Efforts rewarded

Nissan South Africa managing director, Mike Whitfield, has warned that although the company will continue to invest, industrial action could lead to decreased international support making other countries better manufacturing propositions.

He was speaking at a function at which Nissan was rewarded for its efforts with regard to economic growth and job creation by the Capital City Business Chamber (CCBC) in the form of the 2017 CCBC Award for Manufacturing.

The CCBC, which was established in 2008, aims to encourage business development in the greater Tshwane region.

Nissan Group of Africa MD, Mike Whitfield, accepted the award and participated in a panel discussion about smart cities being a driver for economic growth.

“Nissan South Africa has been committed to skills development and job creation for decades with our Rosslyn, Pretoria plant and we are proud of this award that recognises our much-needed contribution to economic development,” he says.

The automotive industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the local economy and contributed 7,5% of South Africa’s GDP of R3,99-trillion in 2015. Vehicle and component production represents about 30% of SA’s manufacturing output.

“While we will continue to invest in the country, it must be said there are potential stumbling blocks in our future as frequent industrial action combined with a decrease in domestic and international support could make other countries a more lucrative option for vehicle manufacturer.”

He went on to highlight that South Africa remains a strong manufacturing destination for a variety of reasons that include access to Africa, a sophisticated financial services and business sector, relatively low production costs, well-developed logistics, government support, skills development programmes and excellent quality of locally produced vehicles.

In recent years, the Rosslyn plant, which employs 2 000 people, has been running an engineering training programme after Nissan realised there was a shortage of core skills in the motoring sector. Roughly 50% of the students selected to participate in the training programme are black women.

“There is great potential for growth locally and throughout Africa. We are optimistic about the long-term future of the automotive and manufacturing sectors, and Nissan will continue to do its part to stimulate economic growth and job creation well into the future,” says Whitfield.


Capacity upgraded

Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has invested more than R125-million to upgrade the 3 000-metre vehicle conveyor system at its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria in order to increase its production capacity for the locally-built Ford Ranger and Everest.

The investment forms part of FMCSA’s manufacturing expansion plans to increase the plant’s capacity by 22% from 27 jobs/hour to 33 jobs/hour by January 2018, following the move to a two-vehicle facility last year when the Ford Everest joined the Ford Ranger on the Pretoria assembly line.

The new conveyor system, which began operating earlier this year, optimises the plant’s automated Electro Monorail System Webb conveyor between the body shop and paint shop, improving overall production efficiency by reducing stoppages.

This means fewer delays in production and an increase in the number of vehicles manufactured for the South African market, as well as for export to 148 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Andreas Bruditz, area manager for the Body Shop, explained the new system improves the structural capability of the system by significantly reducing and, in some cases, eliminating interruptions between the two production areas.

“The new conveyor is based on similar systems employed at Ford assembly plants in Europe, using proven technology to maximise production efficiency and capacity.”

An additional benefit of the new system is the conveyor decouples the Body Shop from the Paint Shop, which allows one area to continue work should the other have a stoppage. The new conveyor has also created a buffer zone between the two areas, which allows for last minute body-panel adjustments and repairs to be made before the vehicles enter the Paint Shop.