Owing to the global mining downturn, lower commodity prices are forcing manufacturers and suppliers to expand into international markets to take advantage of more supply opportunities, a wider demand base and favourable exchange rates.
For South Africa, trading with Australia can be mutually beneficial, says South Africa-based business and project management consultancy SSG Consulting, which established a presence in Australia in the first quarter of this year through a channel partner.
SSG Consulting strategy and business development GM Jacques Marais notes that, amid depressed market conditions in the industry, South African mining companies also have to deal with the consequences of labour instability, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep production rates up and costs down. With their local market under pressure, South African mining goods and services suppliers need to enter new markets, either through distribution deals or establishing international offices, to generate revenue and remain competitive.
Additionally, with Australia being a big investor in African mining operations, the country regards South Africa as the gateway into the Southern African Development Community, which includes 15 member States.
If one views mining conferences as a proxy for interest, the 2017 yearly Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town continued to highlight Australia’s appetite for bilateral engagement in the mining sector, says Marais. Australian and South African miners, suppliers and investors were able to showcase their solutions as well as pursue new business opportunities.
Further, a favourable exchange rate benefits Australia when trading with South Africa. Australian companies are able to buy high-quality products at a cost that is lower than that of manufacturing the same product in their own country, he explains.
Nonetheless, there are barriers to entry when looking to doing business with Australia, with Marais noting high import tariffs levied on certain South African products exported to Australia and Australian companies being encouraged to “buy local”.
However, he notes that SSG Consulting, which specialises in small to mega mining projects has “ambitious plans” to advance in the Australian mining industry through KEY360, its suite of business and project management systems.
“We still see significant inefficiencies in the way complex mining projects are planned and executed in Australia. We established our presence in Australia to assist with the associated project management challenges.”
Next-Generation Project Management
SSG Consulting brings next-generation capabilities for project planning and management to the Australian market, he says. “Without exception, clients achieve extraordinary project results where our intelligent software technology is coupled with sound project management principles.”
“KEY360 combines its Cloud perspective with mobile technology to produce profound business intelligence from Big Data. By digitising all project processes in real time, KEY360 integrated data flows are visualised and transformed into action-driving information. “Taking its cue from social networking, KEY360 enables corporate networking allowing multiple organisations to collaborate effortlessly.”
Marais adds that it is common to find resistance to using new technologies in mining companies in South Africa and Australia, especially digital tools that introduce unfamiliar concepts to companies employing traditional methods. “We quickly get users proficient in using the system. We drive user adoption and results by showing that the system, in addition to its comprehensive functionality, is fun to use. For our clients, it has become an indispensable tool in executing their daily tasks, on an operational to strategic level.”
Additionally, SSG Consulting wants to use its software as a platform for community development as part of mining corporate social investment. “Our mobile application, which was launched in April and functions as an interface with the full KEY360 system, enables mining companies to engage with local community members and involve them as stakeholders in green- field and brownfield projects.”
Marais concludes that for SSG Consulting, innovation remains a key focus to incorporate the latest technology in its systems. This includes the application of arti- ficial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality. The aim is to eliminate project losses and overruns, ensuring that the capital employed yields the desired project returns in the South African and Australian mining markets.