The steel industry has significantly contracted over the last four years and shed thousands of jobs, as many of South Africa’s long-standing and successful construction companies closed down or went into business rescue, South African Institute for Steel Construction (SAISC) CEO Paolo Trinchero warns that South Africa must now act fast to revive the declining sector.
“South Africa needs to be successfully industrialised, or it will sink back into being an economic backwater and, as a globally uncompetitive unit, will be a taker of prices.”
He points out that the yearly Steel Awards stand as a proud example of what can be achieved in the South African steel construction sector. “We need to transfer some of these learnings into other areas of industry and government to avoid stagnation.”
Trinchero suggests that the approach of the companies which participated in the 2019 Steel Awards could be emulated in running industry and the country as a whole.
“The most important attribute of the entrants into the Steel Awards was courage. Innovation takes courage, as one needs to step outside accepted boundaries to produce something exceptional. South Africans have proved many times that we are capable of great courage when circumstances demand,” he says.
Reimagining the steel and other sectors
Trinchero says the SAISC was embarking on the exercise of reimagining itself by stepping back and critically looking at its organisations and where they were heading.
“We would encourage industry and government to do the same to avoid South Africa’s relegation to the D division.”
SAISC has been in intensive talks with the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition as well as other government organisations to find a constructive solution to the current state of the industry.
One of SAISC’s concerns is the excessive amount of time taken to implement government initiatives. Trinchero says many businesses in the steel industry do not have the luxury to wait six months while a new “steel industry blueprint” is drawn up by government. At this stage, the need for positive change is more than urgent.
“We reach out our hands to both government and business to undertake a similar reimagining or re-invention. We have seen the possibility for success in our celebration of steel excellence in the diverse entries at our Steel Awards events over the years. We need to find a way to bring that to life throughout industry.”
The companies that took the honours at the 2019 SAISC event also share the characteristics of being nimble, agile and responsive to prevailing circumstances.
“Apart from managing the normal business aspects of a company, such as gearing ratios, credit control and cash flow, successful businesses are highly reliant on the more intangible aspect of relationships,” remarks Trinchero.
Regarding an answer to the current steel industry crisis, Trinchero says there is no silver bullet solution. “The answer lies in doing the right thing at the right time – and doing this every day.”