Bringing World-Class Manufacturing to Africa
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
Howden Africa has played a significant role in the engineering developments that have taken place on the African continent over the past 65-plus years. Backed by the strength of Howden Group’s global reputation and presence, the African arm of the business has been consistently improving its already comprehensive product and service offering in a sustainable manner.
Largely led by continuous improvement strategies including training, product innovation and turnkey service offering, Howden Africa has been investing in its internal processes in order to enhance the business in a modern day Africa. As a consequence of this injection, the Company has witnessed phenomenal growth particularly across the power generation, mining, oil & gas and environmental control markets.
“Leveraging Group expertise and our strong financial position, we are working on ways to strengthen our capacities to deliver on any challenge we may face going forward in a developing market. The resulting success is a product of long-term relationships and repeat business across a wide range of applications over the course of Africa’s industrial and infrastructural development,” explains Kudzai Nyangoni, Managing Director of James Howden Holdings Limited.
Consisting of four major business units that manufacture a wide range of engineered plant and products for the power, water, mining, construction and oil & gas industries, Howden Africa comprises Howden Power, Howden Fan Equipment, Howden Projects and Donkin Fans; all of which are produced from two world-class facilities in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.
“In a nutshell, we have a plethora of technical capabilities across the design, manufacture, supply, project management and aftermarket support services for fans, regenerative heat exchangers, compressors, blowers, furnaces and industrial combustion for a diverse range of applications,” he adds.
Finding ways to save energy and become a self-sustainable business are two hot topics in South Africa at the moment, given the regular power outages experienced from the grid. Howden Africa has been looking closely at implementing the right internal methodologies in this regard, to improve both the quality of product and make long-term energy savings.
One way of doing this is through implementing automation in some parts of its manufacturing lines as Nyangoni further details: “The level of automation is something that we are investing in on an ongoing basis in order to enhance our overall service levels. For example, automation will allow us to meet tighter deadlines and subsequently open doors to new business.”
Continuous improvement forms part of Howden Africa’s strategic core values and is therefore measured on a constant basis. Nyangoni says: “Being part of a world-class Company with facilities all over the globe means that we have to ensure a universal service benchmark is met. Simultaneously, as our African operations are headquartered in South Africa, we have to comply with BEE economic development goals and encourage local content. It is a challenging balance but we have made significant strides in creating a strong local presence.
“In line with this, we manufacture all our critical components and any specialist equipment that requires a particular set of specialist machinery in-house. Where possible, we outsource all other manufacturing elements to local companies in order to develop local skill levels and foster good relationships. We see these SMEs as an extension of our organisation.”
Similarly, Howden Africa remains invested in ensuring all its equipment is of the highest quality to ensure the best price and long product life. In order to make sure this is adhered to throughout the value chain, the Company has a number of initiatives running that are designed to monitor efficiencies – everything from timely delivery right through to proper waste management, people management and quality control in order to deliver to customers’ requirements and become more sustainable.
“To summarise, if we can better manage our business, then we can better serve the customer.
“Our solutions reduce the total cost of ownership over a longer period of time, and we are working to educate the market to demonstrate the benefits of choosing Howden as their supplier; as opposed to buying equipment from Asia for example, where products may be cheaper, but also not built to last and there is no after sales support,” Nyangoni adds.
Skills shortages are apparent in South Africa, and Howden Africa is currently experiencing the issue of an ageing workforce fully trained in its manufacturing methods. To combat this, the Company has all the relevant training programmes and talent management prophecies in place locally to manage skills development and encourage youth to enter the sector via internships and graduates.
In addition, the African operation is able to leverage the multiple advantages of being a part of a global organisation with its own training facilities, the Howden Academy.
“Ultimately, we want to become self-sufficient with a sizeable pool of youth to carry the business forward, and the Howden Academy - based in Glasgow, UK - is an incredibly useful platform where our trainees get to meet peers from all over the world and take part in an intensive three week programme where they are taught all the important aspects about Howden equipment and processes, then come back to Africa and implement it,” says Nyangoni.
The result of this people focus is an African workforce comprising in excess of 98 percent local staff.
Tried and tested
Given its longstanding presence as a reputable and trusted face in African industry for more than 65 years, Howden Africa’s tried and tested technologies offer an innovative solution to various key industries on the continent that promises to last.
“Our turnkey management and maintenance capabilities ensure that we can provide a one-stop service to our customers that cover the entire spectrum of services. We understand what African customers require and apply a tailored solution for each individual project, whether it is an upgrade to new equipment or retrofitting to extend the life of old equipment,” Nyangoni comments.
Backed by a global network of engineers that share best practice and expertise, Howden Africa hopes to reap further organic growth from its internal investments that have strengthened its capacities to continue to deliver on its service proposition.
“There is no doubt that we are experts in what we do and customers come to us as their first port of call, which shows our influential reach and reputation on the continent. We want people to know that Howden is here to stay in Africa,” he concludes.