Good news for the South African economy and especially for the larger Pretoria region is the increase in jobs at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant.
Ford has created around 1 200 incremental jobs by adding a third shift as part of the $1.05 billion investment in the Silverton plant.
The local workforce has increased from the current 4 200 Ford South Africa employees to approximately 5 000, along with an additional 440 jobs at the plant’s on-site service provider. This takes the total Ford employees at the Silverton facility to over 4 100, with 850 people employed at Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha.
The reintroduction of the third shift will support expanded production of the current Ranger pickup to meet strong local and international demand. It will also enable an increased production capacity for the next-generation Ranger, starting in 2022.
This is the first use of a three-shift production schedule since it was implemented as a temporary measure during the second half of 2019 to meet higher production volumes required for the current Ranger – and will see the Silverton Assembly Plant operating around the clock, five days a week.
“Our key objectives with the $1.05 billion investment in the Silverton Assembly Plant and our supplier facilities are to expand our production capacity and to introduce the most advanced technologies and systems as we modernise our manufacturing operations to bring them in line with the best in the world,” says Ockert Berry, Vice-President for Operations at Ford South Africa.
“The employees who were brought on board and trained in 2019 were given first option to take up the new positions, and it is fantastic to see our Ford family growing as we head into the most exciting and dynamic chapter yet of Ford’s history in South Africa as we prepare for the next-generation Ranger in 2022,” Berry adds.
With the additional shift, the Silverton Assembly Plant will be capable of producing up to 720 vehicles a day, or 240 units a shift – which equates to one new Ranger coming off the line every two minutes. Two-thirds of the Rangers produced are exported to more than 100 global markets, including Europe where it is the top-selling pickup. The balance is sold in South Africa, regularly achieving overall top-three sales.
When the next-generation Ranger is launched in 2022, the facility will have an annual installed capacity for 200 000 vehicles – which is nearly double the 110 000 units it was capable of when production of the current Ranger pickup began in 2011, and a significant increase from the 168 000 units prior to the commencement of the latest investment.
To meet the new production targets, the Silverton plant’s assembly line has undergone an extensive transformation focused on wide-ranging upgrades to modernise the facility, enhance efficiency and improve production quality throughout the plant. Additionally, Ford is currently constructing an all-new Body Shop and Stamping Plant on the Silverton site, along with a new in-house Frame Line in the adjacent Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ).
Most of the assembly line changes were completed during a strategic seven-week shutdown of the plant in July and August this year, with construction and engineering teams coming in to remove the old equipment and install new technologies and production systems.
“The seven-week shutdown enabled us to implement the largest and most comprehensive upgrade and modernisation of the Silverton Assembly Plant to date,” says Plant Manager Tim Day. “Our entire focus is on being world-class and comparable with the best Ford manufacturing plants globally. This is essential as we work towards delivering the required production volumes and achieving the highest quality levels for our customers.
“The biggest change has been a total redesign of the plant layout,” Day says. “The progressive evolution of the plant saw it growing organically over the years, which resulted in a less-than-ideal layout. Accordingly, we’ve completely reworked the assembly line to maximise efficiency through the vehicle assembly and validation processes.
Taking the unwavering focus on product quality to even greater heights, a completely new Customer Acceptance Line (CAL) facility has been installed where specialised quality inspectors scrutinise every aspect of the vehicle on a brightly lit audit line – validating the accurate fitment of parts, paint and bodywork quality, and the operation of all vehicle systems.
A new Vehicle Modification Centre is being constructed too, for the on-site fitment of a variety of optional Ford-approved accessories. This facility will have its own dedicated rattle and squeak track to make sure Ford’s quality standards are maintained in the final fitment process.
Extensive training has been completed with the existing and new Silverton Assembly Plant employees and suppliers to facilitate the smooth transition and implementation of the new technologies and systems.
“People are our most important and valuable asset, so along with the plant upgrades and associated training, we have also invested in the aesthetics and practical elements of the entire facility to turn it into a more modern, relaxed, respectful and welcoming work environment,” Day says.
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