Living up to its name, Kaizen Refractories is meeting continuous improvement with quality service and customer satisfaction to engineer a route to the top of the iron manufacturing industry
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Ben Weaver
Since 2007, Kaizen Refractories has evolved in Africa by remaining true to its name; bringing to the fore notions of continuous improvement, service quality and optimum customer satisfaction.
The steel producer, established in 2007, has for the past 10 years leveraged this concept to specialise across ferroalloy and non-ferrous products as well as in the boiler domain.
“We have more than 25 years of refractory experience in these industries and pride ourselves on our values which are reflected in our name, ‘Kaizen’,” the Company emphasises on its website. “Kaizen Refractories provides refractory installation ‘turnkey’ projects and maintenance services to suit clients’ needs. We supply engineered products and provide a wide range of consumable products [across all aforementioned industries].”
Similarly specialising in the cleaning of combustion chambers, gunning services, bricklaying, maintenance and consultancy; the main focus continues to relate back to its origins in iron making and the coke ovens that kick-started the Company’s journey all those years ago.
Founder and Managing Director, Leon Joubert recalls: “I started working as an operator at Iscor Newcastle (now ArcelorMittal) back in 1989. I was then transferred to a new section called Coke Ovens Battery division. I soon realised that there were ample opportunities in the coke making industry and after 12 years of working for Iscor (Arcelor Mittal), I decided that it was time to venture out on my own.
“Kaizen Refractories (Pty) Ltd was established in 2007 after my return from the Netherlands. I started as a consultant for ArcelorMittal and Exxaro conducting quality control services for large capital projects from 2005-2009 and therefore we started with a maintenance team to service our local industry in the mining industry via a local company called Quantum Screening and Crushing who produced a calcine product blend for the steel industry.”
As the Managing Director for Kaizen Refractories, Joubert realised that the Company could play a major role in the quality of secondary supplies, which took hold between 2009 and 2015.
He picks up: “After a major setback in the local coke making industry and with a shortage of expertise, Kaizen Refractories engaged with a fulltime maintenance crew to service the industry from 2009.
“Our highlight project since then has been the refurbishment of Battery N2 at the ArcelorMittal Newcastle plant where we have spent 460,000 man hours over a period of 21 months across 2016 and 2017.”
As an apt culmination of the stringent internal procedures and processes put in place over the past 10 years, the Battery N2 refurbishment project rendered an opportunity for Kaizen Refractories to engage in ArcelorMittal’s long-term repair and maintenance strategy.
“We are currently busy with a through-wall project at ArcelorMittal Newcastle works and we are involved in the design of a new furnace in the forestry industry that is also a new field that we are currently engaged in, in South Africa,” Joubert adds.
As the sole owner and MD, the personal pride that comes from this evolution is palpable; Joubert having overseen the operational, financial and structural elements of the business since day one. Complementing the MD’s expertise though is a plethora of project managers, site managers, supervisors, charge-hands, bricklayers, logistics operators, heating crew members, labour staff and office workers.
“We also have a safety division consisting of a safety officer as well as site safety watchers,” Joubert continues. “And instilled into every corner of the Company are our values of quality of service, continuous improvement and customer satisfaction by means of an on-time delivery of product.”
To achieve this, the Company is committed to establishing itself as the undisputed leader across these parameters in the market place, but doing so in conjunction with the most modern and pressing needs of its clients.
“It is the responsibility of Executive Management to ensure that the principles of the Quality Assurance System be understood, implemented and maintained by all employees,” the Company affirms, “…in accordance with the policies and procedures applied to the National Standards ISO 9001:2008.”
Take every opportunity
Maintaining high standards has more recently been ensured through capital investments into coke oven maintenance repairs, leveraging the hands-on experience that exists within Kaizen Refractories to hone technicalities and to make quick, effective decisions.
The same hands-on approach is then applied to the Company’s aforementioned client interactions, choosing to maintain close personable relationships in order to keep ahead of consumer trends; a recent example being the huge demand for supply production in the non-ferrous sector.
“We have also invested in logistics machinery through Manitou South Africa to ensure that we sustain a high-quality product and supply a high-quality service during projects,” Joubert offers as a further case in point. “We also ensure that our staff are trained and knowledgeable with the latest changes in the safety and quality environment as well as the ongoing changes in our labour relations act, in order to ensure that we as a company comply with the Basic Condition of Employment Act.
“We are also in the process of implementing the NOSA System in order to get accredited for OSHACT18001 and ISO9001.”
The business has quickly become an employer of choice virtue of its commitment to quality, and this has been rewarded by workforce loyalty; people safe in the knowledge that their efforts will be acknowledged via ongoing, personalised training and progression initiatives.
“We are a project-based Company so have to ensure that we plan effectively, organise, lead, develop and delegate in a professional manner to ensure that procurement, logistics and on-time delivery of products and services is effective and in budget at all times,” Joubert concludes. “Kaizen Refractories is striving to become the local leader in the coke making industry so we want to take every opportunity to gain more experience in all of the refractory industry’s projects by giving more exposure to our workforce and hired contractors.
“Through this, we hope to achieve our future goal to become the principle project leader in the South African coke industry.”