There is a tendency among local and international original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to underestimate the capabilities of South African sheet metal fabricators. This makes industry collaboration crucial to increase the exposure of local fabricators and prevent the loss of orders to international competitors, says sheet metal manufacturer Fabrinox MD André Visser.
“The industry is going through a challenging time . . . with slow to negative growth, but there are pockets of opportunity and new markets and applications opening up as multinational OEMs come to South Africa.”
However, he notes that a significant barrier to the local sheet metal fabrication industry’s ability to secure business with these OEMs lies in the lack of a central database to provide international companies with information about the South African industry.
He points out that, if OEMs struggle to find local suppliers with proven records, they will often revert to supporting their existing supply chains, with local suppliers losing out on valuable contracts.
To create platforms for sharing information, Visser recommends that South African industry bodies develop systems for verifying the credibility of local fabricators that will be accepted by the international market.
Fabrinox is a subcontracting company that specialises in welding and cutting and sheet metal fabrication. It is involved in various projects, including in the rail, energy, mining, agriculture, leisure, marine containerised solutions, as well as the food and beverage industries.
The company has notably been involved in the manufacturing and installation of units that assist in harvesting milk for a client in the dairy industry with branches in various countries. Fabrinox has completed the installation of units in dairies in Germany, Ecuador, Namibia and South Africa, and will install the last unit in this project in Bulgaria as soon as the civil engineering requirements are completed. “The most important benefit of this project for Fabrinox has been the international exposure,” Visser notes.
Facilitating Skills Transfer
Visser says another significant challenge to the South African fabrication industry is the lack of well-trained artisans. Fabrinox is thus involved in a number of initiatives to assist in training welders.
The company takes in students yearly from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in Cape Town, and from other technical universities, who need to complete a period of experiential learning as part of their training.
Fabrinox also acts as a host company for various further education and training colleges, including the Northlink and Boland colleges, providing six months in-service training for their boilermaking and welding learners. The company also offers vacation work for students needing to complete work experience programmes.
Further, the company trains apprentices, with 22 employees currently earmarked for apprenticeships. It also aims to sponsor three employees a semester to complete national certificates in welding and boilermaking.