Roy Cokayne

The Eastern Cape automotive cluster has launched a pilot project to introduce an internationally acclaimed manufacturing approach in South Africa that will bring cost savings and improve global competitiveness for automotive suppliers.

The total production maintenance (TPM) approach is the cornerstone of the Indian and Japanese automotive industries and will be piloted at five suppliers in Nelson Mandela Bay before it is extended to other suppliers in the Eastern Cape.

The initial participants are seat component and catalytic converter manufacturer CRH Africa, tyre reinforcing beadwire supplier Natstan Wire, automotive emission control and ride control designer and manufacturer Tenneco, automotive and commercial lighting manufacturer Lumotech and exhaust system flexible couplings manufacturer SJM Flex.

The programme, one of the first major initiatives of the Eastern Cape automotive cluster since its establishment in March last year by the industry and Eastern Cape government, was launched this week.

It focuses on ensuring plant and machine efficiency. After full implementation, the programme is expected to reduce machine stoppages at participating suppliers by 80 percent and as a consequence, plant capacity could quadruple.

Gareth Fismer, the leader of the programme at the Eastern Cape automotive cluster, said this represented a substantial cost saving given that a single line stoppage created significant losses in productive time, rejects, cost and delivery issues, particularly when that delivery was scheduled to be just in time to a supplier or original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Fismer said the introduction of the TPM programme for the first time in the country was an important day for the industry and “the beginning of a journey that will drive down costs and increase the global competitiveness of suppliers’’.

Lance Schultz, supplier development manager at the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), said the programme’s introduction followed an extensive survey and visit to India’s leading manufacturers.

“We discovered that TPM is the focus of manufacturing excellence programmes at leading manufacturers and this is what is fuelling India’s growth as an automotive manufacturing centre.

“The TPM approach is centred on a partnership with machine operators in a plant to ensure machines operate at maximum capacity for the duration of their lifespan. This partnership ensures that stoppage time is greatly reduced and efficiency and cost effectiveness increased,’’ he said.

Schultz added that in contrast to leading suppliers globally where TPM was meticulously implemented and evaluated on a daily basis, the approach in South Africa was “haphazard and unstructured’’.

Fismer said the TPM programme would run over three years and suppliers could apply for TPM certification, which was a highly regarded business excellence certification with global OEMs.

The programme will be facilitated by engineers from the AIDC with shop floor intervention provided by two of the foremost international experts in the programme, the UN Industrial Development Organisation’s international technical expert, Arthur David, and the Confederation of Indian Industries’ principal counsellor and head of the Institute of Quality in India, Rajesh Parim.