Investing heavily in South Africa, Ford Motor Company is establishing a new body shop and stamping plant, along with extensive upgrades to its existing infrastructure, at its Silverton assembly plant in Pretoria. Ford Package E ispart of a R3-billion investment by vehicle manufacturer Ford. An automotive assembly plant was erected in Rosslyn, Pretoria as part of the company’s high-volume export programme.

The project used extensive steel supplies and was comprised of a 12 400m² warehouse, 14,6m in height. The project was completed ahead of schedule, despite several challenges.

Problems: Covid-19, tight deadlines, engineering challenges, a shortage of steel and other building materials, and poor soil quality.
Solutions: ViKO redesigned the structure to support heavier sections. They created custom sections by welding steel plates together to achieve the required profiles, while keeping the weight of the building low.

Ford’s new project

ViKO Consulting Engineers is a structural and civil engineering consultancy that was involved in the project. A total of 1 783 tons of steel was required for the 173m x 62m (10 726m²) building. The stamping plant used a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet components.

The poor soil conditions necessitated the type and size of piles to be modified during construction, keeping tight deadlines in mind. “The poor soil conditions required the plant foundations and retaining walls to be supported off piles, which underwent complex simultaneous loading, including multiple overhead cranes running on two separate lines, wind loading on a 23,5m high building and heavy surcharge loads of 20t/m²,” says Peter Donnan, a structural engineer at ViKO.

Construction at existing facility

Construction took place at an existing facility and presented challenges to ensure existing services such as sewage, cables and effluent lines were avoided. Structural elements such as pile caps and retaining walls were designed to bridge these existing services.

To connect the floors in the MP & L warehouse, a total of 605 tons of steel was used to construct the warehouse of 195m × 62m (12 090m²).

Lateral forces

The line will contain five press machines – one of 2 500t, one of 1 600t and three of 1 000t. Dies will be manoeuvred using four overhead cranes, consisting of two 60t capacity slinger cranes, one 63t gripper crane and one semi-gantry slinger crane of 50t, with the possibility of adding another 60t overhead crane in the future.

Wind loading

Wind loading on the structure is high due to the height of the building. All large features of the structure, including the 2,5m × 1,1m main crane concrete columns and the perimeter retaining wall, must be supported on a pile and pile-cap system due to poor founding soil conditions. The press pit, constructed with concrete, will support five press machines – one weighing 895t, another weighing 610t and three weighing 495t.

This all required careful coordination between the engineers and contractors, for the placement of the cross-bracing to reset the large longitudinal crane and wind forces. Anti-vibration construction was required to prevent the transfer of vibration to the highly vibration-sensitive equipment in the structure.

Project Blue Oval

Project Blue Oval is a renewable energy project established to assist Ford in reaching its target of using 100% locally sourced renewable energy for all manufacturing plants by 2035.

Interesting facts:

  • A total of 1 783 tons of steel was required for the 173m x 62m (10 726m²) building.
  • A total of 605 tons of steel was used to construct the MP & L warehouse of 195m × 62m (12 090m²).
  • The structures were modelled using 3D design programmes.
  • The stamping plant will use a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet metal components for the new Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.
  • Project Blue Oval aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Project team

  • Principal agent and lead engineering consultants: ViKO Consulting Engineers.
  • Main contractor: JC van der Linde and Venter Projects.
  • Steel subcontractors: RSB Contracts and B & T Steel.
  • Subconsultants: DSP Consulting Engineers CC.
  • Piling subcontractors: Mega Pile Inland.
  • Dram Industrial Painting Contractors.
  • Industrial Painting Services (Pty) Ltd.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to the project team and for the information in this editorial.

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