Sluggish economy piles pressure on manufacturers but this is no time to get down

THERE’S been a lot of bad news of late and, with the economy inching along, a lot of the guys have got a little despondent. Manufacturers urgently need at least some discernible growth, even a few percent, so consumers around the region would not be forced to be so tight.

You can hardly blame businessmen faced with the predicament of slow sales demand. All manner of problems arise and there is massive pressure on employers during sluggish economic phases, but getting yourself down is probably one of the worst options to exercise now. As a close friend once told me: ‘We’re working short-time, some of the staff are out on strike, we had a fire at the plant … besides that, everything’s fine!’ And so it can be.

I buy South African-made products wherever possible. It’s got to the point now where just about everything available is ‘Made in China’: you can’t buy a cup, a set of screwdrivers, a tyre, a T-shirt or virtually anything that isn’t made in China. I mean, what is this? In general, buying local tends to costs more but I feel good about it. That’s hardly going to rock the economy, but we have to boost our local manufacturers. While our government so tamely keeled over to drop import duties on just about everything, while at the same time forcing employers to employ more and go BEE, the problem for local manufacturers is even further exacerbated by the state subsidies received by Chinese manufacturers (by seemingly small advantages such as reduced shipping costs and incentives to attend foreign trade shows etc), it’s become extremely difficult for SA manufacturers to compete. So it has been refreshing to watch the seemingly chaotic Trump administration in the USA show genuine resistance to the flood of imports from China entering the USA. South Africa is certainly not in a position to show similar resistance or any resistance at all, but surely it makes sense at least to assist local manufacturers?

Why any country should make a business of trying to destroy industries in other countries eludes me, but – as stated before – let’s look for some positives. And there is: this issue we look at a wide range of developments by South African converters, and I can confirm that – even in these dark days – quite a bit of capex is going in, with a number of big extrusion lines being commissioned (even if some of the guys prefer to remain quiet about their projects.)

We also feature winning entries from a number of design competitions. Besides the fact that many of these entries show huge ingenuity, we hope that closer inspection will possibly start ideas for you that could lead to bigger things.

So, in these trying times, rather aim to build team momentum where the staff and managers build the enthusiasm and are encouraged to come up with suggestions to improve production and products … and are spared the troubles with the bank manager and suppliers. Positive thinking can help ride out rough storms.

Martin Wells Publisher 

Industry News