For decades the promise of good pay and benefits have been enough to lure high-quality workers to automotive manufacturing jobs, but that won’t be good enough in the future, warns Ann Stevens, Ford Motor Co.’s vice president of North American vehicle operations.

In order for tomorrow’s lean, high-quality manufacturing systems to succeed, plant floor jobs will have to be more stimulating and worker friendly, and she says companies have to start asking themselves if they are doing enough to ensure that they will have desirable workplaces for not only today, but for the next generation and generations to come.

Previous generations of workers that did not have college educations were willing to “settle” for factory jobs that offered good pay and benefits, but little fulfillment. Tomorrow’s workers will be far less complacent, she predicts.

“If our manufacturing workplaces are seen as something that people settle for, then I think we’re done for,” says Ms. Stevens, who oversees 21 Ford assembly plants.

She also says the new Rouge Complex, which is slated to undergo a $2 billion redevelopment, will change from a “grunt and lift to think and do,” mentality.

Even though Ford now is the subject of several lawsuits by middle-aged white males that charge the automaker is pushing too hard to bring more diversity to its corporate culture, Ms. Stevens gives no hint that the company is backing away from its numerous initiatives to increase diversity at the plant floor level.

She emphasizes that a diverse workforce and non-discriminatory environment is essential to Ford’s lean production initiatives. Mentioning that the famous 1930’s era Diego Rivera mural of Ford’s Rouge plant shows little diversity among the plant workers, she says “I’m hoping the next artist that paints the Rouge will paint a much more diverse environment.”