Johannesburg - The implementation of the latest Ford production system at its plants in Silverton, Pretoria, and Struandale, Port Elizabeth, has contributed significantly towards making Ford’s plants in South Africa among the most productive and efficient in its global manufacturing plant network.

Ockert Berry, the vice-president responsible for operations at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, said the system was not only streamlining production and cutting costs but also unlocking potential in employees.

Berry said an indicator of the improvement by the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa was that it took 60 hours to build a vehicle 10 years ago, but now only took 27 hours and the Silverton plant also produced more complex models than a decade ago.

He added that Ford’s latest lean manufacturing processes were originally developed in 2006/7 and implemented in South Africa in 2008.

They were developed after the compilers had worked through all the existing production manuals, simplified them and focused on value-added processes and standardisation as a means of improving productivity and quality levels.

Key elements of the Ford production system (FPS) include effective work groups, zero waste, zero defects, aligning global capacity with global market demand, optimising production throughput and using total cost to drive performance.

Each principle has a set of guidelines or “measurables” to assist the company and its employees in meeting or exceeding objectives.

A major aim of the compilers of the system was to ensure that it empowered team members, who wanted to be better informed than in the past so they could make more meaningful contributions to the success of the company.

Berry said the FPS was a structured system that resulted in a structured day for each team member who, if they stuck to the rules, could deliver daily outputs that were in line with the requirements for each aspect of the scorecard.

Each team member working on a Ford production line anywhere in the world has a worksheet which spells out how and why they need to perform certain operations and each operation has checks and balances to ensure it is carried out correctly.

Multi-skilling

Berry said multi-skilling also formed part of the empowerment process embodied in the FPS.

Every operator on the assembly line is trained to be able to carry out four different operations efficiently so they can stand in for absent team members when necessary.

Berry added that one of the initiatives used by Ford Southern Africa to entrench the new FPS was to take groups of 20 process leaders and operators at a time to Ford’s plant in Chennai, India, so they could experience global standardisation in action.

He said this programme continued for 18 months and about 500 team members underwent training in India over this period, which proved very beneficial in entrenching FPS at the Silverton plant.

Berry said the overall FPS programme had resulted in amazing improvements in productivity and quality at the Silverton plant with the manufacturing operation now rated as one of the best in the Ford world.

BUSINESS REPORT