Nissan is optimistic about the future of the automotive manufacturing industry in South Africa.
This is the view of Nissan South Africa’ s manufacturing director Joan Busquets, who was one of the participants at a two-day Manufacturing Indaba, which started today at Emperor’s Palace in Ekurhuleni. Invited to take part in a panel discussion on ‘The Best of South African Manufacturing’ – against the backdrop of low economic growth and its impact on the sector – Busquets said that it was important to remain cutting-edge and globally competitive.
“We are investing in new plant infrastructure and innovative Nissan technologies at our Rosslyn plant to make sure our vehicles always meet global standards in terms of quality and cost,” said the Spanish-born Busquets. With a 27-year career at Nissan, Busquets is familiar with the pressures that come in the manufacturing environment.
Two years ago he was seconded to the South African operation from Nissan Europe where he is credited with turning around the region’s Barcelona light commercial vehicle (LCV) plant – now a top Renault-Nissan Alliance operation. Busquets’ experience and expertise is currently contributing to incremental gains in Nissan SA’s plant competitiveness.
Key to success, says Busquets, is adherence to global operating procedures, which at Nissan SA is the Alliance Production Way – a blueprint for manufacturing methods across the global family of Nissan and Renault plants. Best practice, is supported by a fully-trained workforce. Nissan SA is investing significantly in skills training and development to assist industry initiatives aimed at addressing the shortage of skilled engineers and operators.
A home-grown pool of engineers is being groomed through a two-year Graduate Programme which focuses on ‘on-the-job’ training. By the end of Nissan SA’s next financial year, over 100 graduates will have gone through the programme.
Comprehensive operator training for production line processes takes place on-site and at the Gauteng Automotive Learning Centre – a partnership between Nissan and the City of Tshwane – which is open to other auto manufacturers and tertiary institutions.
Training for specialised jobs like master welding is carried out at parent company Nissan Japan, while shop floor supervisors now undergo training at Nissan’s flagship Sunderland plant in the UK, where more than 40 local employees have completed the course.
Growing the local supply chain, which will improve the level of localisation on vehicles, is another enabler for global competitiveness.
“Nissan SA is introducing on-site suppliers which will also have the added benefits of reducing logistics time and cost,” says Busquets. “Also in the pipeline – with the aim of achieving the same results – is a Nissan Incubation Centre to assist small black-owned businesses to get a foot in the door of the auto supply chain.”
All the measures outlined, says Busquets, are in support of government’s automotive production and development programme (APDP), which aims to produce 900, 000 vehicles per annum by 2020. “While this goal may not seem achievable for auto manufacturers in the current economic environment, we mustn’t lose sight of the long term.” It’s a future that envisages growth in Sub Saharan Africa and conditions that support Nissan’s Africa strategy to become a leading LCV and passenger brand on the continent.