As more and more locally produced products continue to be displaced by imports, one South African company is proving that local is as good as international any day. “Bulk Handling Today” speaks to Colin Fairweather, CEO of Facet Engineering, about the importance of procuring local.

There is no denying that manufacturing in South Africa is under pressure. It’s not an easy environment to operate in; with ever increasing imports and a tendency to look to the East for bulk handling solutions. The stagnant economy has also not helped matters. Never before has it been so important to boost local industry.

“There are many benefits in using local manufacturers,” says Colin, whose team has been working on a major contract for the past few months replacing a host of imported conveyors.

“We were called in after the client continued to experience challenges with the conveyors that were just not performing. The contractors had left the site and returned to their home countries,” he says citing the first and probably most obvious benefit of having a local team available at a moment’s notice.

Working with local manufacturers from the beginning builds relationships that ensure long-term solutions are cost-effective rather than bringing in suppliers to troubleshoot.

Too little, too late

“In this instance, you are literally putting out fires. Sometimes the challenges are fixable through a few adjustments or some basic changes, but often the solution is to replace completely which involves designing, manufacturing, installing and commissioning the entire system from scratch. It is a costly process,” he says.

While many clients look internationally for bulk handling solutions, local companies are as capable of delivering the required equipment as their overseas counterparts. “I truly believe that we are able to provide not only the same quality, if not better, but also at a highly competitive cost.”

Facet Engineering has been in business for the past 27 years and has proved its longevity in the market as well as the quality of its products. “We have worked hard on being able to deliver a service that meets the needs of any of our clients. Our systems work well because we understand local conditions and we are able to tailor-make to the specific requirements of our customers.”

Price competitive

The tough economic environment has undoubtedly forced many businesses to cut costs and price has become the major driving force in the market. “Cheap imports are available but these need to be weighed up against quality, the cost of maintenance or even a complete stop in production,” Colin advises.

“Our products, when compared internationally when it comes to the same quality and workmanship, are completely price competitive. At the same time the availability of spare parts, maintenance and servicing becomes more affordable if products and services are procured locally.”

While the initial cost when importing might be marginally cheaper, the cost of waiting for spares, communication problems or even finding a local team to step in while parts are on order all adds up.

“We’ve been extremely busy over the past few years despite the slow economy. This is good news because it does imply that there is still faith in the local manufacturing sector, particularly in aftersales service where we have a distinct advantage.

“Aftersales is critical in the bulk handling sector. A breakdown can halt production for days and has a massive cost impact,” says Colin. “Local teams are quick to respond and can address the problem much faster, which means loss of production is minimised.”

Service first and foremost

For Facet Engineering, bulk handling principles have been tried and tested over many years. “Familiarising oneself with a variety of systems means that you can problem-solve much easier. If we are involved from the get-go right through to commissioning, our conveyors don’t give hassles. In fact they don’t break down. Being able to deliver a critical aftersales service continuously and maintaining the equipment to the right standard is the differentiator we pride ourselves on.”

Colin adds, “Of course, in any business you cannot rest on your laurels so we’re diversifying across a variety of sectors. One of which is agri processing which is gaining ground in the country.

“Another is rounding out our service to clients to include an inhouse design team that can develop bespoke solutions or we can supply standard options. We then manufacture, install and commission the equipment and have a full after-sales service and maintenance programme that we implement. Being able to offer such a complete service is important as it does make us more competitive.”

Cape Town, Tanzania and Australia

Another growth strategy is to look beyond Southern Africa. “There are some good opportunities on the African continent and we have the expertise and the ability to service this market well. We are currently busy installing a number of conveyor systems within a big agri processing plant project in Tanzania.

“Further afield, we recently supplied conveyor systems to an Australian company and the project went off very well. This is a market that we are actively looking at engaging with more.

“But we also need to ensure that we are servicing the local market well. Our new branch in Cape Town cements our footprint in that part of the country, especially when it comes to the agri processing business, a move that will bode well for us in the long run,” Colin concludes.

Facet Engineering, Colin Fairweather

Tel: (011) 769-1168