Sophisticated castings specialist, KEW Foundries has already experienced the positive impact of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST’s) Technology Localisation Plan (TLP), launched last year with R26 million for the Technology Assistance Packages (TAP) to support the South African foundry industry. TLP was developed primarily in support of the government’s Competitive Supplier Development Programme (CSDP), aimed at increasing the competitiveness of local suppliers in major procurement opportunities.
For the 2009/10 financial period, the DST prioritised the country’s foundry industry and launched the R26 million TAP to assist 28 specially selected foundries in improving their technological capabilities to enable them to leverage procurement opportunities from state-owned entities, Eskom and Transnet.
KEW Foundries is proud to be a part of this programme. “Besides the financial implications, the pooling of technology and expertise is something that has been lacking within the foundry industry in South Africa for as long as I can remember,” says John Bryson, KEW Foundries Director of Foundry Operations.
Since the launch of the programme, the company has managed to address various short-term challenges relating to the casting of larger diameter solid sheave wheels, thereby minimising the necessity for the smaller half-rim assemblies, which will ultimately reduce machining times and associated costs.
As part of TAP, KEW Foundries is supplying castings, material for testing, technical specifications, foundry process knowledge, as well as other technical input and time. “We are also highlighting the positive nature of this initiative and encouraging participation by more and more industry members,” comments Bryson.
During the initial stages of the programme, components linked to Eskom and Transnet’s infrastructure spend on their CSDPs were identified for localisation by the DST and grouped into categories, depending on the technology needed for their production. The next step was benchmarking the foundries best prepared to manufacture these components for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which would be awarded contracts by the state-owned companies. The singled-out foundries were then provided with technological assistance packages – developed according to identified gaps in technology – in order to enhance their global competitiveness.
Research organisations Mintek and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) were contracted by the DST to provide the foundries with the technology assistance needed. Although reporting to different government departments, Mintek and the CSIR were selected for this initiative due to the crossover in technology between the two and the existing infrastructure offered, which is in line with the requirements of the programme.
As South Africa’s national mineral and metallurgical research organisation, and a leading technology institution, Mintek provides mechanical testing, process optimisation and technology licensing services, among others. “The support we offer KEW Foundries in particular includes certifying casting production methods, testing and verifying product properties for specific applications, as well as assisting with research and development on new products and materials,” says Dr Jones Papo, Head of Physical Metallurgy, Mintek.
Bryson is thrilled about the channels of communication this programme has opened up with major service industries, such as Mintek, as well as between foundry personnel. “We are presently working with Mintek on an SG Iron project relating to hardness and wear properties, which will hopefully open the doors to various export markets. In addition, the CSIR is analysing our material for large slag bath assemblies for the smelting industry to determine suitability under various thermal conditions,” says Bryson.
KEW Foundries is also very excited about complementary training programmes run by the South African Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF), funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN). “We currently offer two types of training programmes,” explains John Davies, CEO, SAIF. “The first relates to more long-term skills training for school leavers with an interest in this field, who are later absorbed into the industry, once fully trained. Short-term complementary training courses are also offered to those already operating within the industry, as a form of continuing professional development.” The SAIF training programmes are currently available in Gauteng and the Western Cape, but the institute hopes to soon extend its reach to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
KEW Foundries was established in 1891 and is Africa’s sole manufacturer of cast headgear sheave wheels. The company also offers an extensive range of hand moulded castings in Grey and SG Iron up to 7 tons in weight, pressings, and general machining. Supported by comprehensive design and drafting facilities, including a dedicated pattern shop, machine shop, and laboratory, KEW Foundries serves a host of South African and international mining and industrial markets.