Growth envisaged for Gauteng economy as Ford simulator officially opens

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The Gauteng provincial government, along with Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) today officially opened a Production Simulator Facility, attached to FMCSA’s assembly plant in Silverton, Pretoria. This follows an announcement by FMCSA to invest approximately R3.4 billion to produce its All-new Ford Ranger pick-up truck in South Africa.

This world-class Production Simulator Facility is focused on improving the assembly process capabilities of current and future FMCSA employees, in preparation for the production of the All-new Ford Ranger.  The facility will enable FMCSA to train employees through simulating production processes off the line, long before they start building the new vehicle.

Once all FMCSA employees have been trained, the facility will be used to provide practical training for mechanical and industrial engineering students from tertiary institutions like the Tshwane University of Technology.

“While the facility will allow us to develop the assembly sequence and processes for our new product without disrupting the production of current models, it will allow us to improve the skills of our employees dramatically, enabling them to build world class vehicles, with best in class quality, and compete with the best in the world,” comments Jeff Nemeth, president and CEO of FMCSA.

“We’re excited about the opportunities this training facility will afford students in the engineering field. We see this facility as an enabler to grow and develop more engineering candidates not only for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, but for the industry”, concludes Nemeth.

According to an economic impact report, FMCSA’s investment will contribute R79 billion to the Gauteng economy over the next 15 years and create about 700 000 direct and indirect employment opportunities.

“The provincial government has demonstrated its commitment to growth in the automotive industry by including this sector in its industrial policies and future strategies,” says MEC for Economic Development in Gauteng, Ms Qedani Dorothy Mahlangu. An amount of R32 million was allocated for training and development programmes at the assembly plant, giving a much-needed boost to skills development in this sector.

The Supplier Park Development Company (SPDC), another Blue IQ subsidiary, is responsible for the building and its maintenance and its sister company, another of Blue IQ’s subsidiary’s in the automotive sector, the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), will provide recruitment and training of new and existing staff as FMCSA gears up to commence production.  The AIDC’s scope also includes induction, leadership and technical training as well as support to existing Tier 1 suppliers.

Amanda Nair, CEO of Blue IQ, says the project confirms the value of Blue IQ as a facilitator of strategic infrastructure that supports economic growth and job creation. “The ongoing collaboration between FMCSA and the highlights the strong level of confidence FMCSA has in the Province and our work,” she says.

Barlow Manilal, AIDC’s CEO, says that the project is goes to the root of the AIDC’s mandate: to assist the automotive industry in becoming more globally competitive. “After the launch, the simulation area is valuable for the ongoing training of operators, inspectors and repair personnel. It is also envisaged to be used for the training of engineers and learners in automotive related learnerships and engineering disciplines,” he says.

The facility is part of a project that also includes a BB-BEE Supplier Incubation Facility to nurture black-owned component suppliers.  Huge setup and investment costs have, in the past, limited opportunities for smaller enterprises to participate in this industry.

“Government is addressing the obstacles and constraints that SMMEs face in launching and reaching sustainability. They need to be geared for enterprise growth, not just survival,” says Mahlangu.