MOST companies around the country and even across the region are finding the going tough at the moment but it’s not as if one can switch the lights off and walk out … although some people have been known to do that – and leave the lights on.
So we may as well make the best of it and, as you will see in the following pages, quite a lot of companies are doing just that.
We publish reports about plant improvements by the material manufacturers Alpha Plast/Elco Plastics, Continental Compounders, Ferro Plastics, Mpact Polymers and Safripol, all of who have made substantial investments to improve quality and supply, plus in some cases get into exports (and some instances not only into Africa).
Then we also look at developments in the machinery manufacturing area where Technimac has continued its virtually ceaseless evolution of the ‘Gapa’ bag-making machine, Maverick Engineering has succeeded where few would have expected by becoming a world leader in the manufacture of stand-up pouch machines (it recently supplied a system to the USA to produce 1000-litre pouches, a beast of machine which is 33m long). and then, in a nice little surprise, Greenacres – based in Malmesbury on the West Coast – has introduced its first foam-cutting machine, an ‘entry level yet world class system’ it says.
Now it’s quite easy to say these developments are incidental, but the fact is that these achievements are the result of extensive teamwork and planning on the part of all those mentioned, starting with the owners and management of these businesses – the people with the vision to progress with their enterprises – and all the individuals involved in the teams.
The weakening of the rand exchange rate is obviously also a factor, especially for equipment manufacturers, but it appears – ironically – that most of the components are imported. That’s the case at least partly because South African engineering companies are seen as over-priced and lead times are too long, in other words uncompetitive. However, it appears a slight shift is underway and that some local manufacturers are becoming more competitive.
On the converting side, there are also some impressive achievements, not least by MCG, which has installed a world-class injection moulding plant at its site in Malvern, Johannesburg – with a price tag estimated at about R60-million; and then Jannock Tool & Die and Jannock Plastics on the West Rand are celebrating 30 years. Their operation has succeeded partly due to their ability to manufacture their own tools and, using that advantage, to partner effectively with customers, particularly during the product development phase.
One of the most important aspects behind the success of these companies is their ability to support their customers on an on-going basis that leads to lasting working relationships.
We also report about Packaging SA’s drive to engage with government on the proposed tax on packaging. Given the history of the failed Buyisa-e-Bag project and the disappearing funds from the plastic bag levy, plastic packaging companies are nervous about the prospect. If the bag levy had been used to boost recycling and litter collection and recycling, there would probably have been at least some enthusiasm, but that’s not the case.
One of the interesting things that’s come out of the process is the situation of plastics within the broader packaging sector: of the four main materials in use, plastic is the only one which has shown steady growth over the last five years for consumption and recycling, whereas consumption of glass, metal and paper have all declined … which is not a good sign.
Martin Wells, Publisher