Mentorship is just the first step at Pressure Die Castings

Company records 24% growth for 2016.

Progressive and success-hungry Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal based Pressure Die Castings (PDC) has just completed a year that the company’s management says they will look back at with great satisfaction on many fronts.

“2016 was a year that saw the company grow on many operational facets of the company. This included investing in a new zinc high pressure die casting machine and a chrome plating plant, which all formed part of our long-term strategic decision to diversify and to move further up the value chain, with an emphasis on product delivery and quality,” explained Pressure Die Castings’ managing director Mike Wolhuter.

“The strategy involved reconfiguring the business, increasing factory productivity and training employees, which would ultimately lead to improving the quality of our products and reducing costs.”

Mechanical engineering graduates
“It is estimated that there are over eight million people who do not have jobs in South Africa and of these there are over five million that are young people. Some have even given up looking for employment. The manufacturing industry in South Africa, and in particular the engineering sector, is always griping that we have an aging labour force and that South Africa does not have enough skilled artisans and engineers being trained to replace the outgoing generations. It has been a long-time grievance. But how many of these companies do anything about it?”

“We did just that and employed four smart and innovative graduate mechanical engineers on a one-year internship basis. It gave the candidates an opportunity to get a year of experience but more importantly it gave PDC the opportunity to harness the energy and intellect of the graduates, who are continuously pushing the boundary for implementing radical and new ideas, including automation.”

“One example of this was that the one graduate had a keen interest in 3D printing and before I knew it him and I were off to an additive manufacturing conference in Europe and we subsequently purchased a machine. The result is that we virtually recuperated the costs of investing in the machine in the first month with our projects and we are now also offering this as a service to our customers.”

“PDC’s business is no longer just about being a pressure die caster anymore. We have advanced in many ways but we still have plenty of room for improvement, particularly on the manufacturing side. We have placed a lot of emphasis on data management and analysis systems that are now world-class to compliment our automation. We are continually striving to stay ahead of the game with Industry 4.0 being implemented worldwide.”

“We have encouraged the graduates to learn as much as possible and to maximise the opportunity with the important criterion that the company must benefit as well. They were expected to be passionate about their work and demonstrate a willingness to go beyond the proverbial mile.”

“Equally, management has had to be committed. There is no point taking on interns if they are not mentored, nor directed about what is expected of them.”

“Included in their time with us they had to tackle tasks such as failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), robotic programming, time management, hands on production and maintenance implementation, as well as report writing and skills presentations.”

“We were not scared to learn from them as well. Suggestions on how to improve the manufacturing process were amongst the important debates that took place.”

“Another important factor was that they had to visit 12 different unrelated manufacturing entities during their one year stay with us. This gave them a chance to experience other companies and the people and manufacturing processes within those companies.”

“While the interns were initially assigned specific projects, they were also expected to broaden their knowledge in all areas of PDC’s business. We have benefitted from their input and as a result our new chrome-plating plant is running more efficiently, a gremlin in our sprinkler frame castings was resolved, protocols for an automotive application certification were developed and a 3D robotics system to test the durability of window handles was implemented.”

“With the ever-increasing challenges of regulation and energy costs, they – the graduates -have advanced some of our projects relating to these issues.”

“The importance of continuing to develop and implement new technologies has never been greater and I am happy to say that PDC is now in a better position than it was at the beginning of 2016. The graduates have been part of and contributed to our impressive growth for 2016 while also gaining invaluable hands on experience, including people skills, and yes, we will repeat the exercise again,” said Wolhuter.

Learnership training
“The IMF is right to stress the need for South Africa to create employment and make the economy more competitive and the government must take heed of this. This is one way of doing it. Statistics show you are six times more likely to find employment with a year’s experience than without it. Work experience on a CV is more likely to land a candidate employment than what they achieved at school, college or university.”

“With this in mind, for 2017 we have embarked on a programme whereby from the beginning of February we have employed 10 learners on a one year contract. All of them are under 23 years old and will be given the opportunity to gain work experience in all departments of the company, including administration. They will be following a mentorship programme while with us and at the end of the year will a have a better prospect of gaining full time employment.”

“Like the graduates it is just the first step in their young lives but we believe it will have an impact.”

“However, I must emphasise that companies need to be committed to offering these opportunities because all parties benefit if it is correctly managed and in the long-term industry will reap the rewards,” concluded Wolhuter.

For further details contact Pressure Die Castings on TEL: 033 397 5500 or visit