We are open for business

Inside the printed version of this issue of Metalworking News, you’ll find a free ticket to attend Machine Tools Africa 2020. If this event wasn’t already in your calendar, then you now have no excuse not to attend. The event will be held at Expo Centre, Nasrec Johannesburg from 12-15 May 2020, and it is the single biggest trade exhibition for the metal working related industries on the African continent.

At the time of going to print, almost all the exhibition space had been sold and visitors are expected in their numbers. Not only is this an opportunity to see first-hand, locally (normally one needs to travel to Europe and the like to experience the latest technologies on offer), the changes happening to the way we approach manufacturing, but it is also a vital opportunity to network with your fellow manufacturer – the chance to exchange ideas, possibly work together. That alone could be priceless for you. I’d encourage you to take your employees along too, you never know what you might inspire.

There will also be free-to-attend seminars in the Seminar Theatre, hosted by the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE), where top industry experts will present topics covering the latest innovations, industry trends and future technologies on offer. Combined with the ATI Skills Zone, where the future of skills development will be in the spotlight, the exhibition has something for everyone, young and old.

It’s still too early to predict the consequences of what has now been called the COVID-19 outbreak, but world markets have (as of going to print) shown their fears with indices such as the FTSE 100 and the Dow Jones plunging to their biggest single-day losses in years in late February. For scale, for the Dow, 24 February 2020 marked its third-worst points drop in history. While the outbreak has yet to be declared a pandemic by the WHO (again, by the time of going to print), clearly markets believe it is, and they are insulating themselves.

Metalworking News spoke to Jacob Harpaz, President and CEO of the IMC Group, and he prudently draws our attention to just how significant a role China plays as one of the biggest economies in the world:

“Following a bad year in 2019, this year has not started off positively, especially with the Coronavirus making an impact not just on China but the whole world. If you consider that China consumed 35% of the world’s machine tools in 2018, and this figure will be similar for 2019 but on reduced units, although China did recover slightly in the last quarter, you get a clear idea of what influence China has on world economies. This is compared to 9% for the US, 8% for Germany and 7% for Japan.”

“Now with the Coronavirus the population of China are being instructed not to go to work, and rightly so, until the world comes up with a solution for the virus. The impact is two-fold. China is not consuming and China is not manufacturing for the rest of the world.”

What this means is losses and regressive economic growth, worldwide. But what cannot be disputed is that this kind of situation, although terrible in every way, presents opportunities for those prepared to look for them. If China is not manufacturing – someone else must. Why can’t we seize this as an opportunity? We’re good at it. Yes, we face many challenges in our own right, but there’s an idiom that comes to mind – n boer maak n plan, or in English, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You’ll read of many such stories in this issue. And a reliable source has informed us that there is already a massive steel processing order headed South Africa’s way.

One thing that is really exciting for the Western Cape and manufacturing there in particular is this: Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement during his Sona address that municipalities in good financial standing will be allowed to procure their own power from IPPs, the Western Cape is wasting no time getting its ducks in a row so that it can as soon as possible free itself from Eskom’s shackles – a battle the Cape Chamber of Commerce has long been championing.

Engage your fellow manufacturer in the facility next door or down the road from you. Find out what opportunities they envisage, and share yours with them. In a way, being as insular as it is, is what has made China the global economic giant it is. We can learn from that inward-looking approach to manufacturing.

Damon Crawford
Online Editor