Ford Ramps up Production of Next-Gen Ranger, Continues Investing in World-Class Manufacturing

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.”

As part of the major investment program announced in 2021, Ford constructed its first on-site Stamping Plant, built a completely new highly automated Body Shop, and modernized 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.

Record production

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.

“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.

As the first fully automated facility of its kind in the Ford world, the robotic skid cleaning cell uses extremely high water pressure of 2 500 bar to remove built-up paint residue from the vehicle skids that carry the vehicles through the painting process. This allows for consistent docking and positioning of the body and loadbox on the skid, which ensures optimal paint application.

By continually cleaning the skids, the amount of dirt, residue and contaminants entering the Paint Shop is also greatly reduced, thereby improving the quality of the paintwork and the facility’s FTT.

The new skid cleaning facility enhances Ford’s recent Paint Shop upgrades, which includes extended ovens and paint inspection tunnels, along with an upgraded automated wax sealant application process.

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 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.

Creating a world-class working environment

Having world-class manufacturing facilities and equipment are essential tools to produce vehicles of the highest quality, but investing in people is just as important. “Creating a working environment that is welcoming and our employees are proud of plays a crucial role in improving morale and creating sense of community within the plant, and we are extremely proud of the extensive work that has been done to achieve this,” Berry says.

“We have spent more than R20-million over the past six months updating our employee facilities, canteens, communal areas and pedestrian access to create a world-class working environment for our staff, and the response from employees has been very positive,” Berry adds. “It’s all part of promoting employee wellbeing, engagement and a commitment towards achieving our common goal, which is ensuring the ongoing success of our business.”

Ford has installed a fully equipped laundry facility at the Silverton plant with an investment of R5-million, which enables employees to have their personal protective equipment (PPE) clothing washed on-site in a controlled environment, ready to be worn for the next shift. This project supports a new BBBEE business that reinforces Ford’s commitment to creating local employment and enterprise development. It is currently staffed by 14 people.

One of the other notable changes was the construction of a new centralised canteen for the Stamping Plant and Body Shop employees. The new facility is bright, fresh and modern while capturing the essence of Ford’s long and proud legacy over the past 100 years in South Africa, and its 120th anniversary that is being celebrated globally in 2023. Along with the indoor canteen, the area incorporates undercover braai facilities, as well as covered and open-air seating to give employees the space and comfort to relax and socialise during lunch breaks.

Struandale Engine Plant

All of the engines that power the Next-Gen Ranger are produced at Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha. The Struandale plant won the overall Exporter of the Year title in 2022 from Exporters Eastern Cape, signifying the important role it plays in the automotive industry in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The Struandale Engine Plant currently produces the impressive new 3.0L V6 Diesel engine that is fitted to the top-spec Ranger Wildtrak, and is responsible for machining the V6 cylinder heads and engine assembly. It is built on the same line that assembles the 2.2L four-cylinder and 3.2L five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engines – making it the only Ford plant in the world that produces in-line and V-configuration engines (and a combination of four, five and six-cylinder engines) on a single line. The installed capacity for the line is 130 000 engines per year.

Ford’s renowned four-cylinder 2.0L Single Turbo and 2.0L Bi-Turbo engines are assembled on a separate line, with the facility and both engines upgraded for the Next-Generation Ranger. It has an installed capacity for 120 000 engines per annum.