Local steel tube and pipe manufacturer Robor’s new carbon steel division, Robor Baldwins, is progressing well in its establishment since its introduction to the market in February, says Robor Baldwins MD Andrew Winter.
A year has passed since Robor acquired Kulungile Metals Group’s (KMG’s) carbon steel division, after it had been announced that the company would make additional investments in the newly established carbon steel division.
The additional investment included a R10-million maintenance and improvement project, aimed at increasing the production efficiency of the carbon steel division.
Year one of a three-year improvement project for the company has now been completed, during which the existing equipment was refurbished and safety measures, as well as improved speed and efficiency strategies, were established.
“The initial R10-million investment was always about improving the equipment to meet a reliable standard,” says Winter, adding that Robor Baldwins is in year two of the improvement project.
“We will continue to upgrade our facilities and will attend to some of the objectives that could not be reached in the first year, including the refurbishment of additional equipment.”
Winter says Robor Baldwins is on track in terms of projected growth expectations for the year, adding that the division was always aware of its holistic position within the Robor group and how it would proceed in furthering its milestones and key objectives.
With year two under way and the next R10-million investment planned for use in continuing the ramp-up of its facilities, Robor Baldwins will continue to prioritise safety issues before considering project-based investments in the latter part of 2013.
In the last 12 months, Winter and his team have also focused on improving the general infrastructure of Robor Baldwins and have dedicated time to stabilising the business and its customer base.
Hygiene and Safety First
After taking over from KMG’s carbon steel division, Robor Baldwins’ primary objective was to create a safer, more hygienic environment to ensure the safety of workers and visiting customers.
Excessive speed and a disregard for road signs on site went unnoticed prior to acquisition, and the factory had not been cleaned in years, says Winter. It took some time for the Robor Baldwins team to change the mindset of the existing organisation, which, in turn, would help in implementing a safer, cleaner workspace, as well as improving the standards to meet those of the Robor group.
It was only once these standards had been met that Winter allowed Robor Baldwins to present itself to the industry. “It was important to have a safe working environment and a clean factory, which we could proudly show to people. Moreover, I could not go out into the market without the right stock and reliable machines. This ramp-up was all about getting the basics right.”
Another important upgrade for Robor Baldwins was the improvement of its delivery fleet, as well as its systems and controls, ensuring that customers received their orders efficiently and timeously.
The logistics ramp-up meant that overall communication between Robor, its delivery team and the customers needed to be improved. “We have now achieved that level of visibility where, at any point in time, we know what needs to be planned, scheduled and delivered. We can also provide customers with feedback about the status of their delivery on a proactive basis,” says Winter.
Robor Baldwins’ fleet of delivery trucks are also branded, clean and well presented. “If any of our trucks is involved in an accident, it will be taken off site immediately. It’s all about portraying the right image to the market in ensuring that Robor is recognised for its high standards and consistency,” he explains.
Winter reports that, since the acquisition, the on-time delivery success rate has improved to 85%, up from 65%. He says that a new target of 95% has now been set.
The Next Step
Robor Baldwins aims to differentiate itself in terms of service quality. Winter believes the company is ready to service the market now that it has been stabilised, stocks the right products and offers more reliable service delivery.
Since the division was launched in February, there has been a steady increase in customer support. “Now it’s just a matter of growth and hoping the market improves,” he says.
“So far, every quarter in the past year has posed unforeseen challenges. We are trying to provide a competitive price, superior service and a quality product, but the demand is limited. From that perspective, it’s been an uphill battle.”
Further, as a result of the steel industry’s negative outlook, owing to low demand – which is directly affecting steel supply – Robor Baldwins has had to put counter measures in place to ensure the wellbeing of its business.
Therefore, the company has had to source steel from other countries, albeit reluctantly. “We don’t want to bring in product from outside – we want to keep things local – but sometimes we are forced to consider other alternatives, as a result of limited supply,” says Winter.