Owed to quality-driven values and an innovative ethos, Elmacast Engineering is helping to forge a bright future for South Africa’s casting industry
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Competition is central to the success of any market or economy.
It’s become an inevitable aspect of business, owed to the imitations and expansions brought about by lucrative opportunities. And while competition undoubtedly creates more challenging business environments, it also provides the perfect conditions for proactive companies to successfully navigate them and thrive.
Encouraging enterprises to think outside the box and diversify their investments, the endless search for a competitive advantage is crucial in powering innovation, productivity improvements and growth across industries.
For Marius Vermeulen and Elmacast Engineering, competition in this sense is a somewhat doubled-edged sword.
“The South African foundry industry has faced many challenges in the past decade, with one of them being a rise in competition from international suppliers,” Vermeulen, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, explains. “And we’ve had to strengthen our operational performance in the face of this.
“There is certainly an exciting aspect of competition, powering the exploration of new ideas and innovative technologies. You have to remain in front of the curve, in this respect, to ensure your survival in the industry.”
Specialising in the development of high precision chrome alloy castings, Elmacast serves various customers in a number of industries renowned for rapid progression and agility.
This in mind, the firm’s recognition of the importance of innovation has proven invaluable to the long-term success of the business, an ethos most recently emphasised by a new series of major investments beginning April 2018.
“Here, the foundry underwent several major upgrades and technological enhancements, where our major focus was on improving the production of high chrome grinding media for ball mills,” Vermeulen reveals. “As a result, we can now produce mill balls in sizes ranging from 30 to 90 millimetres, with chrome contents ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent.”
Having been completed in April of this year, the company’s capacity to produce chrome casted grinding media for ball mills rose to 2,500 tonnes
This is not all, however, the expenditure also having led to the upgrade of two six-tonne induction furnaces, a crane overhaul, the installation of a new shot blaster, a thermal sand reclamation plant and computer simulation technologies to model various casting procedures before execution.
“Further, we now offer a value-in-use model to our clients, assisting the optimisation of their grinding circuits to increase their production in a cost-effective manner,” Vermeulen adds, pointing to Elmacast’s overriding competitive advantage.
“Ultimately, our major focus always revolves around quality.”
Investments aside, this quality-driven philosophy is similarly showcased by the business’s meticulous supply chain management practices.
Vermeulen continues: “We have various strategic raw material contracts that ensure we receive the desired quality on a consistent basis. Meanwhile, we manage the full value chain of production on our premises, from the melting of raw materials through to heat treatment, metallurgical testing and final distribution and packaging.”
State-of-the-art technologies again are crucial here, helping to uphold Elmacast’s unparalleled standards while saving man hours and costs. Yet the firm’s suppliers, partners and employees all play an equally important role.
“We are closely located to major industrial areas around Gauteng, and our mining clients in the Mpumalanga province,” Vermeulen states. “This enables us to work with a fantastic network of suppliers – a network who support all our procurement needs.
“Similarly, we recognise the contributions of our workforce, and don’t take them for granted. As a BBBEE Level 2 accredited company, we pride ourselves on offering training programmes and apprenticeships to our employees and maintain a focus on employing locally before expanding our talent acquisition.”
Partners, employees and a progressive investment strategy combined, the company has unsurprisingly garnered fantastic stature amongst its clients, serving the likes of Impala Platinum, Samancor, Eskom, Caterpillar, Multotec and David Brown Santalaso.
Moving forward, it seems that this reputation will only continue to improve.
A business built upon years of vigorous fault finding, mitigation and improvement techniques, astute experience has come to define Elmacast’s operations. The company remains determined, ready to take further strides ahead of the curve, as demonstrated by Vermeulen’s outlook for the future.
“Our main focus for the next 12 months will be to expand our current sales targets and achieve our maximum production capacities of 2,000 tonnes per month of grinding media and 500 tonnes per month of conventional castings,” he states.
“We’re hopeful that this will lead to further opportunities, both in terms of employment and expansion.”
Both targets are ambitious but realistic. Despite a level of pressure having come from international competition in recent times, Vermeulen reiterates that a buoyant climate awaits the SA castings industry.
He concludes, citing this distinct optimism: “While the pressures of international competition continue to ramp up, government policies, as well as our own innovation, have offered a little respite. The local mining charter and local procurement policies, for example, are helping to support local businesses here.
“These initiatives have been around for many years, but it was only last year that we started seeing more stringent enforcement. We’ve already increased our sales volumes as a result, and we believe that these policies will continue to be emphasised for years to come.”