South Africa’s Innovators in Ceramics
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to provide growth potential for Ceramic Industries, with a continued strong demand for tiling, sanitaryware and other bathroom items
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: James Mitchell
In 2012, Ceramic Industries proudly celebrated its 20th anniversary since listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, benefiting from raising capital and increased awareness of the company and its reputation.
By trading publically, the Group was able to attract a selection of potential companies when in its early stages. Two decades on and with a strong presence in the market, Ceramic Industries drew interest from Italtile Limited, who has now acquired a strategic stake in the company, along with its probable delisting. This has allowed Ceramic Industries to focus on its long term vision to serve the customer as one of the leading low-cost manufacturers and suppliers of ceramic tiles and sanitaryware in South Africa.
“I am confident that the business will retain the best of its characteristics and benefit from the revised structure,” said Giovanni Ravazzotti, Non-Executive Chairman of Ceramic Industries in a company statement.
SA’s manufacturing trends
South Africa’s manufacturing sector was the third largest contributor to the nation’s economy in 2013, accounting for 15.2 percent of the GDP. The industry has a diversified offering and has shown its resilience and potential to compete in the global economy.
Ceramic Industries plays a key role in this, as the company prides itself on being an internationally competitive manufacturer of ceramics that ensures customer expectations are exceeded in all facets including quality, timely delivery and friendly staff.
“The trading environment has remained extremely competitive, fuelled by price-sensitive consumers,” commented Ravazzotti.
Another key trend experienced by the Group in recent years has been continued strong demand for tiles and sanitaryware, particularly in under-serviced rural and outlying areas. “In line with international trends, consumers have gravitated towards larger format wall and floor tiles and high-value bathroom accessory sets.
“Our customers are increasingly seeking convenient and intuitive solutions to their purchasing decisions. We are mindful that this demand will be best satisfied by providing combined tile and sanitaryware solutions, which is a key focus area of the Group’s product development programme going forward,” stated Ravazzotti.
Tile and sanitaryware facilities
Consisting of four tile factories, one sanitaryware factory (Betta) and one acrylic bath factory in South Africa (Aquarius), as well as one tile factory in Australia (Centaurus), Ceramic Industries enjoy several regional and international partnerships that complement the company’s vision and goals.
Betta Sanitaryware is the dominant supplier of sanitaryware in Sub-Saharan Africa, with close to 50 percent market share in the region. The factory is highly automated and makes use of the high pressure casting methodology, which contributes to a reduced wastage factor and consistency in casting.
The four South African tile factories (Samca Floor, Samca Wall, Vitro and Pegasus) manufacture a combination of pressed and extruded tiles in various sizes, textures and finishes. Moreover, Aquarius bath factory manufactures a comprehensive range of baths and shower trays, catering for all sectors including both local and European markets.
Pegasus is a state of the art factory, utilising the latest proven technology to manufacture red body, pressed floor tiles. The factory manufactures different sizes of glazed tiles in a range of finishes, profiles and textures and has the capacity to produce and distribute 50,000m2 of tiles per day.
“Pegasus is strategically positioned to serve the emerging and Sub-Saharan Africa markets as well as providing a very important import replacement service to the local consumer,” said the company.
Ravazzotti highlighted the importance of suppliers, partners and stakeholders to the success of each of these key business areas: “The relationships we share with our stakeholders underpin the continued existence of this business.
“Our customers in wholesale and merchants have continued to support us in a very competitive environment and we thank them for recognising our efforts to deliver the highest quality offering at the best price. The vital partnerships we enjoy with our suppliers and service providers are acknowledged and appreciated.”
Investing in the business
A key focus for Ceramic Industries has always been retaining and growing management talent and developing expertise across the whole Group. Each year, the company invest millions of rand in training which complements the goal to balance satisfying the customer needs with profitability of the business and creating wealth for all of its stakeholders.
“In 2011 for example, R186 million was paid to employees through salaries, benefits and incentives, which in turn enabled them to support their families and contribute to the economic activity of their communities and the broader economy,” the statement said. “The people of Ceramic have worked extremely hard under testing conditions, and I would like to express my gratitude to them for their continued service to the Group.”
Accompanying this focus on people development is a responsible attitude towards the environment. The Group is mindful that its operational activities, which include quarrying for clay, could potentially have a harmful impact on the environment.
“It is therefore a high priority for the long-term sustainability of the business to mitigate any such effects at every possible opportunity and we do so via various initiatives including our involvement with the environmental forum,” said Ravazzotti.
The Group implements an energy management plan to reduce its carbon footprint through the relentless monitoring and management of consumption of resources including gas, fuel, clay, water and glaze.
“We have started to manufacture thinner tiles at Vitro, Samca Wall and Floor and Centaurus, which is just one example of our commitment to environmental issues. This innovation has the dual benefit of reducing consumption of clay, glaze, electricity, fuel for transport and packaging, as well as reduced emissions,” said the company.
The manufacturing sector remains steady in general as a key contributor to the South African economy, and Ceramic Industries hope to capitalise on opportunities within the current environment as Ravazzotti further expanded in a statement: “There are early signs of increased volumes out of our tile factories, therefore our priority focus will be on continuing to drive our efficiencies and enhance the Group’s product range to meet demand in terms of volume and quality.
“Sub-Saharan Africa continues to provide growth potential for the Group, with strong demand experienced for Ceramic’s offering. To capitalise on this opportunity, our strategy will be to retain and expand existing contracts while also sourcing new markets.
“We will continue to recognise our strengths as leaders in the industry and acknowledge our weaknesses, striving to convert them into strengths,” he concluded.