Japanese agency, dtic entities to collaborate on automotive quality, productivity improvement training

14th September 2023 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Japanese agency, dtic entities to collaborate on automotive quality, productivity improvement training

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition's (dtic's) seven National Quality and Productivity Network (NQPN) member organisations and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have signed an agreement for the implementation of a training programme – the Quality and Productivity Improvement (QPI) programme – for roll-out in the automotive sector in South Africa.

The dtic had previously signed an agreement with JICA to implement the Kaizen quality and productivity project for lower-tier component suppliers in the automotive value chain, as well as the steel and metal sectors across the country.

Kaizen focuses on hands-on and practical skills development through a participatory, learning-by-doing, human-focused and process-oriented approach, dtic sectors branch acting deputy director-general Dr Anneline Chetty said at the signing event on September 13.

The new agreement will formalise the establishment and functioning of the NQPN, which is a network of organisations and associations that promotes quality and productivity improvement activities across the country.

"The Kaizen project started in June 2022, and the team spent a year developing the framework of the NQPN. The aim of the framework is to maximise the impact and reach of training academies in South Africa," said Kimiaki Jin, who is the chief adviser of the JICA QPI (Kaizen) project.

"Through collaboration between members, we can practically contribute to improving the productivity of businesses and private sector companies in the automotive sector or supplying it," he said.

Kaizen was change for the better, which South Africa needed, and this could only be achieved through incremental, continuous improvement, said Chetty, who was also the director of the dtic's Kaizen project.

The seven member organisations of the NQPN include Productivity South Africa, the Automotive Industry Development Centre, Gauteng (AIDC-GP), the Automotive Industry Development Centre, Eastern Cape (AIDC-EC), the Automotive Supply Chain Competitiveness Initiative (ASCCI), Plastics South Africa (Plastics SA), Production Technologies Association of South Africa (PTSA) and JICA.

"With the agreement today, we are entrenching Kaizen into our programmes and strengthening them," she said.

South Africa's government and businesses are operating with constrained resources and the automotive industry and its suppliers can achieve more together. The country and industry will benefit from cooperating with international partners.

"We hope that in a year or two we will see the impact of these changes. Japan has significant industrial knowledge and there is much we can learn through the programme," Chetty added.

Additionally, ASCCI worked to drive competitiveness in the automotive supply chain, mainly through benchmarking the competitiveness of the local industry against global benchmarks, said ASCII chairperson Arthur Mtombeni.

"A key part of bringing automotive component manufacturing business into the country is if we are competitive as an industry.

"World-class manufacturing rests on the core pillars of Kaizen, including continuous improvement. It is about improvement on the shop floor, daily improvements and management," he said.

Having a world-class standard and competitive component manufacturing supply base in the country was necessary to sustain the industry, he added.

Further, Productivity SA CEO Mothiba Mothunyem said the organisation was focused on improving the productivity and competitiveness of enterprises in the productive sectors, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

"Our interest in this QPI project is to improve the efficiency of companies and it presents an opportunity to scale up competitiveness support measures for industrial companies," he added.

Productivity SA has implemented Kaizen in its operations for several years and the QPI project is expected to help it scale up interventions to ensure enterprises are competitive and sustainable.

Feedback from members of the AIDC-GP had indicated that the Kaizen programme that the organisation undertook over several years had contributed to improved productivity, profitability and competitiveness of the companies in terms of pricing and eliminating waste, said AIDC-GP CEO Andile Africa.

"The feedback from our member companies that supply the automotive manufacturing industry is that they are excited to be part of it, as it will scale-up high-quality training and make a meaningful contribution to the broader South African industry," he noted.

Further, about 50% of the members of the PTSA supplied the automotive sector, and this relationship had pushed companies in terms of quality and procedures to be able to meet the quality requirements of the automotive industry, said PTSA CEO Tapiwa Samanga.

Tooling companies were mainly small companies that were owner operated, and they had challenges in terms of global competitiveness. However, any company introduced into the automotive value chain was expected to maintain quality comparable to any supplier worldwide, he highlighted.

Over the past six years, PTSA had seen more than 200 companies, especially assembly systems companies, participate in its quality improvement programme, contributing to an improved sector performance, he said.

"We train toolmakers in four schools across the country, with 3 500 toolmakers trained since 2010. We will integrate Kaizen into our curriculum and our competitiveness programmes," added Samanga.

Meanwhile, Plastics SA was involved in skills development, sustainability and research and development in the industry. It joined the QPI programme owing to its focus on skills development, which was critical for the industry, said Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

"All our members are operating under severe constraints, not only owing to loadshedding and exchange rate fluctuations, but also owing to the need to develop the skills of our people," he said.

"It is critical for the economy to drive the productivity and quality of component suppliers to the automotive manufacturing sector, hence our involvement in what we believe will have a big impact on the industry," he said.