South Africa’s future as a fastener manufacturer could be problematic, says fastener solutions supplier Impala Bolt & Nut MD Derek Cohen. While the country has the skills to manufacture some of the fasteners it imports, a lack of people seeking technical careers and, subsequently, entering the fastener industry, is evident, with the majority of the labour force aged 50 and older, he highlights.
“It is difficult to attract the youth to the industry, as many consider financial services and information technology as career paths,” notes Cohen.
Impala Bolt & Nut aims to promote this career path and attract more youngsters to the industry. “The fastener industry is technically orientated and requires the operation of machinery and tools, and setting and designing skills, which are gained over years of experience, from required investment and dedication by students, Cohen points out.
To assist in combating the shortage of local skills, the company is training its employees in-house through a technical skills programme that recruits suitable workers with the right aptitude and trains them to thrive in the fastener industry, he states, adding that this initiative also ensures a sustainable future supply of technical workers for the company.
The programme was implemented a year ago and the company trained three people last year with trainees recruited from inside and outside of the business. However, Cohen notes that, while there is some interest in this programme, it is not sufficient.
He further adds that fastener imports are still hampering local manufacturing. “We don’t see a massive decline in imports and it is still something the industry struggles with, despite attempts made by the Department of Trade and Industry and the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa to reduce the imports by imposing antidumping duties.”
Cohen further notes that government has promised much regarding the roll-out of new infrastructure projects.
Although the projects that have surfaced, such as State-owned power utility Eskom’s Medupi and Khusile power stations, do create some demand for the industry, more infrastructure projects are needed to create a bigger demand for fasteners.
The fastener industry in South Africa is depressed, owing to the slowdown in infra-structure development and, although there is some investment, it does not live up to government and the industry’s expectations, says Cohen.
“Mine strikes have impacted on South Africa’s economy and caused some projects to be placed on hold or fall behind schedule, thereby reducing fastener demand,” he adds.
There is a negative global sentiment on South Africa, which is affecting investment in the construction industry, which, in turn, negatively affects demand for fasteners, states Cohen.
He adds that a trend across industries to refurbish rather than buy new equipment has also reduced the demand for fasteners, as the components do not easily wear out and are mostly used for new equipment and projects.
Further, Cohen highlights that South Africa’s fastener industry is small when compared with global industries.
“Our product range is jilted and as demand is relatively low, it does not warrant large investment in machinery, technology or product development.
Production in South Africa is far lower than that of many other countries, particularly those in the East, from which South Africa imports quite substantially,” he concludes.