Ford Motor Company has announced an investment of R600-million in the Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). This investment supports the launch of a new 3.0L V6 turbodiesel engine, as well as upgrades to the existing assembly line for the 2.0L Single Turbo and 2.0L Bi-Turbo diesel engines – all of which will be offered in the next-generation Ford Ranger pick-up, set for launch in 2022.
“The R600-million investment in the Struandale Engine Plant is part of our commitment to modernising and growing our local operations and is over and above the R15.8-billion investment in the Silverton Assembly Plant and supplier tooling that we announced in February this year,” says Ockert Berry, VP Operations, Ford South Africa.
“Through this investment we are introducing a third diesel engine to the Struandale operations, in the form of the new 3.0L V6 turbodiesel engine that will power selected next-gen Ranger models when production commences next year,” Berry says. “However, the majority of the investment is going into expanding and modernising the current assembly line that has produced the existing 2.2L and 3.2L Duratorq TDCi engines since 2011.”
The extensive changes to this assembly line will enable the Struandale Engine Plant to run a flexible format, as it will produce the new 3.0L V6 turbodiesel engine alongside the Duratorq TDCi engines. There are 40 stations on the line that will be common to both engines, with a further 25 stations unique to the 3.0L V6.
The plant will have an annual installed capacity of 21 000 units of the 3.0L V6 turbodiesel engine when production commences mid-2022. The combined installed capacity for this line is 130 000 engines per year, although it has been designed to allow the split between the two engine programmes to be adjusted based on future demand.
“We are introducing Ford’s state-of-the-art production technologies, such as the latest tooling along with advanced camera and transponder systems that are fully integrated into Ford’s global Quality Management System, as used in our modern assembly line for the 2.0L Single Turbo and 2.0L Bi-Turbo engines,” Berry says. “This allows us to record and validate every step of the assembly operations to capture the entire birth history of each engine. This is an essential part of ensuring that we deliver world-class quality for our customers around the world.”
In addition to the assembly operations, the Struandale Engine Plant will also be responsible for machining the cylinder heads for the 3.0L V6 diesel engine. “The investment programme includes new equipment as well as retooling, upgrading and redeployment of existing machining operations for the cylinder head,” Berry adds. “The machining line has an initial installed capacity of 42 000 cylinder heads per year for the V6 engine, but has also been designed to accommodate higher volumes in future, if necessary.”
“In addition to the new 3.0L V6 engine programme, the existing assembly line for the 2.0L Single Turbo and 2.0L Bi-Turbo engines is being modernised and upgraded to accommodate design changes for the next-generation Ranger,” Berry says.
“Furthermore, the updates being introduced on this assembly line will facilitate greater complexity with additional derivatives of the 2.0-litre diesel engines being introduced, increasing the current nine derivatives to 13 when production commences for the next-gen Ranger.”
“This will be supported by a move from the current two-shift production to 2.5 shifts, increasing the 320 engines produced per day when we launched this programme to 445 units per day to meet the local and international demand for the Ranger,” Berry says. Installed production capacity for this assembly line remains at 120 000 units per annum.
While the number of people employed at the Struandale Engine Plant remains unchanged at approximately 850, the employees allocated to the various machining and assembly lines will be optimised to support the required production volumes for all three engine programmes, thus ensuring stability in the local employment.
Plant employees are undergoing extensive training on the new 3.0L V6 diesel, as well as on the updated 2.0L diesel engines, to ensure a seamless production start-up for Job 1 in the middle of next year.
The Struandale Engine Plant reached several significant production milestones recently. “Since opening its doors in 1964, the Struandale Engine Plant has produced more than 3.81-million engines, comprising 10 different engine programmes,” says Shawn Govender, Plant Manager of the Ford Struandale Engine Plant.
Production of the 2.0-litre Single Turbo and Bi-Turbo four-cylinder turbodiesel engines has hit the 175 000-unit mark since it was launched in 2019 for the current Ranger pick-up. The 2.2 and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engine family has also reached important production milestones at the Struandale Engine Plant since its launch in 2011 for the current-generation Ford Ranger.
The Gqeberha plant fulfils dual roles for this engine program. Raw castings of the cylinder head, cylinder block and crankshaft are machined on-site, and exported to Ford engine assembly plants in Thailand and Argentina. The machined component sets are also used for local engine assembly.
“In December this year we produced our 2.3-millionth machined component set, comprising the head, block and crankshaft,” Govender says. “Over the past 10 years we have machined 6.86-million individual Duratorq TDCi components. Approximately 1.4-million component sets, or 4.2-million individual components, have been exported.”
A total of 792 000 Duratorq TDCi engines have been assembled at this facility over the same period, the majority of which have been supplied to the Silverton Assembly Plant for the Ranger and Everest for domestic sales and export markets.
The Struandale Engine Plant has also exported fully assembled Duratorq TDCi engines directly to the United States, India, China, Russia, Turkey and Italy.