In light of the growing trend within the automotive industry to increase dependency on plastic components and the greater demand this places on employers to train, upskill and transfer skills to employees in South Africa, local plastics industry representative Plastics|SA has been playing an instrumental role in providing on-site training to automotive parts and components manufacturers.
Moreover, research conducted by automotive insurance manager Innovation Group suggests that there is an impending shortage globally in the automotive industry of the kind of skills required to move it forward to the next level.
“It is less about new technology – employers can train in that regard – as much of the new technology comes with the equipment to maintain it. The problem lies in the shortage of qualified technicians who can be trained, as well as a shortage of the kind of customer service skills, such as customer- focused relationship management across all aspects of the industry, that will become increasingly important. The entrepreneurial mindset is not being encouraged nor supported enough. As a result of this shortage, poaching of staff is a real problem,” says the group.
Plastics|SA stresses that the lack of skilled employees is highly problematic in the automotive manufacturing industry considering today’s lightweight, durable plastics give designers and engineers the freedom to create innovativedesign concepts on vehicles that enhance passenger comfort at a realistic cost. This extends to the dashboard, surfaces, textiles, lighting and sensors as well as the car’s shape and external accessories like door handles, mirror frames, wheel covers and rims and bumpers integrated with the front end.
Tailormade, ergonomic bumpers and dashboards can now also be moulded as single parts instead of the multicomponents of yesterday, saving both time and money. New design innovations can potentially be introduced quickly and cheaply to the production line.
Moreover, plastic body fillers, which fix small imperfections without the need for welding or grinding, also keep small repair and maintenance costs to a minimum.
Amid economic uncertainty, with many importers concerned about the value of the rand and the impact it is going to have on the South African automotive market, Plastics|SA is, nonetheless, determined to keep skills development at the fore of the industry’s priorities.
“A period of severe belt-tightening lies ahead for South Africa in 2017. Despite this, skills and development in the automotive industry will remain a major focus area if local players wish to remain competitive and relevant. Plastics|SA will continue to engage with government and industry to determine what skills are needed, and to ensure we are positioned to provide the best service to our members and clients alike,” says Plastics|SA executive director Anton Hanekom.
He highlights that, for the past 38 years, providing hands-on training and upskilling car component manufacturers has been one of the association’s key areas of focus for its training division. During 2016 alone, Plastics|SA successfully trained and graduated more than 90 students in the automotive industry in various industry-specific courses being offered, ranging from plastic manufacturing, manufacturing and assembly operations to supervision learnerships, injection moulding construction, supervisory management and skills programmes.
Effective planning, effective communication, effective workplace calculations, effective workplace performance and effective industrial relations also make up part of the curriculum, while students are given a detailed understanding of working with plastics during the manufacturing process, which is covered in the basic raw materials and advanced raw materials, plastics manufacturing learnerships and injection moulding overview for managers courses.