An additional 1 200 new jobs, including 104 skilled artisans and technicians, have been created at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s Silverton plant through the addition of a third shift to meet demand for the new Ranger.
Neale Hill, MD of Ford South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, confirmed the feasibility of more investment in the plant to further increase its capacity, which would result in further additional jobs being created, was being considered.
Hill said apart from the flexible shifts on Fridays, the plant could also move to Saturday and Sunday production if they needed additional volume. However, Hill said this was something they would be very cautious about because it impacted on family life.
“Further capacity expansion is possible with more investment into the plant in terms of high capacity in certain areas and more labour,” he said.
Hill said it was exciting to be a part of a company that was continuing to show growth and invest massively in the South African economy, had the confidence it did in the economy in the long term and was looking to grow and expand its presence in South Africa.
“I think its significant, the fact that the automotive industry in South Africa contributes 7% to the country’s GDP and the Ford Motor Company accounts for 1% in terms of its total contribution to South Africa’s GDP,” he said.
A third shift has been introduced in the plant despite Hill acknowledging that year-to-date total vehicle sales were trending down by 3.7%, which was “certainly creating a very challenging environment”.
Ockert Berry, the vice president of operations at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, said on Wednesday a total of 5 500 people now worked for the company in South Africa, with the introduction of the third shift also creating an additional 10 000 new jobs in its supply base.
He said they were now supporting 60 000 jobs in their value chain.
Berry said the introduction of the third shift followed the investment of R3 billion in the production capacity of the plant since 2017 and the R11 billion invested in the plant between 2009 and last year.
“These investments reaffirmed our commitment to South Africa and that we are here to stay.
“The investment enabled extensive reworks at the Silverton Assembly Plant to expand our production capacity from 124 000 vehicles per year to 168 000 units, which is 58 000 vehicles more than our original capacity when the current Ranger programme commenced in 2011,” he said.
Berry said the production facility had been set up to produce 720 vehicles a day from Monday to Thursday with 480 vehicles produced in the two shifts on Friday. He said the flexible Friday shift enabled them to switch and increase production to between 150 000 and 168 000 vehicles.
About two thirds of the plant’s production was destined for the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s 148 exports markets around the world. Berry said they wanted the Silverton plant to be the exporter of choice going into the next market and their core focus was always on ensuring their cost per unit was more competitive than Thailand and the rest of the countries that manufactured the Ranger.
He confirmed increased demand for the New Ranger and the Ranger Raptor had resulted in Ford commencing with the export of vehicles through Port Elizabeth in April this year.
Berry said this was a strategic move to address the high level of congestion at the Durban Harbour’s Roll On Roll Off (RORO) Terminal, which was the country’s primary import and export hub.
He said about 1 000 Rangers were being exported via this new route each month, which had improved the efficiency and delivery timeframes to European markets, and export volumes through Port Elizabeth would grow further
Port Elizabeth was also home to Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant, which supports two global diesel engine programmes.