As we head towards the end of 2017, I’m astonished by how much has been achieved despite the break neck speed with which this, like every year, seems to have flown past. It certainly hasn’t been the easiest of times, but I don’t want to revisit the already much debated and berated state of the nation and where South Africa will be headed post the ANC’s elective conference in December, except to say … we continue to ponder the future of our country with much interest and concern.
Of even closer relevance, is the state of our nation i.e. the local stainless steel industry, which against all odds continues to battle on. Proof of this is that despite the current crop of tough macro-economic conditions, our latest member-based Short Track Survey revealed surprisingly optimistic sentiment, with 48% of Sassda respondents now having a positive response to the current order situation, which represents the best figure seen since the survey began.
After two consecutive years of double digit contraction we therefore expect the stainless steel sector to stabilise this year i.e. more-or-less no growth/contraction with the potential for recovery next year.
LIFE CYCLE COSTING WINS
Against this backdrop, our endeavours to market the medium of stainless steel have continued apace in 2017 with our anchor campaign aimed at demonstrating the success and real-time value of our Life Cycle Costing App with an accompanying R125 000 prize of a trip to Paris. This was won by Cape Town resident Amrish Punwasi, who along with sixty other accurate finalists, proved that while stainless steel is generally costlier than other materials initially it delivers lower long-term costs in the life-cycle of the construction. Due to the success of the app’s capabilities, Sassda is considering holding a life-cycle costing competition every two years to continue proving the value of stainless steel over the long term and strengthen demand for the material in a wide range of applications.
AN INDUSTRY CONDUIT
One of Sassda’s other big focuses during the past year has been fostering collaboration between the stainless steel industry and other bodies. As such, we cemented our role as a conduit between Sassda members and government by facilitating a very successful visit by the Head of the dti’s Ferrous Metals Desk, Nyakallo Dlambulo, to two of our Port Elizabeth-based members; Welfit Oddy and SJM Flex SA.
This stemmed from the dti wanting to conduct first hand visits to a variety of players in the ferrous metals industry, to understand the sector’s challenges and see success stories first hand. The benefit of these types of visits is that they give invaluable input into policy formulation as they provide first-hand knowledge of the industry.
After all, it’s all very easy to be theoretical but to really understand the challenges and aspirations of an industry, policy makers need to get on the ground and meet the people/ companies driving the sector forward. We therefore applaud the dti’s efforts in this regard.
Sassda has also embarked on a series of ongoing partnership initiatives, most recently demonstrated within the Built industry, with industry specific training for quantity surveyors, architects and consulting engineers. We are intent on creating alliances through the establishment of complementary training courses optimised for a variety of industry applications. This is to help remove barriers to the greater specification of stainless steel given that it isn’t always the cheapest upfront choice for a particular application.
Looking ahead, we’ve already begun planning for our 2018 flagship event, the biennial Stainless Steel Awards which exceeded our targets in terms of sponsorship in 2016 and yielded 39 worldclass winners, from over three times the number of entries as the 2014 edition. Next year’s awards are shaping up to be even better as we have already received five entries of an exceptional standard, some from as far afield as the US.
All in all, a positive step in the right direction, namely a 2018 that we sincerely hope will be a year of renewed growth and success for each and every one of our members and their associates!
Executive Director, Sassda