A shortage of skilled welders, volatile exchange rates and low productivity levels, paired with a lack of capital investment, continue to challenge the South African welding industry, states welding consulting, training and metallurgical services provider Spesmet Technology owner John du Plessis.
He claims that current training initiatives in South Africa are unable to deliver suitably skilled welders within the required timeframe, while there is an increased availability of skilled welders from other regions of the world.
This will result in more foreign welders being contracted to work in South Africa, says Du Plessis.
Further, he states that volatile exchange rates result in South African products being less competitive in the global arena.
“Low levels of productivity and a lack of capital investment in modern welding processes also contribute to making local manufacturing less competitive,” he explains.
Spesmet Technology is active in the petrochemicals, power generation, construction, mining, automotive, transportation, engineering and fabrication industries, and Du Plessis notes that each industry has its own challenges.
“In the power generation industry there is a lack of knowledge about welding among senior decision-makers and, in the construction industry, there is a resistance to changing to modern welding technologies,” he says.
Spesmet Technology takes a simple approach to finding solutions to these challenges, he adds.
“Our main focus is to understand the challenge, after which we design and implement a permanent solution to mitigate the challenge.
“Further, we offer in-house welding training and education for our clients, as well as seminars that offer training to the whole industry,” says Du Plessis.
On May 16, Spesmet Technology and Cape Town-based marine and industrial engineering company Allweld Solutions held a one-day seminar in Maitland, in the Western Cape to help industry participants improve their efficiency and save welding fabrication costs by using five steps.
These steps are: determine the welding costs, determine which factors affect costs, do cost calculations, reduce welding costs, and choose processes and consumables that improve welding efficiency.
Du Plessis points out that events such as the seminar are important, as a unified approach is needed to quantify and analyse the welding skills shortage in the country, besides other challenges.
“Once the shortage is quantified, training institutions and the business sector should embark on a multiyear plan to deal with the shortcomings in the welding industry through training," he suggests.
Meanwhile, despite the challenges, Du Plessis is optimistic about the future of the welding industry.
“I think the industry as a whole is still growing. With government’s planned infrastructure spend, there are opportunities for all industry role-players to become involved and grow the industry in the Southern African region and further into Africa,” he concludes.