Steel manufacturer and supplier Stewarts and Lloyds’ manufacturing division registered an even bigger growth in revenue last year – compared with the previous year – largely owing to the company’s increasing its products range and branches across South Africa.
The company also opened a branch in Windhoek, Namibia, last month, which serves as the first Stewarts and Lloyds branch outside of South Africa.
Stewarts and Lloyds manufacturing head Bob Harvey explains that a big part of the company’s business is supplying, and supporting, its national branch network with its products.
Therefore, growth for individual branches results in growth for the manufacturing division through the expansion of its production line.
The company has extended its range and sizes of steel open-section products, which comprise open-channel, lipped-channel and lipped-angle products.
“This resulted in very good growth for us, and was one of the biggest growth areas for the manufacturing division,” says Harvey.
Stewarts and Lloyds also registered significant growth in its fencing products range, particularly its palisade range, as well as fencing-related hardware, despite palisade being regarded as a “slowly dying” security fencing product.
Harvey partially attributes this growth to people becoming more security conscious.
Further, the company has added see-through wire security fencing to its product offering through its ICU fencing range.
Harvey expects significant growth for the company through this addition because the ICU fencing range is aesthetically pleasing while meeting security and safety requirements.
The range comprises a variety of fencing types, ranging from Econo fencing to high-security fencing with, for example, galvanized or plastic coatings.
Stewarts and Lloyds also added an additional roofing range, which has resulted in its roofing sales climbing.
Meanwhile, the company’s growth is significant when viewed amid the challenges it has encountered in the past year, adds Harvey.
In addition to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, the steelworker strike in October last year resulted in the company’s losing almost a month of production.
Stewarts and Lloyds mitigated some of the impact of the strike through additional shifts – such as night shifts and overtime – to ensure that it was flexible in terms of production while supplying its branches.
“As soon as the strike was over, we were in a position to get material back to the branches so they could continue to trade as normal,” adds Harvey.
He credits the multiskilled staff in ensuring that the company could resupply products in any areas where there were shortages.
Harvey emphasises the need for the local manufacturing sector to grow because of the job opportunities it can create.
More local products being bought and used will create a ripple effect that will, eventually, reduce unemployment, but this “has to come from the top” with government, in particular, needing to deliver on its infrastructure spend every year in the budget, he elaborates.
While large amounts of funds are allocated to infrastructure spend, the local industries have yet to see the true impact of the funds.
In any infrastructure project, there is potential for work, and funds, to filter down to small, medium-sized and microenterprises.
“The big projects do filter down because everyone subcontracts down to the next level when there's big infrastructure spend that happens, potentially even down to the smallest manufacturer at street level,” adds Harvey.
Impact of Indaba
With the Manufacturing Indaba having its first in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic later this month, Harvey iterates the need for events, such as the Indaba, to showcase the capabilities of the local industries and provide networking opportunities.
South African industries can manage massive manufacturing tasks and the Indaba provides an opportunity to show off exactly what the local manufacturing sector has to offer on a local and international level.
He adds that, throughout the lockdown period, the public had few to no opportunities to network or talk about new projects, innovations and possibilities in the manufacturing industry.
While virtual meetings tried to bridge this gap, physical human interaction when sharing ideas and talking about ways of improving business is critical in moving forward and growing the local industry, Harvey concludes.