Lining specialist expands African footprint

17th February 2012 By: Nomvelo Buthelezi

Pumps and rubber lining specialist Weir Minerals Africa is expanding its footprint across Africa and into new industries, such as the piping industry, which has grown significantly over the past few years.

Weir Minerals Africa rubber products manager Ronald Govender says lining systems and lining options for the piping industry were limited in the past; however, the company has taken the opportunity to penetrate this market with its high- quality lining products designed to provide a low cost of ownership as a result of less maintenance and a longer service life.

Weir Minerals is currently working on piping projects in Africa and Europe.

“We are making the piping industry a focal point for the company, concentrating mainly on quality, service and support,” he adds.

“The Weir Minerals Linatex range of products offers the customer more efficient piping applications with extended service life,” states Govender.

“The acquisition of the Linatex group of companies by Weir has provided opportunities to expand the Linatex business into territories that were previously untapped by the company. “With a focus on the customer base in Africa, we have grown the company and established branches in South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Botswana. We are looking to open a new branch in Mozambique in the near future,” he says.

As a result of its growth in the rubber industry, Weir Minerals has invested significantly in the improvement of the manufacturing processes of Linatex, which has outgrown its current facilities, and will soon be moving into the Weir Minerals facility in Alrode, Gauteng.

“The Linatex rubber processing and manufacturing facilities have benefited from Weir Minerals’ relentless pursuit of excellence to ensure world-class operations and stringent compliance with health and safety regulations.

“The relocation further ensures improved customer satisfaction by providing access to Weir Minerals’ extensive resources, such as the new and improved warehouse supply chain distribution system, which will reduce lead times for customers in terms of exporting products to the rest of Africa,” he notes.

The move to the new premises will be completed by the end of May.

“The move into the new facility will mean that Linatex will be the only International Organisation for Standardisation-accredited rubber lining facility in the country,” he adds.

Weir Minerals is also installing auto- mated equipment at the facility to move away from a manual operation and improve the safety of its employees, as well as improve the quality of its products.

The equipment will be installed and operational by the end of this month.

“We are moving to a water-jet-cutting system. With our environmental focus, we are able to reduce our waste by at least 7 t a year from the rubber-cutting operations and, because we use a fair amount of cured rubber, the water jet system will bring our waste down further,” says Govender.

In addition to the significant invest- ments to improve its facilities, the Weir Minerals team has invested a lot of time in training for the rubber industry.

“Since the acquisition, we have taken the opportunity to conduct global training for people not competent in rubber products. “We are keen on the concept of global sharing and will soon be hosting the international Divisional Rubber Conference in South Africa, which will be held in May,” he says.

Further, Govender notes that Weir Minerals is constantly training its employees through its knowledge transfer sessions, in terms of which individual employees are trained in the various products that Weir Minerals has to offer.

To solve the problem of skills shortages in the areas of certain rubber products, Weir Minerals has developed a training programme that allows for the training of its staff, customers, agents and applicators at mine sites.

“The company is also currently working on developing global training modules. These modules allow indi- viduals to go online to start work on the global technical modules to enhance their knowledge. There are people around the globe in various regions that share their expertise in the development of the modules,” Govender tells Engineering News.

In addition to this, Weir Minerals also has a programme called the Weir University, where individuals are able to expand their knowledge in various modules in different areas of study. This is continuously being expanded. The university also offers a rubber module.

“As it stands, one of the challenges is that industries have always been production focused and, once a product has been manufactured, the customer is expected to buy it, which is not always the result. With increased globalisation and competition, companies need to be more customercentric if they are aiming to survive in the long term,” he concludes.