Characterised by the unfavourable rand value, expensive local castings and strong competition from abroad, this is one of the most trying times for the local valves industry, says Savama chairperson Helena de Villiers.
Last month, as part of its 30th anniversary celebration, the association treated about 150 potential clients, members of the media and the public to an exhibition of products by 15 of its member companies.
The one-day exhibition’s essence was to show South African industry, in a cost-effective and relaxed fashion, what the local valves sector is capable of, and to share clients between member companies.
De Villiers says the association has grown quite strongly in its 30 years of existence but, due to market forces, now needs to persuade South African manufacturers to start buying local products.
“The exhibition was an indication of the commitment of the valves industry to work together,” says De Villiers.
Currently, local industries source about 60% of valves from abroad, and the remaining 40 % locally.
“This is what we, as an association, are striving to turn around, because our products are of the same quality and standard as those from abroad,” De Villiers says.
“In fact, the advantage of buying local valves is that they can be maintained at a lower cost.
“In addition, local manufacturers will always be easily accessible to look after their products, unlike foreign companies, which can leave the country any time if conditions become unfavourable for them,” De Villiers notes.
Imported products may comply to the same standard as local products, but locally-manu- factured products are better suited to local conditions as they are designed to clients’ specifications, she adds.
The association is currently negotiating with major companies in South Africa in the hope that they will give preference to local products before considering buying from abroad.
One of the organisations that were invited to the exhibition is the South African Chamber of Mines, which represent the mines, a major market for the valves industry.
“We hope that by showing big buyers like mines what we are capable of the message will filter through to everyone in the industry,” says De Villiers.
“Exporting is not only about pricing, it involves a number of aspects, including after-sales service and quality,” Savama vice-chairperson Mark Wilson tells Engineering News.
As a result, the association is encouraging its members to work for ISO 9002 certification and keep up with trends in international markets, so as to remain competitive.
Out of Savama’s 26 member companies only a few are exporters.
A matter to contend with at the moment is the price of locally-made castings.
Locally-manufactured castings are very expensive compared to those from other continents, especially Asia, Wilson reports.
However, the solution is not to import from these Asian countries, but to reach a cooperative agreement of understanding with the local foundry industry, as well as other industries that interact with the valves industry, Wilson emphasises.
He mentions that efforts to build ties with organ- isations representing industries that supply the valves industry, to ensure that Savama and these organisations support one another, are still taking off.
De Villiers notes that incorporating previously disadvantaged people into the valves industry is still a challenge to Savama because of the high entry levels to the industry.
“To open and run a valve-manufacturing company is an expensive exercise, hence we call on the government to support black entrepreneurs who would like to venture into this industry,” Wilson says He says the association would appreciate the involvement of the South African government on different levels of the industry, especially in supporting smaller valves companies.
As a labour-intensive industry, the valves-manufacturing industry needs the support of the government so as to create more jobs and keep existing skills within South Africa.
Savama has also established a training programme, which is currently being examined by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta).