The prevalence of build projects for new warehouses, distribution centres and other logistics infrastructure has provided local steel supplier Macsteel with opportunities to supply its innovative products for steel construction and cladding projects.
Some of these products include Novotexi and Sky Forming.
“Poor economic activity has had an impact on our competitor base, and many companies have gone into business rescue. This has had a positive impact on Macsteel, as contractors and developers of these logistics projects want more certainty in supply, and Macsteel is able to meet that supply. Innovations around Novotexi and Sky Forming have helped push our penetration into this environment,” explains Macsteel Group CEO Mike Benfield.
The Novotexi 440 high-tensile steel product is Macsteel Roofing’s concealed-fix profile, designed to accommodate high wind pressures. It has an effective cover of 440 mm and is generally roll-formed on site from G550 high-tensile steel to any practical length that is manageable by the roofing contractor.
The product can also be supplied in soft ductile materials such as aluminium and commercial grade steel.
Sky Forming streamlines the roofing of megabuild projects. In this process, the roll-forming container producing the Novotexi 440 sheet is lifted to the roof level to seamlessly apply the product at height and speed.
Benfield adds that in regard to roof cladding, the Sky Forming process results in no damage to the built structure as it is done at a high roof level.
Applying the solution also does not require any complex scaffolding on site. A cladding rolling mill is housed in a container, which is than hoisted, before rolling the roof sheeting straight onto the eaves of the roof.
“This can be done quickly, as you don’t require excessive manual labour to hoist up a roof sheeting that was formed on the ground. We’ve also improved this process, where we use a mill on either side of the roof, making the process faster. A key driver for these construction activities is getting the structure up and moving the tenant in as efficiently as possible.”
He says the state of the local steel construction and cladding industry is being boosted by renewed activity in warehouse and logistics centre projects, which has also been the result of growth in e-commerce.
“In South Africa, there is a need to become more efficient when it comes to logistics and moving goods, given the poor state of the local transport sector, infrastructure and the cost of transport. This necessitates coming up with solutions to achieve higher levels of efficiency. This is often achieved through scale, which is why we’re seeing these larger distribution centres being built.”
In addition to Novotexi and Sky Forming, Benfield also points out that Macsteel has relaunched a product called Tosa-wrap this year, which is a galvanised pipe system that is coated in bitumen and wrapped in a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sleeve.
The product used to be sold by steel tube and pipe manufacturer Robor when the company went into liquidation
“We’ve relaunched this product and it’s showing significant penetration into the local market, particularly in the municipal water infrastructure and reticulation space. These pipelines are self-healing, so if there’s ever a scratch on the coating, the pressure that the PVC sleeve is creating on the bitumen seals it up to protect the galvanised layer.
Lack of Growth and Imports
Benfield stresses the lack of economic growth in South Africa and the impact thereof on the demand for steel products.
“Government needs to create the environment for us that builds investor confidence, ensuring that the country grows, and we as the private sector need to participate in this.”
Another challenge that is exacerbated by the downturn in economic activity and high steel prices is the circumvention of duties – a mechanism used by companies to avoid duties on goods that are imported –at South African ports.
Benfield argues that there is significant evidence that the duties for certain imported steel products – particularly roof sheeting products and coil that is used to produce roof sheeting – are being circumvented at border posts.
“Roof sheeting in this country is a massive market segment, particularly in terms of informal housing. Owing to a push by industry to make products cheaper, the quality of material used for roof sheeting is low, and it forces people to try import goods at low prices. What this results in is circumvention of duties.”
There is also a general 10% duty on imported steel products.
The International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa – on behalf of the Southern African Customs Union – announced an anti-dumping investigation last month on flat-rolled products, iron or non-alloy steel imported from China.
He stresses that if the potential for circumvention of duties is prevented – particularly amid the volume of material being imported – there would be no need for the anti-dumping investigation.
“Products are imported at legitimate pricing, but circumvention of duties is what’s causing the need for government to consider an anti-dumping case. The circumvention of duties by a small number of players undermines legitimate operators in the country who pay their respective taxes and customs,” Benfield concludes.