A momentous moment; the reopening of Toyota South Africa Motors Prospecton Manufacturing Plant calls for celebration after a hard time due to heavy flood damage.
Toyota South Africa is a massive player in the local automotive industry, not only in sales but also in manufacturing. The South African arm for manufacturing contributes to a large share of the right-hand drive market and contributes to left-hand drive production as well. The Prospecton plant manufactures the Corolla Cross, Corolla Quest, Hilux, Fortuner, a variety of Hino commercial vehicles and HiAce Ses’Fikile. Quite popular vehicles in our market with a proudly South African stamp to them. Toyota was enjoying a healthy 30% market share at this time. Quite good considering the recent July 2021 unrests and the global pandemic affected the Prospecton plant operations.
Locally manufactured range.
The Day Disaster Struck
Unfortunately, on 12 April 2022, the manufacturing plant was hit by tragic floods due to heavy rainfall. This caused the Shongweni dam to open its sluice gates leading to the Mlazi River banks to be breached which resulted in flooding. Within the space of 1 hour, the whole manufacturing plant was flooded with water, to almost a meter high in many places. Some lower underground areas were completely water-logged.
The water wasn’t the main issue though, there was a significant amount of mud and silt which then complicated matters further. Damages included electrical equipment for the manufacturing process along with 4000 vehicles. Adding to that, the semi-conductor shortage and other global happenings made the replacement of manufacturing equipment parts, and vehicle manufacturing a huge feat. This all made recovery from such damage, even without preceding events, seem quite bleak and unrealistic.
Cleaning process of electrical boards found in certain machinery.
You’d think that with such a massive knock, Toyota would close up shop and rebuild a new factory. This wasn’t the case though. Through tremendous support from Toyota Japan, Toyota Global and other stakeholders, like a phoenix from the ashes, within a space of 4 months, it was all cleaned up with production resuming close to normal today on 16 August 2022. This wasn’t just the case with the manufacturing plant in isolation, as the recovery process comprised 3 priorities;
- The safety and well-being of employees contractors and their families.
- Supporting Toyota dealers, suppliers and the communities around Toyota sites.
- Focusing on the recovery of operations.
Hilux on an assembly line.
These priorities were top of mind. So much so, that no jobs or lives were lost during the incident as well as during recovery. During this downtime also, while cleaning up and repairing, Toyota South Africa Motors sought to look at areas of the manufacturing process and plant that can be improved upon. Especially considering that you’d need contingency plans to minimize damage if this were to happen again in future.
Metal off cuts.
After this, the key remaining activities for the Prospecton plant will be to achieve stable, safe and most importantly smooth production. Finish off the process of installing replacement parts within the machinery and lastly, place counter-measures to prevent something like this from happening again.
With all this in mind, Toyota South Africa Motors took the media on a plant tour showing how the 87 hectares of the plant were affected by the flood damage. The top brass and employees at Toyota South Africa Motors recollected the tale of the floods. Without the context, you’d think this was a rather clean and normal functioning factory. When you see the pictures and videos of what took place on that fateful day, it’s eye-opening if not unbelievable to see the insurmountable work that took place to not only clean up the mud and silt, but also repair and clean up machinery. Meticulous work was being conducted on-site to clean up and repair machinery components.
This also includes tools and machines underground that were waterlogged and could be salvaged. Counter-measures such as raising equipment above the recorded flood line level were conducted and machine replacement where need be.
The internal slogan “Rebuilding better together” was mentioned during the recovery process to improve the site as time goes along. Toyota South Africa Motors states that this incident hasn’t affected their long-term plans and that they plan to return stronger and better than before despite the challenges faced.
Although stock was lost due to the flood damage, Toyota opted to maintain top quality and disposed of products that were damaged by floods rather than try and salvage them. At the same time, they aided employees and communities surrounding the site affected by the flood damages. Quality and well-being weren’t compromised here.
As a celebration of the Prospecton plant resuming operations, we were allowed to test drive a few fresh off the production line Corolla Cross GR Sport SUVs. All on the Prospection plant’s onsite test track.
The whole process of getting the Prospecton plant back to normal operations has been quite the ordeal. Toyota South Africa Motors has shown perseverance and determination to get back up. Seeing the multitude of operations and how the various areas got back on their feet makes you respect the work done by everyone involved. Congratulations also came from the Premier of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube and Siboniso Duma the MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in person. Bravo to Toyota South Africa Motors and all involved.
Tayedza MbiriStarting his petrol-infused passion at a ripe young age playing a plethora of racing video games, Taye has been into the motoring industry for years. During his university years studying Law, he dipped his toes into motoring photography, videography, and exploring what Southern Africa has to offer for the motoring scene at large. Most recently, he presented a YouTube series for a famous Japanese manufacturer and now finds himself fresh on the AutoTrader content creation team. He hopes to own a 90s Subaru one day soon. View News & Reviews