Ford’s major investment in its South African operations for the Next-Generation Ranger is delivering on its ambitious targets, achieving record production and the highest quality levels to date for the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria.
Reinforcing the segment-defining quality, technology, safety and performance of the locally produced Next-Gen Ranger, it was recently announced as the South African Car of the Year for 2023, becoming the first bakkie (pickup) to earn the coveted title since the competition began in 1986.
“The extensive modernisation and expansion of our local operations was focused on delivering must-have products of the highest quality to our customers in South Africa and more than 100 export markets around the world,” says Ockert Berry, VP Operations at Ford South Africa. “We are proud to be achieving all of our targets, and seeing demand for the Next-Gen Ranger exceeding all expectations, both locally and internationally.”
The frame line in Silverton
As part of the major investment programme announced in 2021, Ford constructed its first on-site Stamping Plant, built a completely new highly automated Body Shop, and modernised its assembly line with the latest production technologies.
The only Ford-owned and operated Chassis Plant was constructed in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) adjacent to the Silverton plant, and a specially developed Vehicle Modification Centre was installed to fit factory-approved accessories to customer vehicles prior to delivery, using the same quality controls and processes as the main vehicle assembly line.
“We certainly aren’t resting on our laurels and continue to invest in further upgrades to our Silverton Assembly Plant to further improve quality and efficiency, bolster our commitment to sustainability, and create a world-class working environment for our employees,” Berry says.
The Silverton Assembly Plant has an installed capacity for producing up to 200 000 vehicles per year – the highest volume yet for this facility, which assembles the Next-Gen Ranger as well as Volkswagen pickups as part of the Ford-VW strategic alliance. Based on three-shift 24-hour production, the plant is capable of producing up to 720 vehicles per day.
“We started production of the Next-Gen Ranger in the middle of November last year, and have steadily implemented our scheduled rate of climb as we kicked off with the Ranger Double Cab models, and followed this up with the Single Cab and Super Cab derivatives early this year,” Berry says. “We recently achieved our highest daily production number yet of 704 vehicles. We are delighted with the volumes and, crucially, the exceptional quality of the vehicles coming out of the plant.”
The paint shop skid cleaning facility
“There’s been a major improvement in first-time-through (FTT), which is a measure of the quality of production components and processes without having to do any repairs or reworks on the line,” Berry says. “This contributes to the efficiency of our vehicle production and is vital to achieving the required volumes, and ultimately means the best quality products for our customers.”
A total of 33 841 Next-Gen Rangers have been produced at the Silverton Assembly Plant up until the end of June 2023, with total Ranger domestic sales sitting at 9 258 vehicles over the same period (excluding 1 973 Next-Gen Ranger Raptors, which are fully imported).
In terms of exports, 24 583 Next-Gen Rangers have been shipped to export markets up till the end of June 2023 – the largest destination being Europe where the Ranger leads its segment. Vehicles are exported to more than 100 global markets through the Roll On Roll Off (RORO) terminals at the ports of Durban and Port Elizabeth.
Innovative new paint shop skid cleaning facility
With its unwavering focus on production quality, Ford has invested a further R22 million in an innovative new skid cleaning facility for its advanced paint shop, complemented by an extensive range of technology and system upgrades throughout the facility.
Automated full-body image capture of every vehicle produced
To ensure that every vehicle that comes out of the Silverton Assembly Plant meets Ford’s stringent quality criteria prior to being released from the facility, the company has invested R20 million in a high-tech DeGould Auto Scan system that replaces in-person inspection with a fully automated system.
The DeGould Auto Scan captures high-definition full-body images of every vehicle that passes through the Silverton plant’s Shipping Tunnel, and can detect any misbuilds, damage or defects smaller than can be consistently found by the naked eye.
The blue light scanner
The image capture of the entire vehicle is completed in just 6 seconds, with any defects or damage detected and highlighted in 30 to 50 seconds, with the integrated solution incorporating a dashboard that can be viewed on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Combined with barcode scanners, the system is fully integrated into Ford’s global quality management systems, and is trainable to detect and identify any new types of quality issues that may emerge.
This makes it a highly effective tool in raising the quality of the vehicles coming out of the Silverton plant, while providing an excellent source of data for any claims disputes.
Commitment to sustainability and the environment
“We are stepping up our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment by building a new scrap yard which will allow us to increase the amount of scrap that is sorted on site and recycled,” Berry says. The new R15 million facility will include undercover areas to protect paper waste from rain, and enable bailing of waste paper for recycling.
Cardboard and plastic waste generated as part of the manufacturing operations are also recycled, while recycling bins are located throughout the plant to promote employee participation in responsible waste management.
The new scrap yard has been designed to allow for future expansion as the site continues to grow, and further recycling initiatives are implemented.
In May 2022 the Ford Silverton Assembly Plant switched on its pioneering solar project, which uses 3 610 solar photovoltaic (PV) carports to generate 35 percent of the plant’s electricity requirements. All of this forms part of Ford Motor Company’s global sustainability drive to use 100-percent carbon-free electricity across all manufacturing operations by 2035, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.