One of the most valuable things you can do in this journey through life is continually challenge your assumptions and beliefs. Preconceptions are such dangerous things and we are all prone to them, myself included. To many, the African continent is considered a 3rd world economy and with it follow a whole host of prejudices, judgments and mindsets about what you are likely to see there.
Well I have news for you all. Soon you will be joining Ocean on a safari pilgrimage to Southern Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular, not only to see the abundant African wildlife in its beautiful natural habitat, but also to see how industrious and ingenious the local fabricators are when tackling their daily production.
Enter Eugene and Agnes Jackson, two of the loveliest, most welcoming people you will ever meet anywhere in the world. Both are local Zimbabweans and have embarked on an amazing journey in steel fabrication, overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles and setting even more improbable targets. But Eugene and Agnes are fueled by a vision of what IS possible.
Fifteen years ago, after the birth of their son, Eugene decided he wanted to start his own steel merchant business in the town of Bulawayo, population 800,000. He started, like most of our customers, renting modest facilities, in their case a 2,000 sqft building. As he progressed and secured more work, he extended the building, eventually outgrowing it completely as he added more manufacturing products to his line.
As a fabricator in a small town, Eugene knew he had to be versatile, and while his core business originated with structural fabrication, he started to diversify and manufacture door and window frames and a whole host of metal products that he could supply throughout the country, through distribution.
Four years ago, despite many of his colleagues calling him completely insane, Eugene rented a dilapidated 200,000 sqft building with 5 long 330ft x 75ft bays, almost 100 times the size of his original premises. His crew rehabilitated the building, adding cranes and installing a whole host of equipment.
Today Pump and Steel Supplies is a 300-employee behemoth, manufacturing an entire range of steel products, supplying the building, mining and retail trades. Within the current local business climate, forex is tough to obtain, so they have built their business mostly on the back of ingenuity, dedication, hard work and a range of used equipment.
They utilize several hundred machines of all types, from rolls, to press brakes, ironworkers, punches, radial arm drills, and more recently CNC machining centers. Their machines are impeccably maintained by maintenance manager Ndabezinhle Mhlanga and his team. The machines are spotlessly clean despite their high utilization, and when you enter the premises, you are instantly accosted by the wonderful sound of money being made.
The production processes are overseen by two bright young Zimbabwean industrial engineers, Melusi Ndlovu (Production Manager) and Adrian Mtyida (Contracts Manager) who utilize time and motion study methods to optimize the flow between machines to the extent that it looks like a beautiful choreographed dance! Just watch the video below.
In all my years of traveling amongst thousands of fabricators worldwide, I finally found production nirvana, and it lives in a small town called Bulawayo Zimbabwe. Talk about shattering all preconceptions. I feel privileged to have met Eugene and Agnes, people with whom I will be friends for life. The next chapter of their story is about to be written and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds.
Danny Steyn, VP Ocean Machinery