Walls & Roofs in Africa spoke to three industry experts, namely Bryan Perrie, managing director at The Concrete Institute (TCI), Johan van Wyk, director at SARMA, and Henry Cockcroft, general manager at the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), to discuss in greater detail the current happenings at each association along with any major developments that will affect the industry at large or that will be of great interest to those functioning within the cement and concrete sector. Here we share their invaluable inputs.

1. Can you give us an industry update of your specific association for 2019? What are the plans going forward?

Bryan Perrie – The Concrete Institute

The TCI will continue to provide its current services going forward. These include training courses, free telephonic advice, the sale of publications on concrete technology and access to a very well stocked information centre which has thousands of documents for loan. The TCI is also very involved in updating standards, specifications and test methods though the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). Please see our website, www.theconcreteinstitute.org.za.

Johan van Wyk – SARMA

The industry is taking strain, and everyone must work harder to secure projects. The type of projects has shifted from large projects to many smaller projects. This is following through to all the associations and will be working on enforcing the SARMA SHREQ standard, and marketing SARMA to engineers and specifiers in order to force the ready-mix suppliers to comply to a higher standard.

Henry Cockcroft – CMA

The CMA will continue with its primary tasks of promoting the use of precast concrete and driving quality standards with the aim to deliver precast concrete to the industry with consistency in quality. Thanks to the support and loyalty of its members, the CMA is operating on a stable platform and will continue to do so and improve the benefits which are offered to all its members.

2. What’s happening in the cement and concrete industry? More specific to your association?

Bryan Perrie – The Concrete Institute

Due to poor conditions in the construction industry and large amounts of imports from Vietnam and China, the cement industry is taking strain, only producing some twelve million tons against a capacity of some 18 to 19 million tons. The industry will be approaching the government regarding a safeguard measure against the imports. The poor state of the construction industry has resulted in a reduction in numbers of students attending courses.

Johan van Wyk – SARMA

The economy is at a low right now and that leads to low gross domestic product (GDP) growth. There is a low confidence in our country and the construction industry, and this leads to lower investments. The construction industry is struggling for survival, as can be seen with large construction companies going into liquidation and business rescue. However, there are still some medium- and smaller-sized construction companies that are doing well, because they are willing to do the work required to get projects and use high-quality concrete to build high-quality structures. The cement and concrete industries are also taking strain due to surplus capacity and reduced demand.

Henry Cockcroft – CMA

The CMA yearly embarks on a number of activities including general meetings, industry exhibition representation, workshops and the dissemination of brochures, literature and publications to the advantage of its members and the built environment. The CMA will continue with these activities during 2019.

The association is proud to announce that its product certification initiative called CMA Certification Services is growing in leaps and bounds. The market embraced the fact that there is a second SANAS-accredited certification body available in the South African market which can be utilised. CMA Certification Services (CMACS) offers precast concrete product certification according to SANS specification at high levels of efficiency, fast turnaround times and cost effectively.

3. It is understood that all the associations need to consolidate to serve the cement and concrete industry. Can you please provide us with some background information regarding this approach?

Bryan Perrie – The Concrete Institute

For several reasons there is pressure on the various associations to look at some form of consolidation to improve effectiveness and efficiencies. The associations involved are The Concrete Institute (TCI), the Association of Cementitious Materials Producers (ACMP), the Concrete Society of Southern Africa (CSSA), the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA) and the South African Ready-Mix Association (SARMA). This process is advanced, and some conclusion will hopefully be realised this year.

Johan van Wyk – SARMA

The concrete industry associations have been in talks for a while now to seek greater cooperation in serving the industry. By amalgamating all the associations, it should give us more clout to lobby government, set standards and speak with one voice. Consolidation will lead to better efficiency and will show a nett saving to the funders and members.

There is a process underway, with input from all the relevant industry bodies as well as key funders and sponsors, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to access the effectiveness of the different industry bodies in terms of:

a) Their ability to engage with the government pertaining to matters affecting the overall concrete-related industries, i.e. cement, precast concrete, ready-mix concrete etc. Some of the issues include legislative issues such as carbon tax, other environmental issues, energy usage and sustainability, as well as infrastructure investment, skills development and the upholding of standards.

b) There is also the need to assess, based on what has been agreed with competition authorities, what kind of statistics can be made available to economists and other stakeholders in the construction and related industries – similar to what NAMSA is doing in the motor industry.

c) Strengthening and growing small- and medium-sized businesses and getting them to join industry bodies – advancing the country’s transformation agenda and ensuring that it is reflective of the country’s demographics.

d) Supporting universities and institutions of higher learning as well as other practical training bodies to ensure that the concrete profession is sustained and that the skills challenges in our country are addressed.

e) Engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and ITAC about imports and the impact on local jobs and the ability of the industry to meeting its targets in terms of job creation, transformation, social and labour plans and all the other issues contained in the mining charter. It is difficult for individual companies to show the impact that imports have on jobs, empowerment and overall transformation in the sector. Without a profitable, sustainable industry, companies within the industry will not be able to make a meaningful contribution to the South African economy.

f) Finding an effective way to deal with these and other important issues affecting the industry and its members, requires a critical view of the way the various industry bodies are currently operating. Given the poor state of the economy and poor financial performance of key role players within the industry means that cost containment and effective means of funding various industry bodies are crucial. One of the key focus areas is to ensure that there is no duplication of efforts, the overall industry gets a stronger voice and greater influence, and that the industry adds value to its members by focusing on things that foster growth, ensure sustainability and advance standards.

Henry Cockcroft – CMA

It is important to understand that each association has its own specific discipline within the organisation. In some cases, there are a slight overlapping of activities, but in the case of the CMA this is a rarity. Working together is something which occurs naturally between the organisations. We are all aware of each other’s activities and should we require assistance from each other, we share resources. This was clearly shown with the combined effort of the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), The Concrete Institute (TCI), the Concrete Society of Southern Africa (CSSA) and the South African Ready-Mix Association (SARMA), in hosting a concrete conference during 2018 for the industry.

From left to right: Bryan Perrie (The Concrete Institute), Johan van Wyk (SARMA) and Henry Cockcroft (CMA).

4. What’s happening in the industry to date?

Henry Cockcroft – CMA

As we all know, the construction industry is experiencing a trying time. This is prevalent in production numbers as well as the demand for cement. The industry has recently also seen the demise or restructure of several large organisations in the construction industry. It is the view of the CMA that the current economic climate, and more specific the construction climate in South Africa, will not show major improvement. Government spending and the economic climate in South Africa remain major contributing factors to the current market trends. It seems that private housing developments do happen, but infrastructure development is lacking significantly. It is the hope of the CMA that investor confidence will grow after the elections taking place in May 2019.

5. What are the goals for all these associations for the year ahead? How do members benefit?

Johan van Wyk – SARMA

Mainly survival, sustaining its membership base and advancing the interests of ready-mix concrete producers to the benefit of its members. Securing funding, upholding standards, training, finding ways to get smaller producers to see value in joining the industry. Enhancing the industry image and discouraging environmentally unfriendly practices, i.e site batching where waste water is not managed. Members will be competing on equal footing, when everybody must follow the high standards set by SARMA.

6. What are some of the challenges you are experiencing in this process?

Bryan Perrie – The Concrete Institute

The associations have been meeting regularly and are currently in a strategy process to plot the way forward in conjunction with the members of each of the associations.

Johan van Wyk – SARMA

The focus was not on serving purely the cement and concrete industry, but rather on playing a meaningful role in the country’s overall infrastructure development. The challenge is to get the different industry bodies to focus beyond the narrow interest and to take a much broader view on what is required to survive in the current tough trading environment. Whilst cement and concrete are what bring the various industry-related bodies and their members together, the issues and challenges facing these industry bodies go beyond the obvious cement- and concrete-related matters. There is, however, a need to continue positioning concrete- and cement-based products as being environmentally friendly, cost competitive and vital for the country’s infrastructure development and social needs.

In consolidating the associations there will be greater cooperation, better communication and a combined marketing effort that will ensure that the cement and concrete industry, at large, is promoted and served. Specifiers will also have a wider product offering to choose from and as these products are marketed together, they would be able to make informed decisions.

Henry Cockcroft – CMA

All associations are still functioning individually. There was a call from the cement producers that the associations investigate consolidation. No consolidation has happened yet. The process of consolidation is being assessed and facilitators are looking into the matter. We cannot comment on where this process is at this stage, as we are awaiting specific feedback with regards to how consolidation will work, how it would be structured and how each affected association would fit into a consolidated structure.

Without a doubt 2019 is set to be a year when many decisions and changes will be made to the benefit of the cement and concrete industry. We look forward to seeing how events unfold and will keep you updated on the advancement of these associations and the intended consolidation.

Acknowledgement and thanks to The Concrete Institute, SARMA and the Concrete Manufacturers Association for the information contained in this article.

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