By Raymond Obermeyer
Back in 2018, South Africa’s automotive industry directly employed some 110 000 people and contributed 6.8% to our GDP – 4.3% in manufacturing and 2.5% in retail. In 2020, NAAMSA reported that this had dropped to 4.9% due to the impact of COVID-19. But with an 18,7% contribution to the value of domestic manufacturing from vehicle and automotive component manufacturing, the largest of any manufacturing sector, the automotive industry remains “a key player within South Africa’s industrialisation landscape”, NAAMSA assures.
From an investment perspective, the seven global automotive OEMs operating in South Africa invested a record R9,2-billion in 2020, while the component sector invested a further R2,4-billion. This reflects the will of the international community to promote localisation, while investing in the best modern technologies available.
As a Germany-based OEM of drive solutions, we at SEW-EURODRIVE have a history of innovating state-of-the art solutions for leading vehicle brands and these solutions have been adopted by plants around the world.
As exporters of vehicles to destinations around the world, our local vehicle assembly plants operate to global quality standards which means manufacturing vehicles that are indistinguishable from those built in Germany. They do this by adopting world-class manufacturing processes using state-of-the-art equipment.
Vehicle assembly in the automotive industry depends on just-in-time (JIT) and just-in-sequence (JIS) processes, which require highly flexible and efficient drive solutions to identify the parts required by each individual vehicle and then to deliver these parts to the exact position on the assembly line at the exact time of need. Any errors or delays can cause very costly downtime across the whole assembly line.
SEW-EURODRIVE has developed a fully integrated set of drive solutions specifically tailored to these production needs. Our wide portfolio of products and services from our range of modular drive components can be used in any combination imaginable. The predefined, scalable drive solutions of our MAXOLUTION® packages for conveyor lines, for example, can be precisely tailored to individual plant layouts and applications, while seamlessly interconnecting all other complex processes.
This MAXOLUTION® variant is ideal for decentralised materials handling and is ideal for up to three connected roller, belt or chain conveyor segments for transporting components on a plant. But this modular system, which typically consists of standard MOVIMOT® gearmotors, each with a built-in inverter, and all controlled by our MOVIFIT® MC master controller, can also be set-up to run a completely integrated conveying using multiple interconnected MAXOLUTION® systems.
The modular and decentralised structure of these systems makes maintenance extremely user-friendly, delivering high availability, while the cost-optimised materials handling concept significantly reduces installation complexity and costs.
Be it for press shops, body frames, drive-train plants, paint shops or final assembly, SEW-EURODRIVE engineers are completely familiar with automotive industry processes. They understand that the range of models manufactured is increasing; that throughput must be faster and safer; costs need to be minimised and energy efficiency optimised.
In support of localisation in South Africa, SEW-EURODRIVE has recently invested R200-million in a local assembly plant for our customised and standard product ranges. We have proven credentials on the global stage, but we also believe in acting locally. Our new plant in Aeroton, Johannesburg, will enable us to reduce lead times for all of our standard products, while also enabling us to rapidly engineer customised solutions for automotive clients, as well as to rapidly respond to service or breakdown needs.
In order to advance localisation in the automotive sector, SEW-EURODRIVE hopes to offer modern, cost-effective drive solutions to more of our local Tier 2 and remaining tier automotive suppliers of parts and materials. Globally, according to Deloitte, these Tiers provide 50% of the industry’s manufacturing value, while in South Africa they account for only 20% of the value.
South Africa’s latest automotive policy, the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM), aims to broaden and deepen local value chains to enable the automotive industry to better support domestic industries and inclusive growth. This has to put meaningful localisation at the core of the industry.
Critical to the success of this initiative is skills development. In recognition of this need for competent people with an understanding of modern connected drive systems, we have expanded our Drive Academy programme to include a full suite of automotive solutions. All users of our systems now have better than ever access to product awareness and maintenance training and we can also offer sessions through online training and virtual support.
This all aligns to our social development and localisation plans. We at SEW-EURODRIVE are now well positioned to support the implementation of the SAAM: through local assembly, state-of-the-art technologies and through the skills development programmes needed to ensure successful implementation.