South African steel fabrication companies wishing to continue successfully doing business in the Australian mining industry need to maintain regular contact with their clients, says marketing consortium for the South African structural steel construction industry the International Steel Fabricators of South Africa (ISF).
ISF director Neels van Niekerk says the ISF’s business visit to Australia this year revealed that the number of new mining projects remains limited and are therefore “fiercely competed for by the engineering houses”, adding that “the net result is that engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) companies are under exceptional pressure and the shrinking and reorganising phase in the sector continues unabated”.
Every year, the ISF leads a specialised delegation – including companies in structural steel fabrication, civil contraction and tank suppliers – to formally meet with Australian companies involved in the mining sector.
“This arrangement ensures that our member companies are exposed to a wider and more effective client audience, including senior executives from engineering and procurement departments,” says Van Niekerk.
He adds that this regular touching base with the Australian mining industry aims to demonstrate the size and quality of the South African steel fabrication industry, as well as its willingness and ability to partner in projects and fast-track them, where possible, to the Australian mining sector.
“The main cities visited were Brisbane for soft rock mining and Perth for hard rock mining developments – and, as usual, the visit concluded with the South African delegates attending the well-known Africa Down Under Conference and Exhibition, where the ISF always has a stand.”
The Africa Down Under Conference and Exhibition is a mining exhibition event held yearly in Australia to showcase mining opportunities in Africa.
Van Niekerk notes that Australian EPCM companies have been careful to ensure that their core competences have not been affected by the shrinking and reorganisation phase as “a definite optimism exists that the tough economic conditions in the mining industry have bottomed out”.
Van Niekerk says South African steel suppliers need to keep in mind that the market is becoming tougher as Australian companies are able to also source their steel structures from places such as Europe and the East.
However, he adds that South African companies are sometimes at an advantage as they excel in project management. “For those South African structural steel companies that are prepared to continuously offer good service to their international clients, the future remains promising,” says Van Niekerk.