After restructuring its engineering divi- sion in January this year, steel products manufacturer Andrew Mentis is aiming to improve its handrailing, expanded metal and grating products by further developing its plant in Elandsfontein, Gauteng, as it expects to double production in the next ten years.
“To drive the growth of the company, we are focused on three pillars – improving customer service, introducing new technology and becoming more competitive,” Andrew Mentis MD Andrew Mentis tells Engineering News.
He points out that the company has launched a research and development (R&D) department to investigate and develop new technologies for use in the company’s plant and in developing alternative product offerings.
“We do not want to rely only on engineering but also on more efficient processes,” says Mentis, a third-generation family MD of the company, who took up the position on January 1.
“With more than 60 years in business, our expertise has been proved; however, to broaden Andrew Mentis’ market the new management team must review more technologically-advanced ways of conducting business and environment-friendly aspects need to comply with international standards.”
The restructure has given the company a competitive edge, as the management team takes customer needs into account, which enables the R&D department to develop and manufacture client-specific products, states Mentis, who adds that the company has always been focused on continuous R&D and incorporating technological advancements.
In addition to grating, the company offers expanded metal, Mentrail guardrails and Easyrail guardrails for roads, industrial handrail systems, steel floor tiles and Mendrill automatic drilling and boring machines.
Andrew Mentis also aims to market these products for infrastructure development in Africa. The African mining industry has presented much business, owing to the development of roads, rail and port facilities needed by new and established mines on the continent to expand their exporting capacity.
“We are tapping into activity throughout Southern Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, and southern Democratic Republic of Congo. Opportunities in West Africa are also starting to present themselves and we are distributing our product in Ghana through some of our South African customers who have a presence in Ghana.
“Nigeria’s economy is also expected to overtake South Africa’s by 2020. Should this occur, much infrastructure development will be necessary, which presents a business opportunity for us. The plans for infrastructure development in East Africa, specifically in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, also hold potential,” says Mentis.
He explains that, although business in the infrastructure sector is good, with the construction of State-owned power utility Eskom’s two most recent coal-fired power stations Medupi and Kusile in Lephalale, Limpopo, and in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, respectively providing a lot of scope for work, skills remain a massive challenge across the engineering industry.
“Unfortunately, the skills shortage is a national crisis and, as a result, Andrew Mentis has undertaken to train and up-skill individuals within the company and those who have recently completed their matric, to deal with the challenge and ensure that these individuals add value to the company.
“If we can retain these skills, it will benefit the company in the long term. Unfortunately, these skills are in short supply, as larger companies quickly scoop up the individuals once they have been trained,” states Mentis.
Ever-changing and increasing government legislation and the uncertainty over government’s broad-based black economic empowerment is also a challenge faced by the engineering industry, says Mentis.
“This sometimes makes it difficult for us to run our business efficiently, as we are always restricted by the changes in legislation and constantly have to identify ways to adapt to the new changes,” he concludes.