Ford will invest R15.8-billion (873 million euros) in its South African operations to produce the new-generation Ranger pickup at its Silverton assembly plant, in Tshwane, for the local, as well as more than 100 export markets, starting in 2022.
in Engineering News, by Irma Venter, 02-02-2021
The plant currently produces the current generation Ranger pickup, also for the local and export markets, including Europe, as well as the current Ford Everest model for local and some African export markets.
Announcing the project in Tshwane on Tuesday, Ford International Markets Group operations director Andrea Cavallaro described the investment as the biggest in the 97-year history of Ford in South Africa.
“This confirms Ford’s firm and ongoing commitment to South Africa and its people.
“This programme will further modernise our South African operations,” he added. “We are going to transform the Silverton assembly plant into a modern, state-of-the-art production facility.”
Of the R15.8-billion, R10.3-billion will be invested in upgrading the Silverton plant, including increasing production volume, as well as driving improvements in production efficiency and vehicle quality.
The upgrades include a new body shop, extensive changes to the paint facility and final assembly line to improve vehicle flow, expansion of the container and vehicle yards and construction of a new vehicle modification centre.
It also includes a new stamping plant, which will be located on-site for the first time.
The new stamping plant will use a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet metal components for the new Ranger.
The plant will include a fully automated storage and retrieval system for stamping dies, which will be housed in the roof of the facility.
In addition, a blue-light scanner system will scan surfaces for imperfections.
The multibillion-rand investment will see yearly installed capacity at the Silverton plant increase to 200 000 vehicles, up from 168 000 units.
The revamped Silverton plant will also manufacture Volkswagen bakkies as part of a global Ford-Volkswagen strategic alliance.
The new investment was set to create 1 200 incremental jobs at Ford Motor Company South Africa (FMCSA), adding to the existing 4 300 jobs at the assembly plant, said Cavallaro.
It is also set to create an estimated additional 10 000 new jobs across Ford’s local supply network, bringing the total to 60 000 jobs.
Cavallaro noted that Ford would also invest R5.5-billion to upgrade tooling at the company’s major supplier factories.
“Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernise together to deliver world-class quality for the all-new Ranger at higher volumes for our domestic and import customers.”
“As part of our extensive investment in the Silverton plant, we also are building a new Ford-owned and operated chassis line in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) for this new vehicle programme,” noted FMCSA operations VP Ockert Berry.
“Having this new line and our major component suppliers located adjacent to the Silverton plant in the TASEZ is key to expanding our production capacity, as parts will be sequenced directly onto the assembly line.
“This will significantly reduce logistics costs and complexity, improve efficiency and allow us to build more Rangers for our customers.”
Cavallaro said the new Ranger platform would be able to accommodate alternative drive trains, with the plant also able to produce other models and variants, should that become necessary in future.
Silverton is one of five plants around the world that produces the Ranger. The others are located in Thailand, Argentina and in the US.
High-Capacity Rail Corridor
Cavallaro said Ford was working closely with all three spheres of government and relevant State-owned entities such as Transnet, in developing the Gauteng Province (GP) – Eastern Cape Province (EP) High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor, in what is “an exciting and important project”.
This is envisaged as a full-service line linking the Silverton plant and the TASEZ with Port Elizabeth, which is home to Ford’s Struandale engine plant and the Coega Special Economic Zone.
The GP-EC High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor will channel the majority of Ford’s inbound and outbound logistics through Port Elizabeth to support the Silverton plant’s higher production volumes.
“Durban is starting to get logjammed and we need efficient flow of material. What this is going to do is allow us another option, and with us having the Struandale engine plant down there [in Port Elizabeth] is just fantastic for us,” Cavallaro told Engineering News Online.
“We’ll bring parts in from Port Elizabeth and send vehicles out and avoid some of the delays of Durban.
“When you are effectively doubling the size of the plant and you have that amount of containers and vehicles – 75% of our vehicles are essentially going to be exported – we absolutely need a lean logistics route.
“Is it absolutely mandatory for our investment to happen? I would say no, but there is an in-principle understanding that we need to do something and right now our preference would be this corridor and it seems government is onboard.”
One of the other key benefits the corridor would deliver was from a quality perspective, added FMCSA MD Neale Hill.
“Operating from Port-Elizabeth means we reduce the amount of vehicle handling. We would be able to deliver vehicles directly to the dock side, versus in Durban where it takes us probably three movements before a vehicle gets loaded onto a vessel.
“[This corridor] is an extremely serious ask from us to government to significantly improve logistics in South Africa. Having to rely so heavily on road infrastructure to move vehicles is just inefficient. It means we are actually not world-class when we are competing with other countries.”