“Everyone in the industry was waiting for the boom eco-nomy to come, but was not prepared for the extent of it,” says Colegate. He adds that the rate at which the rapid growth in the metalworking industry occurred has highlighted some of the challenges that are prevalent in the sector.
One such challenge is the increased lead times on engi- neered goods. Speaking as an industry participant, Colegate reports that lead times on goods manufactured by DCD-Dorbyl Heavy Engineering Vereeniging have increased to 100 weeks in some cases. “Many companies in the indus- try feel the need to expand on current capacity now to posi- tion themselves to capitalise on the forecast continued growth prospects. “The result of this is that pressure is put on engineering companies to fast-track production, with its associated problems, to meet growing demands,” says Colegate.
DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereeniging technical adviser Peter Zietsman notes that one of the other big challenges in the industry is the impending threat posed by China and India. “Owing to the long lead times on some products, companies are going for products manufactured in China and India,” says Zietsman. He adds that another factor motivating companies to buy Chinese or Indian products is the cost factor.
Colegate comments that the single biggest challenge that the economic growth spurt has highlighted is the lack of skilled labour within the industry. In response, DCD-Heavy Engi-neering Vereeniging is fast-tracking skills development programmes to support its needs.
“In the past, DCD-Heavy Engi-neering Vereeniging imported international skills. “However, this proved to be a short-term solution which did not achieve the benefits that we intended,” Colegate says. DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereeniging has since developed a training programme that specifically covers the boilermaking, and welding disciplines.
“The training course that we developed is an internal training course aimed specifically at providing individuals with skills that satisfy internal company needs,” says Colegate. The programme makes use of trainers who guide the learners through the theory aspect of boilermaking and welding. Once the theory part of the programme has been completed, the learners then work closely with mentors on practical assignments within the production environment. He comments that, although the programme is still in its infancy, it is hoped that it by eventually be accredited by the Manufacturing, Engi-neering and Related Services Education and Training Authority.
DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereen- iging manufacturing manager Johan Coetzee reports that even with the shortage of skills that is present in the industry, DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereeniging is working on a full order book for the remainder of 2007 and an already healthy 2008 order book. He adds that this interest is the reason for the company’s aggressive capital expansion programme.
“The company is developing plans to spend a significant amount of capital to increase our fabrication facility space and improve our installed equipment. “The company’s intention is to acquire additional workspace and to upgrade the machines that we have at the facility as well as purchase new equipment for installation,” says Coetzee. He adds that DCD-Heavy Engi-neering Vereeniging intends to upgrade a number of its older machines to be fully computer numerically controlled.
DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereen- iging was originally started as a heavy-engineering company that fabricated components mainly for the power generation indus- try. The company started to shift its focus predominantly towards the mining sector when interest in the power generation sector tapered off in the early 1990s. The company has a plate roll that is able to roll a sheet of metal 260 mm thick and 3,5 m wide. These sheets are typically used for rolling mill shells, and vessels. Further, the company has large vertical boring machinery with the capacity to machine components of up to 15 m in diameter, 6,5 m high and weighing up to 180 t, and large horizontal boring mills that have 16-m travel with a height of 5,5 m. Colegate concludes that predictions of the majority of their clients are that the current mining industry boom will start to show signs of decline within the next three to four years. It is by then that DCD-Heavy Engineering Vereeniging wants to be well positioned and equipped to focus on power generation, with particular focus on nuclear power generation components.