Colin-on-Cars – Major moves at Ford ahead of new Ranger

Ford South Africa is in literal overdrive mode, having sneaked a few images of the upcoming next generation Ford Ranger that will be manufactured at its Silverton, Pretoria plant at the same as announcing it has produced its 500 000th Ranger for export, which is a fitting achievement since it is also the current model’s 10th anniversary this year.

The #NextGenRanger will be revealed later this year and launch in 2022 and, according to Ford, embraces superior off-road credentials and Ford’s dynamic driving DNA, to be the toughest, most capable and connected Ranger pickup yet developed by Ford.

Ramping up for prodiction has also meant the creation of 1 200 incremental jobs by adding a third shift as part of the R14-billion investment in its Silverton Assembly Plant.

View the official glimpse video here –

Exports of locally assembled Ford Rangers initially commenced in 2000 for the previous-generation model, but it was the 2009 announcement of a R3,4-billion investment in Ford’s local operations that transformed the Silverton Assembly Plant to build the current and, at the time, most advanced Ranger yet.

The export-driven investment programme also encompassed the Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), which commenced production of the 3,2-litre and 2,2-litre Duratorq TDCi engines and components for domestic assembly and for exports to other Ford plants around the world.

The then all-new Ranger was launched in South Africa in October 2011, and has gone on to become one of the country’s best-selling vehicles, the leading light commercial vehicle (LCV) export, and an important contributor to the success and growth of the domestic automotive industry and the economy as a whole.

“The launch of the new Ford Ranger in 2011 was a watershed moment for Ford South Africa, for the domestic market and the broader pickup segment internationally,” says Neale Hill, MD of Ford South Africa. “It immediately set entirely new benchmarks in the pickup sector for performance, technology, safety, comfort, refinement and capability.”

At launch in 2011, the installed capacity for local Ranger production was 110 000 vehicles a year, but ongoing investment in Ford’s local operations ramped up production capacity to 168 000 units by 2018.

A total of R11-billion was invested in Ford’s South African manufacturing plants over this period to facilitate the volume growth, as well as to introduce new technologies such as the impressive new 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo and Single Turbo engines assembled at the Struandale Engine Plant. These engines were launched in 2019 as part of a comprehensive Ranger upgrade which included the sophisticated new 10-speed automatic transmission.

“Achieving 500 000 exports for Ranger is a fantastic milestone for the South African team,” says Ockert Berry, VP Operations at Ford South Africa. “The investment and subsequent launch of the current Ranger in 2011 transformed our manufacturing operations, and put South Africa firmly on the map as a high-volume single platform manufacturer for Ranger, both for the domestic market and, crucially, for exports to more than 100 global markets, including Europe where Ranger is now the top-selling pickup.

“Although the milestone 500 000 exports extends from 2000 to 2021, the start of the new Ranger export programme in 2011 took our manufacturing operations to new heights,” Berry says. “We went from a total export volume of around 16 500 units of the previous Ranger between 2000 and 2011 to just shy of half a million units of the current model between 2011 and 2021. We are exceptionally proud of the legacy that has been built for Ford in South Africa, and our ongoing commitment to the country.”

The local workforce has increased from the current 4 200 Ford South Africa employees to approximately 5 000, along with an additional 440 jobs at the plant’s on-site service provider. This takes the total Ford employees at the Silverton facility more than 4 100, with 850 people employed at Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant.

The reintroduction of the third shift will support expanded production of the current Ranger pickup to meet strong local and international demand. It will also enable an increased production capacity for the next-generation Ranger, starting in 2022.

This is the first use of a three-shift production schedule since it was implemented as a temporary measure during the second half of 2019 to fulfil higher production volumes required for the current Ranger – and will see the Silverton Assembly Plant operating around the clock, five days a week.

“Crucially for our communities, the higher production volumes mean more jobs, and we are delighted to add the 1 200 jobs that now fill the third shift from the beginning of September,” Berry says. “We first ran three shifts and 24-hour production for a limited period in 2019 to meet higher volume targets, and we are delighted to reinstate this extra shift as a permanent fixture as we ramp up our production.

With the additional shift, the Silverton Assembly Plant will be capable of producing up to 720 vehicles per day, or 240 units a shift – which equates to one new Ranger coming off the line every two minutes.

Additionally, Ford is currently constructing an all-new Body Shop and Stamping Plant on the Silverton site, along with a new in-house Frame Line in the adjacent Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ).

“The biggest change has been a total redesign of the plant layout,” says Plant Manager Tim Day. “The progressive evolution of the plant saw it growing organically over the years, which resulted in a less-than-ideal layout. Accordingly, we’ve completely reworked the assembly line to maximise efficiency through the vehicle assembly and validation processes.

“We’ve removed roughly a kilometre and 20 transactions out of the previous assembly line flow by eliminating the back-and-forth movement of vehicles within the plant during the various stages of production,” he adds. “This will result in all of the manufacturing processes and quality checks being performed in the zone where it’s manufactured, contributing towards greater efficiency and more effective quality control before the vehicle moves to the next station.

“We did away with the previous vehicle carriers and replicated the skillet system which is used at Ford’s leading plants around the world, including the Ranger plant in Thailand and the F-150 plant in the US,” Day explains.

“The skillet system is far less bulky and restrictive, and eliminates the various platforms and levels that people had to work around previously.”

Click here to view the video on the Silverton upgrades:

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