Despite the debilitating effects of Covid-19 on the local economy, the South African Paint Manufacturing Association (Sapma) is using this opportunity to redevelop and implement improved measures of communication with member companies, as well as ramping up training.
“Since the spread of Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown of local industries, communicating information on regulations regarding its effect on industries has become more important, particularly for the local coatings industry,” says Sapma executive director Tara Benn.
Much of this information pertains to the challenges of allowing certain sectors – including businesses in the coatings industry, such as paint manufacturers, raw material suppliers, retailers and contractors – to return to work and how this would be done.
She states that the association does much of this its communication through WhatsApp group communications, emails and Web-based seminars.
Although Sapma’s website is user-friendly for members, Benn adds that it is being upgraded, as this will allow for updating it with current information more frequently and more easily.
Using the ‘new’ website will also enable the association to better communicate with members, particularly in a way which does not overwhelm them with information but rather in a way that provides information that has a direct bearing on their business.
While many of these communication measures have been a direct response to the national lockdown, Benn says they will remain in place beyond the lockdown, when restrictions are eased.
She emphasises the importance of this, particularly with regard to Sapma’s interacting with government, as the association has been active in lobbying on behalf of all the sectors in the coatings industry to be allowed to return to work.
“Despite the risk involved with all members of the coatings industry returning to work, this is vital for the survival of not only the industry but also the national economy. Sapma believes that its members will exercise the necessary safety precautions.”
Benn confirms that Sapma has successfully appealed to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to allow sections of the industry to return to work, but these sections include only paint manufacturers, raw material suppliers and retailers.
Paint contractors were not included by government and Sapma has submitted a request to DTIC for paint contractors to return to work.
This request was necessary because retailers have been functioning at only about 30% capacity – paint contractors comprise a significant source of sales for retailers, which could also impact on manufacturers, says Benn.
“While the DTIC has been very responsive, it’s important to help people understand how the industry actually functions and how the one element can’t work without the other.”
She adds that the association requested contractors to return to work during the industry’s ‘dry season’, usually in winter, particularly to do construction and redevelopment while many employees are still working at home.
Member companies have also contributed by sending in applications explaining the importance of reopening the sector, even if it is done progressively. Benn adds that members have also been significantly more forthcoming in terms of adhering to requests for information from the association.
She compares this to before the spread of Covid-19, when companies were more reluctant to share information. She adds that member companies are more eager to share crucial information in order to open up and grow the industry again.
Sapma will also do surveys on member companies about their experience during the lockdown and what will be required for the industry going forward.
New Training Approach
Sapma has also focused on updating and improving its training processes, particularly how they are conducted.
Benn confirms that the association has started to migrate its practical classes to distance learning modules last year, as class teaching became too costly. Certain students do, however, still prefer classroom teaching, owing to a lack of equipment, particularly students who are unemployed.
She emphasises that while the association is ramping up its efforts to move to distancing learning, measures – such as physical distancing – will still need to be put in place for face-to-face training classes at facilities for such students.
Sapma is also looking to consolidate all its online learning materials into one platform. This will make the material easier to access and navigate for trainees of different aspects of coatings technology such as retailers and paint chemists.