In an interesting ‘pivot’, the South African automotive sector has found a way to respond to the country’s high demand for PPE.
With international head offices having set their domestic subsidiaries very stringent back-to-work health and safety protocols, the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM) identified an area of opportunity for a number of their manufacturers to produce one of the items that the COVID-19 pandemic demands in order to keep us safe and protected from the virus, namely face shields and visors.
Together with Business for South Africa, NAACAM did their research and using existing capacity, machinery, raw materials and most important the core engineering skills the sector possesses, found they could mass produce face shields which could compete in terms of price and quality with imported versions.
Recommended guidelines, drafted through a collaboration between the dtic, The Department of Health and SABS, have now been published and the sector is manufacturing face shields that strictly adhere to these required standards.
Of the 14 companies that were initially identified as being able to respond immediately to the production switch, many are 51% or more black owned, putting the economic benefits of this new production line back into communities.
In the health care sector, where face shields are seen as a secondary barrier to infection, as well as in the private non-health care space, the demand for visors is expected to rise significantly.
In order to provide a marketplace for these local manufacturers, NAACAM has joined forces with Proudly South African, whose cloth face mask portal, launched in May, has proved very successful.
Said Proudly SA CEO, Eustace Mashimbye, ‘Listing manufacturers on this new portal allows buyers to source locally made face shields and visors. The site is non transactional and so no one but the manufacturer benefits. All sales are made directly – we are simply the host for the information which includes prices, technical specification and contact details of the suppliers. We urge anyone looking to purchase these items to use the portal to ensure they are supporting local and are getting high quality and competitively priced items.’
Shivani Singh, Commercial Director at NAACAM added, ‘It has been interesting to see the quick turnaround by some manufacturers, who seamlessly moved from the manufacture of automotive components to the manufacture of essential protective wear for South Africans. This pivot has allowed these manufacturers to keep their doors open and bring most of their staff back to work. We are proud of how the sector has responded to this demand and of what we are managing to produce at a fraction of imported prices, and to a very high standard.’