Growing its Presence on the World Stage
SJM Flex supply flexible couplings to the automotive industry across 32 destinations around the world and is a well respected name in the industry
known for its high productivity levels
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: James Smith
With facilities in South Africa, Asia, North and South America, SJM Flex combines cutting edge technology competency with a comprehensive manufacturing experience.
Headquartered in Korea, the company is one of only two remaining flexible couplings manufacturers in Africa. Consequently, SJM Flex’s Africa operations have seen significant expansion in recent years with the aim to achieve 26 percent growth this year and to launch four new products by the fourth quarter of 2015.
Deon Joubert, Managing Director of SJM Flex South Africa says that although the company is internationally known, the various country branches look to South Africa for the most efficient ways of developing the business. “Our overseas branches like the way we do things in South Africa; the team is more like a family here, with a high work ethic and pleasant working environment.
“Some of our managers were flown out to China to provide support to our operations there with great results. They really look up to South Africa’s operations when it comes to manufacturing capabilities and efficiencies,” he adds.
Established in 1975, SJM Flex Malaysia has been providing tier one suppliers with flexible exhaust couplings for forty years, building longstanding relationships with key industry players along the way. Tier one companies are direct suppliers to OEMs, making the company a vital contributor in the automotive industry with a worldwide distribution chain including the likes of Europe, Asia and America.
The company’s African operation began in 1997 with just 14 people and has since grown to a staff complement of 287, with more employees to be added as part of its growth strategy this year.
“Our South Africa operations were originally established as a result of American motor giant Ford’s desire to gain a footprint in Africa. We were the first to manufacture a flexible coupling for exhausts in South Africa, and we remain the only company to build our own machines here. This means a guaranteed faster turnaround for customers,” says Joubert.
Consequently, SJM Flex has been enjoying double-figure growth every year for the past seven years, boasting excellent productivity and attendance levels, which allows the company to remain competitive on a global scale.
“Our reputation for honesty and integrity means our operations remain on the world’s radar. As a result of our proven capabilities and capacity offering, we are seeing interest from other countries combined with a high export rate,” comments Joubert.
In South Africa, SJM Flex manufactures more than 50 variants of the flexible exhaust coupling for both trucks and passenger vehicles. Last year, the company merged its two facilities into one after manufacturing 3.2 million flexes, witnessing good growth as a result.
“The numbers for 2015 have been adjusted accordingly for this growth and we hope to manufacture 4.3 million flexes to match our drive for improved productivity,” says Joubert.
Contending on the world stage requires an extensive strategy that divides the manufacturing load into countries that are closest to South Africa from a logistical point of view. “By this I mean we align our business so that South Africa will supply Africa and Europe, and China will supply Asia. Our new plant which we plan to open in 2016 in Mexico will supply North and South America,” explains Joubert. “This shortens lead times for our customers as we supply our product to 32 destinations around the globe and have to manage this carefully.”
Furthermore, in order to remain cost competitive, SJM Flex has to monitor product quality in order to minimise rejects or faulty items. Joubert is particularly proud of the achievement of 1.8 defective parts per million (PPM) achieved during 2014. The global benchmark for this measurement is to be less than 10ppm. “PPM is a crucial quality management system to our business. Minimising this number requires attentive monitoring of any possible machinery downtime.”
“Everything starts with people”
Joubert is keen to emphasise the value of employees at SJM Flex: “We really believe that everything starts with people. Technology can be built but people cannot and as a Group we have seen 97 percent productivity across all our operations. Considering we only utilise a small amount of automation in our manufacturing process, this is an impressive percentage,” he highlights. “This coupled with our high level of attendance (98 percent) makes us truly a company of excellent standards.”
In line with this, SJM Flex has an HR department that supports both internal and external training for the company. “The majority of our supervisors are people who have worked their way through the ranks and we provide appropriate training at each level,” Joubert continues.
This year, SJM Flex South Africa will launch four new products to the market with the hope to obtain 95 percent of all manufacturing materials locally by 2016, instead of importing a small portion of them. Combine this with its family-culture and you have an internationally reputable business that is ingrained into South Africa’s economy, cementing the company’s position in the automotive industry for years to come.