Premium rubber products manufacturer Hudson Rubber plans to focus on the localisation of rubber products for the automotive sector this year.
Following its merger with rubber retail and wholesale specialists Pro-Auto Rubber’s manufacturing operation in November 2016, the most significant opportunities in the rubber manufacturing sector lie in the localisation of complex rubber parts for the automotive sector and enhancing opportunities for rubber exports, says Hudson Rubber MD Stoney Steenkamp.
“The rubber industry is very much linked to the state of the economy as it services various parts of the economy, it creates a situation in which the industry is stable, with room to grow, as some sectors that rely on the industry will decline, whereas others will grow. This will balance out the strength of the rubber industry.”
Steenkamp also notes the importance of the rubber industry in providing products for other sectors. Hudson Rubber was extensively active in the general industrial sector last year, but to make the most of opportunities in the rubber market, he expects the civil engineering and architectural sectors to be prominent for rubber manufacturers in 2019.
Despite the stability of the rubber industry, Steenkamp highlights issues, such as a lack of skills and investments, as significant challenges for the industry. Although there is noteworthy demand for skills, he says there is a lack of formal university or college qualifications and training programmes of any substance.
Steenkamp attributes the lack of investment to the volatility of the South African exchange rate and a lack of foreign investment because of the low volumes of rubber being produced in the country.
To mitigate these challenges, Hudson Rubber is focusing on development overseas and continuous engagement with all local stakeholders to create opportunities to invest in local manufacturing, he adds.
Hudson Rubber is doing this by partnering with a variety of different global partners to develop local skills in the rubber industry. Steenkamp states that, despite not being able to disclose the names of these partners at this time owing to the sensitivity of the discussions, he does emphasise that “development has already begun and will ramp up this year”.
Steenkamp states that there is opportunity for the industry to develop, but it will be realised only if all the relevant role-players are involved, specifically focusing on the long-term health of the industry.
“The industry was neglected for many years and can play a vital role in achieving the objectives of our country in driving job creation, skills and export opportunities. It would, however, require a very active drive to achieve,” he concludes.