Gibela produced a staggering six train sets in August and another six in September, the most it has produced since the start of its production in 2018, crowning it one of the fastest locomotive manufacturers in the world.
In the past three years, the company has ramped up production, from one train set every two months to producing six train sets in a month, each with unprecedented levels of quality, safety, comfort, speed and reliability.
“It took hard work, positivity and consistent problem-solving. We are celebrating this milestone understanding what it took to get us here. It is unbelievable what we have been able to achieve. I am very, very proud,” says Loic le Gorrec, operations director at Gibela.
This is an incredible feat accomplished in the face of major disruptions affecting manufacturers worldwide, including Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and a global shortage of electronic components, all of which have had severe operational and financial consequences for the company.
How was this achieved? Every crisis is an opportunity to improve
Thabo Raphahlelo, a senior production manager responsible for the assembly of car-body structures and all exterior components, says that producing twelve train sets in the past two months is the result of many changes in systems and processes implemented to help speed up production and reach clear targets.
“In manufacturing, delays are inevitable because we are dealing with thousands of parts and hundreds of suppliers. It’s about navigating those delays and finding ways to stay on track and adhere to the plan. We have a mature, youthful team that knows what to do. Our processes are clearly defined and we are already gearing towards achieving the next target – which is stabilising the six trains per month and improving our cost.”
At least 80% of Gibela’s staff are youth (under 35-years-old) who have been trained and upskilled by the company, which has seen them become world-class manufacturing staff. They form part of the determined team that worked tirelessly to make this achievement a reality.
“It is incredible to be able to harness the energy that young people have and channel it into a production of this scale. It has taken years to get to this stage due to the disruptions we have faced… but we are so proud of the Gibela team for this milestone,” says Le Gorrec.
Thabiso Komako, Gibela’s head of manufacturing, says the constraints that Gibela and the manufacturing industry at large faced over the past two years initially created uncertainty in the factory. But he saw this as an opportunity for the team to think differently and reimagine production, while creating an atmosphere that cannot be easily shaken.
In motivating the team, the name “the Cheetahs” was conceptualised to describe the team responsible for manufacturing and delivering quality train sets at Gibela. The name speaks to the team’s speed, resilience and tenacity, and members of the team believe in their ability to rise to challenges and always deliver quality train sets.
The Cheetahs are determined to beat their current six-train record and dominate the train-manufacturing world.
Mogomotsi Viyuyi, senior production manager in Gibela’s fitting assembly shop, says the accomplishment is worth celebrating.
“We had major backlog issues with parts, and the way the team found solutions and recovered was amazing; they showed commitment and ingenuity,” he says.
Kabelo Motoma, a production manager at Gibela whose role is to complete the last manufacturing cycle of the train, says this win can be attributed to planning, leading, and coaching within the organisation.
“When we got those four domains in place, we were bound to succeed,” he says.
While forging ahead to manufacture six trains per month until 2030, Gibela has not lost sight of the importance of quality. In fact, Mongezi Sibiya, head of the Testing and Commissioning Department, says while there is a concerted effort to work with speed, the quality and safety of the train sets always remains a focus.
A popular aphorism says that people are an organisation’s greatest asset. Gibela’s Cheetahs echo this sentiment and believe that the company’s intense focus on collaboration and teamwork will yield bigger and better results in the future.
“We are on the right track and poised to grow further. I am proud of the work that this team has put in to achieve such a significant milestone,” Le Gorrec concludes.