Good news from Toyota’s Durban plant

Production has resumed on virtually all the production lines at Toyota South Africa Motors’ (TSAM) manufacturing plant in Prospecton in Durban.

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This follows the suspension of production at the plant in April this year, following extensive damage caused to the plant by flooding.

This is good news for Toyota dealers, who have experienced stock shortages on domestically produced models for several months because of the suspension of production at the plant.

The plant produces Hilux, Corolla Cross, Quest, Fortuner and the Hiace Ses’fikile.

Andrew Kirby, the President and CEO of TSAM, confirmed on Thursday: “We will have significant volume as early as August because the lines will be up and running but it will not quite be where we want to get to.”

Kirby said production resumed on the Hilux, Fortuner and Hiace line last week and the Corolla Cross line this week, with the Corolla Quest production line scheduled to start up again next month.

The catalytic converter export line and Hino truck production line resumed production in May, he said.

Kirby describes the resumption of production at the plant as “an important milestone”.

“Our operations were suspended on April 12. It feels like an eternity since then, but we are very pleased that we were able to essentially start up all our lines,” he says.

Kirby says they are very anxious to accelerate their production volumes, adding that they are very aware that Toyota customers have been waiting for quite a long time for their vehicles.

“We will do everything we can to try and address those back orders as fast as we can,” he said at the official opening of the R365 million expansion to the Toyota Africa Parts Centre (TAPC) in Boksburg.

Responding to a question on what is being done by TSAM to catch up on the production that was lost, Kirby says the normal approach to the impact of the mud and flooding in the plant would have been “to replace everything”.

“However, that would have taken another six to nine months given the global situation with semiconductors, shipping delays and equipment manufacturers that have significant backorders.

“So, we took a route of trying to source what we could, and we had tremendous support from our colleagues in Japan to look for that equipment and we received equipment parts – spare parts – from all over the world,” he said.

Kirby added that equipment it could not replace was cleaned to ensure that every single component was clean, dried and tested.

“It was a tedious process, especially with our electronic control units,” he says.

Kirby says it is important to take this into account when they ramp up production in the plant because they know that over time not all of the repaired parts will be stable, resulting in them now being in a constant process of still fitting and installing the parts as they arrive.

He says this led to TSAM deciding it will not work any overtime until the end of September and will be using the weekends to install a lot of parts “as they arrive”.

“But we are very cognisant of two things. One is the impact we have on the entire value chain and all of those who rely on us to get going and then, secondly, our customers who are waiting for our vehicles.

“We thought this was the most appropriate approach to take, which means our start of production is not immediately to full production. We will ramp up production over the next eight weeks and accelerate from there,” he says.

Kirby says it is difficult to give a timeframe on how long it will take TSAM to impact the back orders but stressed “it’s going to take some time”.

He said TSAM will obviously do whatever it can to address the backlog, and the plant will be back at pre-flood volumes at the end of September this year.

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