A team of Engineering Researchers from the College of Engineering and Technology through Innovation Prototyping Integrated Centre (iPIC) Sub-Taskforce have laid the ground for technical association with Isuzu East Africa after visiting the company’s assembly plant in Mombasa Road, Nairobi. This is in line with the COETEC Acting Principal’s belief that Academia need to reach out to the industry in order to bring meaning to research activities undertaken with universities.
The host Mr. James Njoroge who is the company’s General Manager-Production welcomed the team from JKUAT alonside Mr. Emmanuel Ogoth (Director, Product Engineering & Body Building), Mr. Daniel Kilenege (Director, Manufacturing Operations & Supply Chain) and Mr. Victor Maina (Industrial Engineer & Kaizen Coordinator). “I am delighted that finally my almater has finally visited us,” said an elated Mr. Njoroge who is an alumnus of JKUAT having studied Mechanical Engineering. He then gave a brief on Safety and Environmental Protocols championed within the plant before giving the Isuzu East Africa Company overview since establishment in 1977 to date pointing out the major milestones. Among the milestones was the assembling of the 100,000th unit that rolled out of the company’s assembly plant on the 19th of July 2021.
On his part, while thanking the Isuzu East Africa team via the contact of Mr. James Njoroge with whom they planned the visit, the College Acting Principal Dr. Eng Hiram Ndiritu expressed his delight in him and the entire JKUAT team getting an opportunity to engage such a key industrial player in Engineering in the caliber of Isuzu East Africa. “The College of Engineering and Technology and by extension the Africa-ai-JAPAN Project office and JKUAT is honored to partner with Isuzu East Africa to revolutionize the automotive industry,” said Dr. Eng. Hiram Ndiritu. “There is much intellectual knowledge and technical analysis that these engineers with me can be able to bring on board and as we engage further, I am sure they will be of great help,” added Dr. Eng. Ndiritu.
The JKUAT team was then engaged to a tour of the assembly plant to see the various production units of the company including the Body shop, Paint shop, Trim line, Chassis lines (locally reinforced through welding to adapt them to the local roads), and the Final inspection line operations. “On average, the company produces about 11,000 units/year which include commercial vehicles, bus chassis, pickups, trucks and SUV,” intimated Mr. Njoroge who was the main guide in the tour of the facility. He also underscored that the main function of the company is to manufacture, distribute and offer after sales support (in terms of spare parts and other follow-up services) for all Isuzu products. The team was privileged to visit the assembling units for Trucks and Pickups.
After the plant tour, the two teams retreated to a review meeting to chat the way forward on the areas and mode of collaboration additionally being joined by the company’s Director (Human Resource) Mr. Fred Wasike. Mr. Njoroge first pointed out the areas Isuzu East Africa currently collaborates with higher institutions of learning which included:
- Internship training program
- Undergraduate internships/ industrial attachment
- Industrial visits
- Enhanced employee academic growth
“These are just but the areas we actively engage academia but I believe you could be having more that would broaden the scope of our collaboration now that you are here with us,” said Mr. Njoroge. Adding to Mr. Njoroge’s points, the Director of Human Resource Mr. Fred Wasike decried the absence of women in key engineering jobs and proposed that his company would offer to give mentorship talks to female engineering students by employees from Isuzu East Africa as a way of encouraging them to be at per with their male peers. “We have experienced staff who have been in the company for more than twenty years and others who have also advanced their academics. Theses are resource people that can be used as adjunct lecturers in JKUAT,” stated Mr. Wasike. “We are also finalizing on our company 2021-2025 strategic plan and would so much appreciate the input by your university on the issues both as clients and academia that you regard to be of great importance to be addressed through our services,” added Mr. Wasike. He also indicated that Isuzu East Africa is very active in Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) and called on JKUAT to partner with them in their activities to needy schools by offering items such as laptops and iPads for schools that are assembled in JKUAT. In order to improve research capabilities for their staff, Mr. Wasike requested that JKUAT and Africa-ai-JAPAN Project office to give information on available scholarships for them to encourage their staff to bid for them.
The Principal Dr. Eng. Ndiritu on his part underscored the strengths the College through the Engineers from the various specialties would come in handy with as well as also benefit from Isuzu East Africa. “By and large we could collaborate in the areas of:
1. Short courses
In which we offer various short courses that would benefit industry players like you and as well we can develop more together.
2. Strengthening research and development (R & D)
We have staff who are experts in Materials that would help in optimization through simulation research of structures that you customize by reinforcement of product chassis, which they can do through testing and inspection of the reinforced materials. You can make us your Research and Development partner in order to strengthen research activities and enhance efficient dissemination of changes in the sector, especially now that the automotive industry is fast-evolving. I also put a challenge to you to consider introduction of electric cars to the Kenyan automotive industry and ensure efficient engine performance to reduce combustion emissions.
3. Curriculum review
Being a college, whose courses are accredited by relevant certification bodies like Engineers’ Board of Kenya, we call fall your critical advisory as an industry stakeholder on the content of our curriculum which is usually reviewed as per the timelines given by the Commission for University Education.
4. Participate in Innovation Seminars
As a way of furthering collaboration engagement and enhancing industrial linkage, we wish to request you participate in iPIC Innovation webinars. You could give a talk on any subject that your company undertakes.” Outlined Dr. Eng. Hiram Ndiritu.
Dr. Eng. Ndiritu in conclusion pointed out that as issues to consider in their 2021-2025 strategic plan, Isuzu East Africa needs to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) in its operations, incorporate decarbonization in their product development processes in order to reduce the levels of carbon emissions from the products as well as supplement the existing power sources by integrating renewable power sources to augment the conventional sources for energy sustainability and reliability especially for the intended electric vehicles’ charging points as soon as they are rolled out. Adding on the points the Principal COETEC gave, the Engineering Workshops Manager Mr. Daniel Omondi requested that Isuzu East Africa, if possible, to donate models to JKUAT Engineering Workshops to be used for purpose of students taking Mechanical Engineering course (Automotive option).
With the visit to Isuzu East Africa Ltd by the College of Engineering and Technology through the iPIC Sub-Task Force team, a roadmap for creation of a lasting technical collaboration and a working industrial linkage between iPIC Sub-Task Force, JKUAT and the company was established. This as envisioned from the discussions held, would improve the quality of the company’s products through intensified research collaboration as well as enhance increased number of JKUAT graduates/students securing slots for industrial attachment, internships and even employment opportunities