FAW Vehicle Manufacturers SA has further cemented its manufacturing footprint in South Africa and set for local and export growth.
A mere six months after opening its Coega-based assembly plant, just outside Port Elizabeth, China’s oldest and largest vehicle manufacturer has kicked off 2015 by commissioning production at its own local body shop.
The new body shop is located adjacent to the assembly plant, which was opened last year by the Vice President of the China FAW Group Corporation, Qin Huanming, together with SA President Jacob Zuma and the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies.
The Coega plant, with its capacity of 5 000 units per annum, represents the first high-quality Chinese manufacturer to set-up and contribute on this scale
Yusheng Zhang, CEO of FAW Vehicle Manufacturers SA, said that the decision to build the FAW plant in South Africa was very significant from a global perspective, as it is one of the most important and largest investments made by a Chinese entity in South Africa to date. This will increase local and export growth for FAW.
“At a cost of USD 60 million towards the establishment of this modern, high-quality vehicle production plant and all its associated infrastructure, this was truly one of the biggest votes of confidence in the local vehicle industry.
“The Coega plant, with its capacity of 5 000 units per annum, represents the first high-quality Chinese manufacturer to set-up and contribute on this scale, in the Eastern Cape region.”
Zhang said that it could have gone to Kenya or Tanzania, where FAW has been present in sales and service for over 30 years – but in the end it chose South Africa, a country where it has been operating in since 1994, because of the infrastructure.
The ergonomics for employees are such that much of the work is done standing upright, as unnecessary bending or crouching has been avoided wherever possible
FAW is one of few local OEMS to build a large-scale truck-body building shop, together with an appropriate paint shop facility on this magnitude. It is equipped using the latest and best global technology for long-lasting truck-body paint and finish.
The layout of the new truck-body building facility has been designed in accordance with environmental recommendations and standards. The build and logistics flow is highly efficient and cost-effective, and the building is well equipped with abundant ventilation, natural light and wide aisle space.
The ergonomics for employees are such that much of the work is done standing upright, as unnecessary bending or crouching has been avoided wherever possible. Once an SKD pack is off-loaded it is thoroughly checked for component quality.
The bulk of the pack, namely the bin, is checked and prepared for the assembly line. If minor reworking, including welding and grinding, is required, this is done first before the bin proceeds along the assembly line to the scalding and degreasing chamber, where it is thoroughly cleaned, treated chemically and dried.
After the basic metal preparation the massive bins are moved safely along gantries to the fitment stations. Other components, once checked, are moved to the ‘in-sequence’ stations where their fitment will take place – these include all hydraulics, lift arms and shafts.
High on the list of priorities are the SHEQ principles Safety, Health, Environment and Quality
Once the tipper body is carefully fitted, the completed vehicle is prepared for the paint shop. With the all the required hydraulics and the body fitment complete, the FAW vehicle is primed, painted and finished through the impressive paint shop, and parked in the drying and final inspection lanes.
High on the list of priorities are the SHEQ principles Safety, Health, Environment and Quality – and FAW allows no compromise on any of these, as skilled employees in this region of the Eastern Cape are a prime consideration. “Keeping our employees safe and comfortable is key to our retention programme and important as we invest in their training and up-skilling,” affirmed Yusheng Zhang.
The result of FAW’s efforts is paying off and the company has confirmed that its Africa dealers, who traditionally placed their order with FAW China, are now moving their shipments to originate from South Africa, owing to a shorter lead time for delivery, the high levels of quality which some have come to verify personally at Coega, and the reduced cost of sourcing FAW vehicles on the same continent.
“We are already working on a special order for the FAW Tanzania dealership…
As such, the company has dispatched its first five export units – the FAW J5P truck tractor – to its FAW dealership in Mombasa, Kenya, at the start of this year. Added Zhang: “Not only have we managed to produce the best quality levels, comparable – if not better – than our FAW parent company in China, but we’ve been able to do so in a very short run-in period for a plant that only came on stream six months ago.
“We are already working on a special order for the FAW Tanzania dealership. What is significant is that the Africa export destinations can more readily adjust some specifications to accommodate customers’ requirements specific to their markets.
“In this way we anticipate providing FAW trucks to Africa customers which will delight them with personalised modifications, as well as provide them with our renowned robust and durable FAW trucks, tipper and mixer ranges.” The Coega plant will eventually ramp-up to produce 5 000 trucks per annum, supplying trucks to the region, in both right- and left-hand-drive derivatives.
Plans in place estimate that 40% of production will be destined for the South African territories, while 60% will be exported. “Over the past 20 years the FAW brand and the company have tenaciously worked at swaying public perception to accept the high-quality vehicle manufacturing levels originating from FAW China, where production quality is upheld as a core value.
“FAW is positive about the future and the growth plan that has been formulated for the FAW brand in South Africa. FAW internationally rose as a result of the political dispensation in China, which allowed more free-market enterprise and encouraged overseas exports.
As China grew then, so will Africa grow now, and FAW is ideally placed to benefit from the demand for vehicles on the continent as FAW has established a solid presence where it counts,” concluded Zhang.