open to different inspirations outside of the product you are building. The best ideas come from an amalgamation of two existing things put in a new way. There are times when all kinds of other things like fashion and architecture serve as kernels of ideas that bring out a new perspective. So be alert to take in the cultural input and convert it into shapes and forms people like to look at and, at the same time, serve the purpose also.

 

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