Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA) concluded its first skills development activity last week – a two-month skills course on implementing globally competitive manufacturing practices – aimed at ensuring that MEMSA member companies are able to compete in local and international markets, says MEMSA CEO Dr Paul Jourdan.
MEMSA, through its partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Mandela Mining Precinct, has instituted a “raft of interventions with the ultimate objective [being for] members to produce state-of-the-art, appropriate, high-quality and cost-effective capital goods,” says Jourdan.
He notes that the course, which started late August, is something of a pilot exercise, but MEMSA is confident that, given the observable outcomes to date, it will become a more regular offering.
The course was facilitated by industrial development and competitiveness consultancy BM Analysts and partially funded by the DTI through its Cluster Development Programme. The training venue was provided by the Mandela Mining Precinct; this support is integral to its Mining Equipment Manufacturers Development Programme, which complements the research focus at the precinct.
Having already provided a workshop for facility managers, MEMSA sought to upskill 20 factory-floor team leaders, with the intention that they implement and disseminate knowledge and skills at their facilities.
The course provided a foundation in lean manufacturing techniques comprising four modules, namely Intro to Lean Manufacturing, 5 S’s, Continuous Improvement and Problem Solving. Participating companies ranged from small enterprises to large manufacturers.
Presentation of the four theory modules alternated with practical days where the mentor would support learners as they implemented the new concepts and processes in their factories.
In the feedback after the course, participants described it as “eye opening” and noted “the fact that the practical happens in the workplace of the trainees” as a bonus. They also said the course “pinpoints existing underlying problems and provides tools to rectify these”.
Starting with individual companies, this training should help ensure that South African manufacturers are able to capitalise on existing and new opportunities, albeit in a competitive market. Mining capital equipment worth $2-billion is imported into South Africa each year, with the Southern African Development Community representing another $2-billion market. Jourdan points out that this translates into a niche market larger than that of the European Union. “This represents an enormous opportunity for MEMSA to leverage in terms of import displacement.”
Meanwhile, South African gold and platinum mines are venturing into deeper and more complex underground terrain. “In some cases, mechanisation is the only option in terms of safety and viability. However, any jobs lost on the face must, where feasible, be gained in the supply chain” Jourdan observes. He comments that, in the lead-up to the 2015 Mining Phakisa process, it was found that net employment could be neutral if mechanised mines sourced equipment, parts and technologies that were produced locally.
Considering the imminent change in the mining industry, MEMSA members, and the local manufacturing sector in general, need to embrace lean manufacturing processes. “We have to deal with the reluctance from the industry to change from well-known imported brands by demonstrating we can produce better and [more cheaply] – and assist in preparing the subsector for the challenge of the Mining Charter, and the targets surrounding local procurement.”
Jourdan says that a focus on capital equipment is essential to usher in a new age of modernisation and a step change in safety in the South African mining industry, and reindustrialisation of the South African economy more broadly. Thus, MEMSA will continue to actively explore opportunities for collaboration with partner organisations to provide members with support in the areas of technology development, competitiveness, and access to resources and markets.