• Advanced technologies and systems to modernise and grow Silverton to support expanded production of the new Ranger, starting in 2022
  • Extra 1,200 workers for expanded production, taking SA workforce to 5,500. Estimated 10,000 new jobs across supplier network
  • US$686m (R10.3bn) investment in technology, upgrades and new facilities
  • Annual installed capacity up to 200,000 vehicles from 168,000
  • Silverton to become one of the first Ford plants globally to achieve 'Island Mode' status, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024
  • Private-public partnership with all three spheres of government in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) crucial to unleashing new production capacity
Construction of the expanded Silverton plant is well under way

Construction of the expanded Silverton plant is well under way

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Ford on Tuesday announced an investment of US$1.05bn (R15.8bn) in its South African manufacturing operations, the biggest investment in the automaker's 97-year history in the country.

It also represents one of the largest-ever investments in the South African automotive industry, boosting production capability and creating new jobs.

"This investment will further modernise our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen," said Dianne Craig, president, Ford international markets group.

"Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best [model] ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality."

With this investment, the Silverton plant is expected to generate revenues exceeding 1.1% of South Africa's gross domestic product.

Annual installed capacity will increase to 200,000 vehicles from 168,000, supporting production of the redesigned Ranger pickup truck for the domestic market and export to 100 markets. The plant also will manufacture Volkswagen pickups trucks as part of the Ford-VW strategic alliance.

The expanded production will help create 1,200 incremental Ford jobs in South Africa, increasing the local workforce to 5,500 employees, and adding an estimated 10,000 new jobs across the local supplier network, bringing the total to 60,000.

The overall investment includes $686m (R10.3bn) for extensive upgrades to the Silverton Assembly Plant that will increase production volume and drive significant improvements in production efficiency and vehicle quality.

These include construction of a new body shop with the latest robotic technology and a new high-tech stamping plant, both of which will be located on-site for the first time. Both facilities will modernise and streamline the integrated manufacturing process at Silverton while contributing to higher quality and reducing overall cost and waste.

The new stamping plant will use a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet metal components for the new truck line. It includes a fully automated storage and retrieval system for stamping dies, which will be housed innovatively in the roof of the facility, thus eliminating related labour-intensive processes. In addition, a modern blue-light scanner system that scans surfaces for imperfections will ensure the highest-quality final product leaves the stamping plant.

Extensive upgrades also will be made to the box line, paint shop and final assembly to improve vehicle flow within the plant, along with the expansion of the container and vehicle yards.

Ford also will build new vehicle modification and training centres – the latter to ensure all employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to maximise the efficiencies of the enhanced Silverton facilities.

"The extensive upgrades and new manufacturing technology will drive efficiencies across our entire South Africa operation – from sequenced delivery of parts direct to the assembly line, to increased vehicle production line speeds and precision of assembly to ensure the world-class quality that our customers expect," said Andrea Cavallaro, director of operations, international markets group.

Island mode

The new investment program builds on the recently announced Project Blue Oval renewable energy project which aligns with the company's global target of using 100% locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The first phase of Project Blue Oval already is under way with the construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at Silverton.

"Our aim is to achieve 'Island Mode', taking the Silverton plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024," Cavallaro said. "It will be one of the very first Ford plants anywhere in the world to achieve this status."

Modernising supplier base

Ford also will invest US$365m (R5.5bn) to upgrade tooling at the company's major supplier factories.

"Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernise together to deliver world-class quality for the new Ranger at higher volume for our domestic and export customers," Cavallaro said.

Economic growth

"As part of our extensive investment in the Silverton plant, we also are building a new Ford-owned and operated chassis line in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) for this new vehicle programme," said Ockert Berry, vice president, operations, for Ford Southern Africa.

"Having this new line and our major component suppliers located adjacent to the Silverton plant in the TASEZ is key to expanding our production capacity, as parts will be sequenced directly onto the assembly line," Berry added. "This will significantly reduce logistics costs and complexity, improve efficiency and allow us to build more vehicles for our customers."

In addition to its representation on the TASEZ board, Ford also is working closely with all three spheres of government and relevant state-owned entities such as Transnet, in developing the Gauteng Province – Eastern Cape Province High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor. This will be a full-service line linking the Silverton plant and TASEZ with Port Elizabeth which is home to Ford's Struandale engine plant and the Coega Special Economic Zone.

The GP-EC High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor will channel all of the automaker's inbound and outbound logistics exclusively through Port Elizabeth to support the higher production volume. It is projected to create thousands of jobs within the value chain.