The massive US$1.05 billion expansion of the Ford Silverton manufacturing facility in Gauteng, South Africa, was completed in October 2022. The Penetron System of crystalline concrete waterproofing products was specified for repairs to the Silverton facility’s Sodecia Tunnels to ensure a durable concrete structure.
The Ford Motor Company was the first auto manufacturer on the African continent. The company’s South Africa operations were founded in 1923 and a year later, the first Model T automobiles were rolling off the line at Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape province.
The assembly plant in Silverton, near Pretoria, was opened in 1967. In 1988, Ford withdrew from South Africa for economic and political reasons, returning in 1997 after the abolishment of apartheid. Since then, the Silverton facility has undergone numerous expansions. The recently completed US$1.05 billion (R15.8 billion) project is the biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history in South Africa.
“It is also one of the largest investments ever made in the South African automotive industry,” adds Jonathan Whitehead, Technical Engineering Support at Penetron Africa.
The annual throughput of the Silverton plant will now gradually increase from 168,000 vehicles to 200,000 vehicles. The output will supply the domestic market in South Africa as well as exports to more than 100 global markets. The plant also manufactures Volkswagen models as part of the Ford-VW strategic alliance.
The expansion project included extensive upgrades to the assembly plant, specifically to the box line, paint shop, and final assembly line, which will improve vehicle flow within the plant, along with the expansion of the container and vehicle yards. In addition, construction of a new body shop, and a new high-tech stamping plant – located on-site for the first time – will help streamline the integrated manufacturing processes at Silverton. The Sodecia underground Tunnels connecting the individual shops and the assembly line also help to better move material efficiently throughout the expanded Silverton facilities.
Penetron was asked to carry out work along the underground tunnel walls, wall to floor construction joints, and tunnel floor slabs. PENEPLUG, a rapid-setting, crystalline-based compound used to stop active leaks, and PENECRETE MORTAR, a crystalline waterproofing grout, were specified for honeycomb repairs and construction joints (cold joints). The Penetron products were applied along the interior of the Sodecia Tunnel structure and as backfilling on the exterior of the structural elements where no direct access was available.
Once added to the concrete mix, the active ingredients in Penetron’s crystalline products generate a non-soluble crystalline formation throughout the pores and capillary tracts of the concrete that permanently seals microcracks, pores and capillaries against the penetration of water or liquids from any direction. This formation provides long-term protection for concrete from deterioration, even with the high groundwater levels encountered at the Silverton plant site.
“After the recent heavy rains, I visited the Silverton site and would like to report that our Sodecia tunnel is still solid and dry,” says Kenneth Mojaki at Ndodana Consulting Engineers, for the Ford project. “Glad to report that all remains in order."
The Sodecia Tunnel project is just the most recent of several large-scale warehouse manufacturing plant expansion projects from around the globe completed by Penetron, including the Buffalo Trace Distillery on the banks of the Kentucky River, the Kimberly-Clark CM7 Saturn manufacturing facility in Corinth, Mississippi (both USA), the Hitachi Energy factory in the Tien Son Industrial Zone in Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam, and the Moudania Warehouse in Nea Moudania, Halkidiki, Greece.