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48 Komax Alpha 530s for South Africa's largest wire harness manufacturer

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On September 13, Hesto Harnesses (Pty) Ltd opened South Africa's most modern wire harness factory, creating 4000 new jobs. At the very heart of this state-of-the-art production facility are 48 fully automatic Komax Alpha 530s. Udo Petry, head of the South African Komax representative KomTech, reports how this was achieved.

Key insights

  • In 1923, Henry Ford built the first assembly plant in Port Elizabeth.

  • Around 349,000 cars rolled off the production line in South Africa in 2019.

  • With its 36,000 m2 new production facility Hesto creates 4000 new jobs.

Hesto Harnesses is a joint venture between the South African Metair Investments Ltd and Japanese Yazaki Corporation, so it became a subsidiary of the Global Yazaki Group with sister Yazaki companies in over 42 countries. Hesto is located in KwaZuluNatal on the East Coast of South Africa and is the largest wire harness manufacturing company in Africa, with a footprint of approximately 95,000 m2 spread across two provinces.

Among other things, Yazaki also produces cable harnesses and machines that can be used for this purpose. It would have been logical to equip the new plant with Japanese machines, but things turned out differently. For this, we have to turn back the wheel of history a bit.

KomTech impresses with its broad range of products

KomTech (Pty) LTD was established in 2012 with the acquisition of the Komax representation for Southern Africa. Now, we represent not only Komax, but also other renowned suppliers of equipment for wire harness production. This allows us to offer our customers comprehensive services and also a diverse range of products. We have been attending to our customer Hesto, which is located about 30 km away, for many years.

In Hesto's original plant, there were 10 Yazaki and 27 Komax machines in operation. In 2019, we decided to provide Hesto with an Alpha 530 for test purposes. This fully automatic wire processing machine for crimping and loading seals on one and both sides is highly efficient and fulfills the most stringent quality requirements.

Largest order Komax has ever delivered to South Africa 

A good experience with this test machine was certainly a major factor in the largest order Komax has ever delivered to South Africa. “Hesto Harnesses has been using Komax machines for over 20 years with solid and dependable onsite service and support from the local Komax agents KomTech,” says Hesto’s Managing Director William Hilditch: “This supplier is recognized as one of the top performers in the Hesto Supplier ratings and has always gone the extra mile to support and provide Hesto with parts and service to keep the facility running at peak efficiency.”

The wire harnesses produced with the most stringent quality and traceability requirements are supplied exclusively to the local automotive industry. Today, these are mainly Toyota (with a plant in Durban, 70 km to the south), Ford (Ranger model), VW (Amarok model), and Isuzu. More than 70% of these pickup trucks are exported around the world, especially to Europe, where every Ford Ranger was built in South Africa.

Africa's second largest car-manufacturing country

Some readers might be surprised at the importance of the South African automotive industry, so we would like to go into a little more depth here. The history of local car manufacturing began in 1923, when Henry Ford built the first assembly plant in Port Elizabeth. Gradually, Japanese, and German manufacturers also found their way to South Africa. To this day, international corporations manufacture their cars in only a few countries in Africa. Half of these vehicles (around 349,000) rolled off the production line in South Africa in 2019. Only slightly more (around 360,000) were produced in Morocco. There are also much smaller production facilities in Egypt and Kenya.

With a 0.58% share of global automotive production in 2019, South Africa ranked 22nd among manufacturing countries. However, this is only the beginning of an extremely ambitious undertaking. With the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) adopted in 2018, the government aims to increase the production share to 1% by 2035. According to calculations at the time, this would amount to 1.39 million vehicles annually.

One of the most important sectors of the South African economy

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa is aware of the significance of this sector. “The auto industry is one of the drivers of our localization program,” he stated at the opening of a manufacturing plant for hybrid vehicles in Durban. “It is a significant contributor to gross domestic product and accounts for more than 100,000 jobs in assembly and component manufacturing. It is a big magnet for foreign direct investment. The seven local light vehicle producers invested a record 9.2 billion rand (=522 million US$) in 2020, while the component sector invested 2.4 billion rand (=139 million US$) during the same period.”

Hesto creates 4000 new jobs

At the opening of Hesto's 36,000 m2 new production facility, Ramaphosa praised the commitment of Metair, Yazaki and Ford and underlined the economic benefits: “It is therefore significant and most welcome that this facility will create over 4,000 employment opportunities, which will translate into a 30 million rand (=1.7 million US$) monthly spend on salaries and wages being injected into the iLembe District. It is pleasing that there is a strong focus on female candidates, as is the fact that Hesto Harnesses is predominantly a female-driven operation with 70% of employees being female.”

“Hesto was proud to partner with Komax on the new expansion for Ford”

Since the recent installation of all Komax machines, there have been a few on-site training sessions from Komax Switzerland and KomTech to train the completely new staff on the operation and maintenance of all the new equipment including the Alpha 530s, the bt288 twisters, and the Kappa 330DH machines. This is in preparation for the ramp-up of production, which starts early 2023.

Hesto's satisfaction with Komax and KomTech is reflected in William Hilditch's assessment: “Komax and KomTech have always kept Hesto up-to-date with the latest technologies available for wire cutting, crimping, and twisting processes. This strong relationship led Hesto to award the massive recent investment, which involved acquiring an additional 48 machines, to Komax. These machines were delivered to site and successfully commissioned on-time and in full. Hesto was proud to partner with Komax on the new expansion for Ford, which is one of the biggest wire harness manufacturing facilities within the Yazaki group. Komax has been a key partner for Hesto and Ford during the launch of the new 2023 Ford Ranger Model.”


Udo PetryHead of sales & service in Southern Africa

Udo Petry founded Komtech in 2012 and is responsible for sales and service in Southern Africa, from Kenya to South Africa.

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