Industrial minerals and construction materials producer Afrimat is developing new marketing initiatives to strategically reposition some of its established products as it navigates the effects of rand volatility, market contraction and regulatory uncertainty in South Africa, and continues to build a base from which to grow its global reach.
“Globally, we are actively scanning the sectors in which we operate for opportunities, taking into account factors that contribute to the overall risk of doing business in each region. The drive to actively pursue new opportunities in Africa has, thus, slowed, but we have detected untapped potential for some of our existing products. We are leveraging this, as well as new geographical targets, to ensure the continued local growth of our operations,” says Afrimat nonexecutive chairperson Matie von Wielligh.
He notes that a continued emphasis on debt reduction throughout the global mining environment has led to less funds being invested in capital projects, reduced capital expenditure and exploration spending, which have remained low for a fourth consecutive year. Political instability and the impact of illegal mining have, moreover, impacted on the profitability, safety and control of operations in some African mining regions.
However, with a focus on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit through the creation of opportunities that add value and by remaining alert to potentially new product applications and beneficiation initiatives, Afrimat is enhancing its reach in markets where it is already active, including dolomitic super sands, silica sands, clinker products and the filler market products.
Von Wielligh notes that Afrimat’s dolomitic super sands have become increasingly popular especially in Gauteng because of a successful marketing effort. He points out that substantial cement cost savings can be achieved when using Afrimat’s Supersands in mix designs, with water demands for super sands ranging between 155 ℓ to 160 ℓ for each 1 m3 of concrete – substantially less than the 180 ℓ to 200 ℓ required for most natural sands.
Afrimat has, thus, already targeted ready-mix concrete operators with great success. “Almost all ready-mix operators in Gauteng are now buying from us or at least blending our product with that of other natural sand suppliers.”
CLC Builders Lime produced at Afrimat’s Cape Lime business, in the Western Cape, has also been identified as a marketing priority, with Von Wielligh highlighting that this product has become something of a “forgotten treasure”.
“In a world where sustainability, affordability and preservation have become top priorities, CLC Lime can play an important role in affordable housing, fire retardation and the rehabilitation of historical buildings.”
Sales people who can educate the market on these benefits are being trained, providing them with the literature and support to convince the building industry of the product’s advantages, and to relaunch builders lime as a viable option in the construction industry, adds Von Wielligh.
Iron-ore is a commodity which Afrimat has been considering for some time and the company has established a strong skills base to grow its presence in this market. With an improvement in iron-ore prices, the company has, moreover, introduced development initiatives to process waste material, which are proving successful in producing a product that meets benchmark specifications.
Von Wielligh highlights that identifying these key focus areas has been greatly assisted by the company’s investment in software that facilitates the creation of a centralised and integrated sales management system. He notes that, owing to the company’s wide geographical spread, with sales from 42 commercial entities throughout South Africa, maintaining a real-time sales information system is very challenging.
“Investment in new technology for operations management and enterprise resource planning has been hugely beneficial in analysing large numbers of products by the volumes sold and the average selling prices achieved. Timeous information customised by ClickView reporting has assisted in identifying areas where products have fallen out of favour or price structures were out of alignment with the market. Importantly, it has enabled us to identify and manage customer buying trends.”
This technology has also made cost-optimisation initiatives very successful.
Afrimat is also focused on brownfield development projects to expand and improve its current operations, including the enhancement of operational efficiencies in its crushing and screening plants, establishing new capacity at existing sites and relocating plants for quarries and mines. Afrimat has also erected a new site for sand mining near Cullinan, in Gauteng. In addition, the company is engaged in various studies investigating new kilns for burning dolomite and limestone, as well as minor exploration projects in limestone and iron-ore. Management information systems are, moreover, being continuously enhanced and expanded to improve management control in delivering targeted results.
Growth Supported through Skills Development
Supporting the company’s growth strategy is a pronounced emphasis on skills development, steered by Afrimat’s human resources development department and reinforced by management’s involvement in regular performance engagement sessions.
Almost 1 000 full-time employees have benefited from the company’s skills development initiatives since they began in 2014, having received training in areas, including core business skills, statutory training, leadership and technical training. All training and development interventions are recorded on Afrimat’s internal human resources information system, which further provides management with information on employee development progress. The company is also overseeing 49 learners in learnership schemes and employees are also encouraged to pursue tertiary qualifications to improve their suitability for promotions.
“Afrimat believes that a trained, informed and skilled workforce will be engaged in our business, and its being retained will lead to a deepening skills pool, which, in turn, will drive higher productivity and profitability,” says Von Wielligh.
The company is also involved in several external training initiatives and social outreach programmes in South Africa.