From Creamer Media in Johannesburg, this is the Real Economy Report.
The Global CEO of technology group ABB, Ulrich Spiesshofer, was in South Africa this month to officially open the company’s latest manufacturing investment in the country – a state-of-the-art traction transformer factory in eastern Johannesburg.
The facility will initially supply traction transformers to Bombardier Transportation, which was awarded a contract in 2014 to supply Transnet Freight Rail with 240 electric locomotives as part of the State-owned company’s R50-billion acquisition of 1 064 electric and diesel locomotives.
At the factory launch, Spiesshofer outlined the rationale for the investment, which was warmly welcomed by Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October, who acknowledged that it was taking place despite some “political turbulence” in South Africa.
ABB Global CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer:
Today you will see an additional investment by ABB, where we are expanding our offering on the rail side, where we are opening a traction transformer factory. A traction transformer is quite simple: you have power on a line and this power needs to be converted for use by the motor, for the air-conditioning, for different parts of the locomotive. That critical part of the train will be, in the future, produced here in South Africa for the entire Southern African region. We will create more jobs with that; add another 100 jobs at least to the already existing 1 300 jobs in this part of the world and the 5 000 jobs we have in Africa. We will create service jobs over time. And we have the capacity to really support the local players here going forward. With that additional pearl in the strong of pearls that we are investing in today, we have an unmatched capability to power up the rail industry in Africa.
ABB Global CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer:
We really value the partnership with ABB over many years – their involvement with Bombadier and their involvement in our big rail programme. So I want to also the company and investors that whilst in South Africa at the moment we are going through a little bit of political turbulence and it has been said that for South Africa that we are in a sort of election year. But the fundamentals of this economy are extremely strong. We have a strong industrial and technological capability in South Africa, but also we have a big market not only in South Africa, but also on the continent and we want to grow that market.
Other news making headlines:
A company needs to decide on the level of risk that it is willing to take regarding its projects and the healthcare of its employees and onsite staff – These risks greatly influence available opportunities for healthcare service providers, such as International SOS. Simone Liedtke tells us more.
“Duty of care” is a term commonly used when referring to the moral and legal obligations of an employer to their employees and other onsite staff. Healthcare service providers, such as International SOS, assist companies in mining – and other sectors – in providing these services.
International SOS Medical Director Dr Charl van Loggerenberg: “Duty of care” encompasses quite a wide range of implications and terms. Simply put, it’s advising companies on how to reduce risk for their employees. It’s an awareness and risk reduction strategy, and employers need to pay close attention to the environments that their employees are travelling into and travelling through, because there are implications around their health and safety, that will ultimately have a consequence for the employing organisation.
The International SOS healthcare facility in Midrand, South Africa – one of several others worldwide – assists clients in becoming more aware of what is required from an employer when it comes to healthcare services.
International SOS Medical Director Dr Charl van Loggerenberg: It’s about promoting that message of ‘duty of care’ – So, promotion is really engaging in the conversation, understanding the needs of the client and making sure that they appreciate the health risks of the space that they are operating in and then through an assistance centre – like this one, which is part of our global network of assistance centres – we can then dispense the information, we can receive the calls and the requests for assistance and then advise the individuals accordingly and actually deliver the services from centres like this one.
Mining companies, however, are not always fully aware of what risks there are as medical services are not their core business. This needs to be attended to, and can impact operations as well as the overall productivity and profitability of a project.
International SOS Medical Director Dr Charl van Loggerenberg: Being aware of healthcare risks is not a mining company’s game – they do mining. We do healthcare risk management. So, it’s up to us to have that helpful conversation and ensure that we walk the journey together with them.
What type of risks are we talking about? Well, quite frankly, a poorly managed healthcare risk, or health risk of an individual or group of people working on remote sites or travelling, has got an impact from a financial point of view, from a reputational point of view, from a business success or business continuity point of view. And each of those areas will be affected, potentially, by a poorly managed healthcare situation.
Let’s keep it simple: Someone has a medical problem on a remote site. Could we have picked up that problem before that person went? Does the fact that that healthcare problem gets managed poorly in that space, compromise the company’s operations? Sure. Does it impact the individual? Yes. Does it impact company moral and the moral of the workforce in terms of well they’re being looked after? Does it affect the patient outcome? Sure, it does again. Does it cost someone a lot of money? Sure, it does again.
So, each opportunity we that we have, to walk and work with the organisation to reduce that risk – at the end of the day, we should be seeing a health economic value and a health economic benefit to the company as well.
That’s Creamer Media’s Real Economy Report. Join us again next week for more news and insight into South Africa’s real economy.