Despite the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on jobs, beef company Beefmaster Group – which claims to be Kimberley’s largest private employer with 664 employees – is scaling up its production plant in Kimdustria by investing more than R30-million into equipment upgrades and creating an estimated 30 new jobs.
The purpose of the upgrades is to ensure that the company has capacity to service the needs of a growing beef market.
“Our focus is on guaranteeing the sustainability of our operation and safeguarding our employees’ future,” says CEO Louw van Reenen.
The upgrades, which have been in the pipeline since 2017, include the installation of a biomass boiler at its meat processing facility, as well as a multistage vacuum machine.
The boiler, which creates steam energy, will enable the plant to reduce its reliance on water and electricity as key resources and therefore help it become more energy efficient. The 8 t boiler is currently being installed and will be in full operation by mid-December.
Van Reenen adds that although Beefmaster is lucky enough to be classed as an essential service, at the height of the lockdown restrictions the company made the “conscious decision” to focus on the health and wellbeing of its people.
“Instead of pulling back on investing in our people and our operations at this time, we are full steam ahead in implementing our plans to upgrade so that we are ready to deliver when the economy turns around.”
Van Reenen says the company sourced the boiler from a local manufacturer renowned for exceptional technology and engineering.
“It was important to us to use local manufacturers and partners in as far as was possible in our upgrades, given the positive contribution they make to the economy.”
The multistage vacuum machine will increase efficiencies, as well as capacity, in the deboning department.
“Although this is essentially a robotic function, we have been careful not to replace human capacity, that is, any of our valued people, with the installation of the machine,” he says.
In fact, Van Reenen says the multistage vacuum machine will create more capacity for additional people to cut the meat products and package them appropriately on the conveyer system, adding about 30 jobs.
The installation of the multistage vacuum machine is being rolled out in two phases, with the second phase to be completed by early 2021.
Further, Beefmaster has upgraded the configuration of its Kimberley premises to increase training capacity and upskill more of its own people.
In the last year, Beefmaster has spent close to R400 000 on training its people and between 2017 and 2020, 194 employees benefitted from promotions at the company.