Good and bad management

There are two stories in this issue that catch the eye but they are so far apart it is hard to believe that they operate in the same industry – the foundry industry.

The first is our cover story on Endeco Omega Sinto where a number of success stories are highlighted. The local foundry equipment designer, manufacturer and fabricator sold the majority share of the company to Omega Foundry Machinery who in turn sold out to Japan’s and the world’s number one supply company in the foundry industry. The local company formed a joint venture and this led to technology transfer and the opportunity to manufacture equipment locally before it was shipped internationally. A win-win situation for both the company and the local foundry industry that now has access to international know-how.

But it is the orders from local and African foundries that Endeco Omega Sinto have been fulfilling and are still in the process of starting to manufacture for and are currently implementing that is noteworthy. Very encouraging signals emanating from our foundries and I hope the many others (foundries) are taking note.

My take is that the Covid-19 pandemic has been favourable to South Africa in terms of the high prices of raw materials and commodities that the country exports, coupled with the ‘war’ that China and Australia are having over these products. This has allowed us to ramp up exports of iron ore, chrome ore and manganese – there is still big demand in China. Sure you might say, and I agree, that we are not beneficiating but we never have done so, so why not take advantage of the foreign currency earned on exports. I even go as far to say that this commodity boom has saved our country during Covid-19 because the mining companies do pay the taxes.

All this activity in certain areas of mining leads to stress and wear and tear on equipment used in the industry, which ultimately benefits the foundry industry because castings are needed. This leads me to my second story in this issue: Cast Products SA placed under business rescue.

Those of us that have been in the industry for some time will remember the late Tony Harris, executive chairman of the Scaw Metals Group who retired at the end of June 2008 after 38 years’ service with the group. After joining Scaw Metals in 1970 Tony undertook a variety of plant management roles which included a four year deployment to Scaw’s operation in Zambia. He was appointed technical director in 1984, managing director in 1988 and executive chairman of the Scaw Metals Group in 1989.

He was renowned in the industry for being a tough boss, running a tight ship and was feared by employee and supplier alike. He looked after all the interests of the Anglo Group at Scaw – the steel plant, the foundry, the wheel plant and the ball plant and had over 6 000 employees. A real achievement and one to admire.

I believe he would be very disappointed to hear about this news of business rescue, especially at a time when the company should be getting good orders from the mining industry. As I have hinted in my story I ask if it is a case of the international partner, with whom there has been a long relationship and that recently invested in the company, saying they have had enough with the obstacles that have been thrown at them and decided to cut their losses?

Someone must take responsibility and be held accountable if the company is liquidated especially if you see that the other two legs of the once mighty Scaw Group – the ball plant and the steel plant – are running very successfully. But then when you have a board of directors that passes a resolution to put the company into business rescue on the 14th December – a time when most of the engineering and manufacturing industry in South Africa has closed for the December summer holidays and I am sure many Cast Products SA employees were already on holiday – then I am sure there will be nobody held liable.