Isuzu consolidates production

A major slice of South Africa autotive history is being consigned to the books with the move by Isuzu Motors South Africa to leave the Kempston Road, Port Elizabeth plant and consolidate its manufacturing operations at its Struandale facility.

The R27-million project of relocating the Isuzu truck production facilities from Kempston Road in Port Elizabeth to Isuzu Motors South Africa’s headquarters in Struandale, Port Elizabeth, ensures all bakkie and truck manufacturing now takes place under one roof.

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The relocation follows the official merging of Isuzu’s truck and bakkie business in February last year with the establishment of one company, Isuzu Motors South Africa.

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Michael Sacke, said having both Isuzu production facilities under one roof has many advantages – including driving a common team culture and the optimisation of shared resources.

After 21 years of truck production at Kempston Road, it was the end of an era when the last truck rolled off the production line on 30 November 2018.

“We started with regular production of our market-leading trucks at their new home in Struandale in January 2019. These changes have resulted in greater efficiencies in terms of our manufacturing support resources and an opportunity to improve the application of our lean manufacturing system,” says Sacke.

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It took many months to study, plan and execute the truck plant move and offered the ideal opportunity to correct historical layout inefficiencies, said the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Executive, Johan Vermeulen.

“Materials are now stored closer to the truck line which reduces travel distances substantially. This improves efficiency and eliminates waste and unnecessary cost. We also used the opportunity to work together with our source plant to change the way that material is packed, providing us with easier access to the correct material at the correct time. We also came up with some innovative solutions with regards to material storage,” said Vermeulen.

Compared to the Kempston Road location, a 50% improvement in space utilisation under one roof was achieved, and a 22% improvement in the overall amount of space required.

Managed by Isuzu Motors South Africa’s internal team using local contractors, site preparation took around eight months (Phase 1) followed by the relocation, commissioning and start-up of the truck facility in just seven weeks (Phase 2). Phase 2 took place during the shutdown period, which also included in-depth training for the truck manufacturing team.

By positively promoting a single company culture, the new modern site will allow for shared production learning.

“By uniting the two manufacturing facilities, the end result will be even better, that is, quality products and services to both our truck and bakkie customers,” Vermeulen concluded.

Isuzu’s investment in South Africa a year ago preserved 1 000 direct jobs and secured around 4 000 jobs through its network of 80 dealers in South Africa and 35 dealers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Isuzu also ensured the continuity of business with around 430 direct and indirect suppliers; while managing its smooth transition to new operations and to a new dealer network.

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The company successfully transitioned to new Information Technology systems and moved its engineering equipment from Kempston Road to the Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre in Markman Township in Port Elizabeth. Furthermore, Isuzu’s dealer network also went through major changes in line with its dedicated focus of providing the right solutions to light commercial vehicle, SUV and commercial vehicle customers.

“As we look towards future growth, Isuzu is keen to play its part in the economic development, growth and transformation of South Africa along with our customers, dealer network and partners. As a company we experienced a wave of positive change throughout the organisation both operationally, strategically and in the market place,” says Sacke.

In 2018, Isuzu expanded its product portfolio in Southern Africa through the addition of the new SUV competitor, the Isuzu mu-X. The 40-year-old KB bakkie’s name changed to D-MAX, aligning to the global naming convention with a new, enhanced D-MAX hitting the market at the same time.

For the first time in 2018, Isuzu became the highest volume selling truck brand in South Africa. Additionally, Isuzu has occupied the number one position in the medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle segment of the South African market for six years in a row.

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