Ford’s PE engine plant suffers 90 power outages in 12 months

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

The Ford Motor Company of South Africa’s (FMCSA) engine plant in Port Elizabeth has suffered 90 power outages in the past 12 months.

Engineering News quotes FMCSA President Jeff Nemeth as telling the American Chamber of Commerce that while the company did not have “significant issues” with power supply in Gauteng it was a different story in the Eastern Cape.

Nemeth pointed out that the Port Elizabeth engine plant was essentially a manufacturing operation using high-speed equipment that required a specific shutdown process.

“If this shutdown process was not followed, and the power went out, even for five or ten minutes, the plant lost “a couple of hours,” as technicians had to repair the equipment affected by the outage, adding that repair and spares costs were also high.

Nemeth said he tended “to put every-thing in the context of competitiveness.

“How can my operation be globally competitive, especially as it is exported to 150 countries? If I don’t have a competitive product at a competitive cost level, then I won’t sell my vehicles. I’ll lose production and jobs here in South Africa.”

“Power is a problem down in Port Elizabeth and that is where we are having most of our discussions right now around alternative energy sources, to make sure we have a sustainable, uninterrupted power supply.”

Nemeth also pointed to a stable labour supply and transport issues, such as port congestion, as “being of concern to Ford’s operations in South Africa”.

He said it was challenge to persuade Ford’s management to continue investing in a country where the output of product was less stable than in other countries.

Despite the power and labour challenges Nemeth reiterated the company’s commitment to manufacturing in South Africa.

“We have been here for 90 years. We work through the challenges and we make it work. We make it work by investing in our operations, by investing in our people and by investing in our communities.” - metorminutes