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Ford to build latest Everest SUV at new plant in SA

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Ford Motor Company is investing R2.5-billion to expand operations in South Africa at its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria, to produce the new Ford Everest, along with the new Ford Ranger that was launched at the end of last year.

This investment will create approximately 1 200 new jobs at Ford South Africa and within the South African supplier network.

“Our customers love the capability and utility offered by the all-new Ford Everest,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. “By producing the Everest in South Africa, we will be able to make it more readily available, and in a greater variety of models, for customers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The R2.5-billion investment reaffirms the importance of these markets as part of our growth strategy across the Middle East and Africa,” Farley added. “It further reinforces South Africa’s position as a strategic export base for Ford Motor Company.”

The Silverton facility joins AutoAlliance Thailand in Rayong; Ford’s Chennai plant in India (where it is sold as the Endeavor) and the JMC Xiaolan Plant in Nanchang, China, as production hubs for the Everest. Initial production at Silverton of the Everest will commence in the third quarter of 2016, with the first units expected to come to market in the fourth quarter. South African-produced models will be sold locally and exported to markets across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Part of this investment has been directed towards the production of the new Ranger, which is already running at maximum capacity at the Silverton Assembly Plant – with domestic sales and export demand at an all-time high.

The Silverton Assembly Plant features state-of-the-art automation utilising Ford’s global manufacturing processes, and will be equipped to produce 10 000 Everest’s per annum. “The all-new Everest has been extremely well received since it was launched in September last year, with demand far outstripping supply,” said Jeff Nemeth, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.

“This crucial investment will enable us to increase volumes and expand the Everest range to eight derivatives across a broader price range. It will allow customers across Sub-Saharan Africa to choose from two powerful engines mated to robust six-speed automatic or manual transmissions for exceptional capability.”

Currently, the all-new Everest is imported from Thailand, using the locally produced 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engine. It is only available in South Africa in 3.2 Automatic guise in two specification levels – XLT and the range-topping Limited. With the commencement of local production, a 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi four-cylinder diesel engine will be added to the range, along with a wider spread of specification levels.

Built at Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth, the latest-generation Duratorq TDCi diesel engines – which are also used in the new Ranger – offer maximum fuel economy along with exceptional performance.

The all-new Ford Everest is a rugged seven-seat SUV featuring body-on-frame construction, intelligent four-wheel drive and an Advanced Terrain Management System to help navigate challenging terrain with ease.

In recent years, Africa has emerged as an increasingly important region for Ford, with continued investment and growth.

In 2008, Ford announced plans to build the Ford Ranger at its Silverton Assembly Plant with an investment of R3.4 billion. The investment allowed Ford to transform both of its South African plants into world class facilities to produce the Ford Ranger and Duratorq TDCi engines for local consumption and export.

The Ford Ranger is exported to 148 countries in Africa, Middle East and Europe, while engines and machined components are supplied to Argentina, Thailand, North America, India and China.

In 2014, Ford formed its newest business unit, Middle East and Africa comprising 67 markets to support the region with a dedicated focus and clear understanding of the unique conditions and customer needs.

The African growth story continued in 2015, when Ford confirmed that it would assemble the Ford Ranger in Nigeria, using semi knock-down (SKD) kits and components imported from South Africa.

Ford Motor Company’s growth story goes beyond its manufacturing expansion in South Africa. In 2015, Ford sold 78 471 passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in South Africa, the highest number on record. The South African-built Ranger pickup performed particularly well, with an 18.1% year-on-year increase in sales and a total of 33 920 Rangers sold in 2015.

“As we continue to grow our business here in South Africa we are committed to improving the skills of our employees and creating new opportunities within the company and the broader supply chain. It is only through the dedication and commitment of our work force, suppliers, dealers, union and government partners that we have been able to secure this investment and expand our operations, broadening our footprint in Africa even further,” Nemeth concluded.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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