FORD South Africa has created around 1 200 additional jobs by adding a third shift as part of its $1.05 billion (R15bn) investment in its Silverton assembly plant, which will be operating around the clock to meet export and local sales orders.
With the additional shift, the plant will be able to produce up to 720 vehicles a day, or 240 units per shift – which equates to one new Ranger coming off the line every two minutes, managing director Neale Hill said in an interview yesterday.
He said while they are working full steam ahead to realise value from the investments to increase production capacity, the company has in the meantime also faced logistics-related challenges on component and parts supply, which he said was mostly related to differing waves of Covid-19 in different countries, and associated restrictions in those countries. He said this had resulted in instances of production line stoppages, but their logistics staff had “put on their dancing shoes” to adjust, even though he expected there might be similar challenges for some time to come yet.
At the beginning of this month, the Ford Silverton plant in Pretoria produced its 500 000th Ranger for export since the vehicle’s launch in 2011. The decade-old model retains a 24 percent average market share in its segment of the market.
When the next-generation Ranger is launched in 2022, the facility will be able to assemble 200 000 vehicles a year, nearly double the 110 000 units it was capable of when production of the pickup began in 2011, and much higher than the 168 000 units capacity prior to the commencement of the latest investment.
Ford South Africa’s local workforce has increased to about 5 000 from the current 4 200, while an additional 420 jobs had been created at the plant’s on-site service provider.
This took the total Ford employees at the Silverton facility to more than 4 100, with 850 people also employed at Ford’s Struandale engine plant in Gqeberha.
The reintroduction of the third shift will support the assembly of more Ranger pickups and enable production capacity for the next-generation Ranger, starting in 2022, said Hill.
“This is the first use of a threeshift production schedule since it was implemented as a temporary measure in the second half of 2019 to fulfil higher production volumes required for the current Ranger – and will see the Silverton plant operating around the clock, five days a week,” Hill said.
“Key objectives of the $1.05bn investment in the Silverton plant and supplier facilities are to expand production capacity, and to introduce the most advanced technologies and systems to bring them in line with the best in the world,” said Ford South Africa VP Ockert Berry in a statement.
Two-thirds of the Rangers produced are currently 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.
Most of the assembly line changes were completed during a seven-week shutdown of the plant in July and August, with construction and engineering teams swooping in to remove the old equipment and install the latest technologies and production systems.