October / November 2014

October / November 2014


Rise in production during the strike can’t solve the problem, maybe it is the problem

PRODUCTION actually increased in some cases during the recent strike … but that’s not going to solve your problem or THE problem for that matter.

The fact that production increased was mainly the result of owners and management getting involved in production, in many if not most of the cases simply to supply customers. The only relief was that just about everyone in the manufacturing sector was affected by the strike, but it certainly did not make for happy customers.

So what is the problem? To us from a distance (since we are not involved in employing production personnel) it appears that workers employed at plastics, composites and rubber converting companies around the country are generally treated well, but the confrontational nature of wage negotiations are undermining positive dialogue and even retarding development of the industry. We need to work towards improving employer-employee relations and, in our view, and most importantly, changing the racial polarization that continues, seemingly unchanged: there are very few black employers, yet all the striking workers are black.

Something has to change, or we may start going backwards … in which case everyone will lose.  We hope to report about this scenario in a forward oriented basis in forthcoming issues.

Water cut off is a serious matter

In our article about the recent Pipes VIII conference, SAPPMA chairman Jan Venter mentioned the fact that although promises of orders for plastic pipe are made by government and municipalities, the process is often not carried through. Most of the country’s water pipe infrastructure needs to be replaced and upgraded, and the problem is possibly even more evident across Southern Africa.

Jan has been warning about this for some time, but he’d hardly finished his presentation on this occasion when residents in several suburbs in Gauteng ran dry. Not because there isn’t water, but due to failure of the pipe distribution system.

Plastic pipe offers a very good solution for this requirement, but the country’s pipe manufacturers are sitting around waiting – which is costly. It’s worrying when high standard production machines are not being utilized. Perhaps what we need is a multi-lingual task force to visit municipal procurement managers around the region and explaining the urgent need for proper maintenance of the infrastructure, and to urge them to complete the order forms.

Venture success

Our story about the cooperation by Venture Plastics and Kwikot, the hot water systems supplier, is a positive one. Geoff Watson of Venture has been moulding items for Kwikot for over 40 years and continuously since he formed Venture Plastics in 1988. Now the companies have taken their relations to the next level by Venture installing a machine as an ‘in plasnt’ unit at the Kwikot site in Benoni. Kwikot has managed the process in good faith, particularly by not continuously seeking to find cheaper suppliers. That course has been followed by numerous manufacturers around the world: in South Africa convertors have frequently had to face threats of orders being shifted to China, and sometimes only presented with the reality after the event.

We realize this scenario is more complicated than can be summarised here, but hats off to Watson and the Venture Plastics team for succeeding in maintaining the confidence of their customer over a long period – well done guys!

Martin Wells, Publisher