April / May 2014

April / May 2014

Record breaking and radical projects underway

BEHIND-THE-SCENES and unseen by almost all, interesting developments are taking place in the industry – even in these challenging times.

We have fortunately been privy to some of these projects lately and are happy to report about them here. Altech UEC at Mount Edgecombe in KZN is busy with a massive project to produce TV set-top boxes: it is manufacturing over 600,000 TV ‘set top boxes’ a month in the rollout to supply subscribers across Africa, as the continent switches from analogue to digital television streaming. The figure doesn’t compare with packaging sector contracts, where volumes are far higher: these are complicated devices which require both assembly and live testing. Volumes like this are impressive and testimony to good teamwork and planning.

UEC has also made extensive use of automation systems such as robots in one of the largest rollouts in the industry since the switch to the new beer crates in the 1990s.

Then we report about the new venture by Cycliq in Wadeville, where a completely new bed base is being manufactured in recycled PP. Although the business is at this stage far smaller than the Altech project, the partners at Cycliq have shown a lot of tenacity in getting the concept off the ground and, in our book, their ‘Space Base’ plastic bed has the potential to be a winner.

The reality is that it would be unwise to think manufacturers of rival products, in this case is the wood bed base, are going to roll over and play dead. We always cheer material substitution, which for years has been in favour of the plastics industry, but for our rivals it’s the exact opposite.

We report about a number of other cutting-edge projects here too and believe you will find these interesting and relevant.

Some companies are reluctant to publicise their achievements, but we continue to work towards encouraging them to celebrate progress and initiative – and inform the market and the public of these. There is a pervasive negative character in the media in general, whereas we find there is a lot to celebrate in the plastics, composites and rubber sectors.

For those who want to keep everything secret, it’s almost certain that your competitors already know what equipment you have … but what they have no control over is how you are going to make your machines work. Are your moulds going to achieve their claimed cycle times? Will your setters be able to keep the machines running optimally, 24/7? Will your night shift be suitably productive? Are you managing to contain your electricity account? There are other factors besides which only you and your production team can resolve. How you achieve that is what you need to keep confidential, obviously.

So we firmly believe in the role of positive communication at present. All industries are under massive pressure, and it is creating a dangerously competitive market climate.

We have also noticed that the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has lately been funding several new projects that are showing promise. It may be that the apparent political agenda pursued by the IDC previously is being toned down and funding rather extended to projects with clear business plans and programmes. Entrepreneurs need guts to undertake big projects, and your chances are much better if you have good partners!

The current thinking is that most sectors of our market are reaching saturation point, and the next frontier is the wider African market, and were are going to need momentum to achieve in that area.

Martin Wells, Publisher

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