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HomeFeaturesInside Toyota South Africa’s recovered factory after April floods – Photos

Inside Toyota South Africa’s recovered factory after April floods – Photos

Toyota South Africa (TSAM) has officially re-opened its Prospecton production plant in Durban, following months of repairs after serious flooding befell the site in April.

At the grand re-opening, Toyota shared amazing stories about the extent of the damage and what the recovery process was been like, and it took the media on a tour of the revitalised facilities.

The factory is now fully up and running again pushing out hundreds of vehicles per day for the local market, and the first export units have already landed in their home destinations.

Worst rain in 29 years

On the 12th of April, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) experienced the most intense rainfall it had seen in 29 years with some areas receiving as much as 300mm of rain in less than 24 hours.

The Shongweni Dam, located inland of Toyota’s plant, very quickly reached its maximum capacity and opened its gates, leading to the Mlazi river flooding and bursting its banks.

The result was that millions of litres of water, mud, and clay washed down into Prospecton and the surrounding areas, which led to all 87 hectares of the facility being flooded in less than an hour, between 05:40 and 06:24 in the morning.

All the lower floors were completely flooded, while the ground floor areas had anywhere from 400mm to over a metre of mud and water, making it challenging to navigate the plant, said Toyota.

The flooding affected not only Toyota’s facilities but also its local suppliers, including the companies that provide Prospecton with its plastics, wiring harnesses, carpets, glass, fuel tanks, paints, solvents, and electro-plating.

Two Toyota dealerships in KZN were also affected, which led to a combined 270 vehicles being scrapped, and 47 employees’ homes being severely damaged.

The disaster meant that critical infrastructure was not working and Toyota was left trying to respond to the situation without electricity, clean running water, or even communication, as hundreds of cell towers were offline.

Recovery process

The lack of electricity proved to be both a blessing and a curse, as it meant there was no risk of workers being injured by electrical currents in the water.

However, it also meant that none of the cranes were working. These were needed to rescue many of the larger production components which could weigh as much as 40,000kg.

The 1-metre-high water levels also damaged a large portion of Toyota’s forklift fleet, making the initial recovery process extremely difficult.

Any machinery and vehicle components that came into contact with the mud, clay, and water were written off. Toyota still does not know the full cost of the damages as it is still negotiating with its insurers three months after the disaster, it said.

Over the course of the recovery, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) sent over 200 experts from Japan to assist the South African branch in getting back on its feet.

TMC even halted many of its ongoing projects globally to ensure that spare parts could be sourced to assist in the repair of the Durban plant, and imported units were brought in to make up for lost sales.

Workers were also asked to come in at two-day intervals to work on the cleaning process. Pumps were needed to drain the flooded lower levels, and the hundreds of employees spent days mopping the facility floors to clean away the mud and clay.

Furthermore, Toyota needed to repair rather than replace components wherever possible, due to the ongoing global supply constraints.

If the company had waited for all damaged components to be replaced, the plant would have been out of action for another 12 months, said CEO Andrew Kirby.

An extensive cleaning process meant that even the smallest electrical components were treated using alcohol-based solutions and toothbrushes.

Fully operational

Touring the factory floor today you would never know the disaster that befell the plant just a few months ago.

All the production lines are fully operational and the resulting noise necessitated that we use headsets to be able to hear our tour guide.

Markers exist around the facility noting where the water levels once were, with many reaching knee-height or higher.

Not a single job was lost as a result of the incident, and everywhere you looked you could see Fortuner, Hilux, and Corolla models in various stages of production.

Prospecton’s re-opening was done in stages, said the manufacturer.

Hino was the first to restart operations in May, followed by Hi-Ace, and the Hilux and Fortuner lines in July.

August marks the re-opening of the Corolla Cross and Quest production queues, which means Toyota’s Prospecton Plant is once again fully operational and has even seen its first export units shipped to Europe since the floods.

Toyota Prospecton Plant

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