Perspective – July 2018

When I was appointed as the Sassda Executive Director, I was tasked by the Board and Main Committee to take Sassda to the next step. Using association international benchmarking and research, Sassda embarked on our Moon Mission project which was subsequently extended to the Pluto Project. The aim of these projects was to transform Sassda from a good association to a truly remarkable association. I believe we have accomplished this mission and are one of the best Stainless Steel Development Associations on the planet.

One of the things that was identified as being missing were shared values of the rather diverse Sassda team. An intense full day workshop with  followup sessions resulted in a great deal of introspection. Our team’s core values were established and are becoming entrenched. The Sassda team now believe we could and should be doing more and that we must have a greater role to play in growing the stainless steel market.

I recently attended the ISSF SSDA workshop in Shanghai, and compared to other SSDAs, Sassda is performing well in many key areas as highlighted at our recent AGM. However, compared to the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA) in particular, Sassda could be playing more of a leading role in market development.

Coincidentally, a retired member, Tony Bagnall, recently contacted me about the previous issue of this magazine and about work that had been done 30 years ago on segmenting the stainless steel market and creating a three dimensional matrix. This matrix is created by defining the customers’ needs from product, how the customers can be separated into groups and then looking at what the competing solutions are to the customer needs by  customer groups. The idea is to ensure that datadriven strategies are defined to provide a route map for growth opportunities to address particular  segment needs.

Armed with a newly populated matrix in 2018, we would be able to see clearly where stainless has made headway and where it has been displaced. With this, we could focus more clearly on the areas to concentrate on to achieve new growth and defend areas where stainless is dominant but  possibly subject to attack.

There is one caveat. In my interaction with the other SSDAs around the world, market development is very difficult unless they can effectively partner with their members. Most of the successful market developments have been done with the local primary producer/s and/or distributor/s. We believe that embarking on this process will allow Sassda and its members to grow the market while at the same time capacitating the Sassda  team to lead this process and develop the project over time.

Sassda also recently attended the Manufacturing Indaba and this will be reported on in more detail in the next edition of the Stainless Steel  Magazine. Suffice it to say that many discussions concerned the fact that South Africa is no longer a cheap manufacturing country, particularly with regards to energy, labour and administered prices. To grow the stainless steel market into the future will clearly not be possible with more of the same. The indaba made it clear that it is possible to leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR or Industry 4.0). Certainly the recent launch of the Intsimbi Future Productions Technology Initiative is important in realising this goal and the only way to sustain our local industry is through manufacturing excellence by world-class organisations. But Industry 4.0 is here today and “even though the world has never moved this quickly, it’ll never move this slowly again”. We have to examine how 4IR will affect the demand for stainless steel through emerging or dying technologies. So, the importance of disrupting ourselves becomes crucial to thrive so that we can “Uber ourselves before we get Kodaked”.

John Tarboton
Executive Director, Sassda