- Production quality processes and management ensure Isuzu Pick-up is ready for tough African markets
- Key vehicle characteristics adapted to suit African environment
- Localised engineering and development create a truly African product
As the new Isuzu Pick-up continues its engagement in key African markets, ongoing processes of quality management and engineering development ensure that the new Pick-up is built in Africa, for Africa.
Engineered and built by General Motors in South Africa for both the domestic and export markets, the Isuzu Pick-up followed extensive testing and engineering leading up to its launch in 2013 – covering some 1.3-million kilometres of strenuous driving in extreme conditions.
“With the 6th generation Isuzu Pick-up, we took an unprecedented approach to its development with specific focus points directly related to the African markets in which it is designed to serve,” says Quality Manager at General Motors South Africa (GMSA), Andy Alexander.
“Along with our highly qualified and experienced engineering team, and involving the various departments who are jointly responsible for the design, development and production of this world-class pick-up, we left no stone unturned in the development process. The Isuzu heritage of innovation, toughness, durability, reliability and functionality was put to the ultimate test.”
Quality in every facet of production
With the harsh environments of the African continent dictating vehicle specifications and design – including fuel quality, road conditions, consumer demands and vehicle versatility – Isuzu engineers not only had to design and develop specific elements of the Isuzu Pick-up to cope on a long-term basis, but also ensure the quality of each and every aspect that goes into the production of an internationally renowned pick-up – to ensure complete peace of mind and trouble-free motoring for the customer.
Built-in quality (BIQ) at the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is the most important element in this regard. At every stage of the production process – from the body shop and paint shop to assembly and final inspection – each element is verified to ensure maximum quality in all respects. Subscribing to a Global Manufacturing System (GMS) which enforces global regulations and requirements on the GMSA plant, key focus areas are monitored to ensure ultimate production quality.
Exercises involved include continuous improvement principles, standardisation of tasks and processes, people involvement, short lead times and built-in quality. The latter in particular expresses the overall goal of creating a quality product in every aspect and is measured on a tier basis. Resource and structure optimisation and the removal of all forms of physical and theoretical waste from the system also contribute to heightened BIQ. Towards the end of 2014, the Struandale plant will be evaluated at BIQ level 3, which strives to raise BIQ with less inspection intervention.
The Struandale manufacturing facility also does a Global Customer Audit (GCA) on a daily basis, seeing sample products pulled from the line every day which are then physically and thoroughly checked by auditors for defects or potential problems. The GCA is carried out in General Motors plants the world over, and uses global targets and standards to not only ensure that all GM products are built to the same high standards at any given plant, but also to enable early detection and prevention of potential problems.
Resulting directly from the GCA, problems are identified and solved before a single vehicle leaves the plant. Even after vehicles have made it to the end of the production line, each and every unit is driven on a test track which encompasses evaluation during operation, checking for rattles and squeaks, and testing other dynamic aspects to ensure absolute quality verification before reaching the consumer.
Clear objectives for Pick-up in Africa
Benefitting directly from GMSA’s high engineering involvement with the new Isuzu Pick-up, the vehicle was fine-tuned and toughened to operate without problems in the harsh African environment.
“The Isuzu Pick-up has always performed consistently in the IPSOS quality surveys and in designing the all-new, 6th-generation model, we strived to improve on our already high levels of quality,” continues Alexander.
“Engineering and testing, which began as far back as 2010, included important factors which are particularly significant for the region – such as high altitudes, a large operating temperature range, high proportions of very dusty roads, particularly corrosive environments, varying fuel quality, bad road conditions, and specific towing and load requirements.”
As a result, the new Isuzu Pick-up features a number of uniquely African solutions to the problems and challenges that were identified. For example, a larger radiator is fitted to assist in improved cooling, and the radiator fan is indeed placed behind the radiator to remove the risk of fan blade damage when entering water at speed. The high-ride suspension design which allows for ground clearance of up to 224 mm (linked to high profile tyres) enables for enhanced peace of mind when driving on particularly bad roads. Furthermore, specific attention was paid to underbody components like fuel lines and side skirts, where special protective plates were added to prevent damage from stone rash on the move. On the engine front, all engines are capable of running on even the lowest quality fuels.
Safety is also naturally an Isuzu hallmark, and the new Pick-up has been engineered with key safety principles in mind which hold particular importance in the African context – to maximise stopping power, assist with steering input under hard braking and reduce stopping distances. Further safety-critical factors were also considered, like impact-absorbing materials in the front end which not only reduce frontal damage in an impact but also provide enhanced protection for pedestrians, as a first line of defence.
Adding further strength to the equation is Isuzu’s legendary reputation for off-road driving capability. With certain derivatives available with four-wheel drive, traversing even the toughest of environments becomes an easy and enjoyable task thanks to great ground clearance, all-terrain tyres and an advanced 4×4 system with an electronic configuration switch which allows for easy transition between 2-Hi, 4-Hi and 4-Lo driving modes.
The difference: GM Total Confidence
Adding power to the quality promise behind GM vehicles is a group of highly-competent and professionally-trained individuals who are dedicated to customer service, product quality and an enjoyable, long-lasting ownership experience.
To this end, National Service Technical Forums are held in South Africa whereby Sub-Saharan Africa service technicians are able to liaise with their South African colleagues to share knowledge and experiences, in order to improve the GM product and service offering in Africa. These quality assessment processes, which also include problem identification, analysis and solution implementation, form a combined effort to improve quality between the various GM departments – including source plants across the globe where shared knowledge allows for global product quality improvement.
Furthermore, an experienced aftersales division in South Africa is on hand for technical product support to assist in identifying and correcting any problems in the shortest possible time, regardless of where the customer may be situated. A dedicated Service Operations Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa is also available, situated in Kenya, to ensure efficient communication and relationship management between the customer and GMSA.
The result of customised design, development, engineering and production done in Africa, for Africa, is thus a vehicle which has been specifically designed to be used in its various African markets with absolute confidence. In this regard, all new Isuzu Pick-up pick-ups are available as standard with a comprehensive 3-year/ 100 000 km warranty (whichever comes first) in place for extended peace of mind for the consumer.
-General Motors Africa