An R800-million mega-face brick factory, which is the biggest and most environmentally friendly in Africa to date, will be built alongside Corobrik’s existing Driefontein factory in Gauteng. It is due to be commissioned in 2020.
This is part of a multi-billion rand investment by the brickmaking company to grow its business over the next five to six years. While the bulk of the initial R1 billion allocated during 2017/8 would go towards the new factory, Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of Corobrik, says it is likely to be followed by another mega-factory on the East Rand, and expansion in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. It also includes R65 million at various factories around Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
Currently, Corobrik operates 13 clay-brick factories and 14 kilns countrywide, which produce a mix of plaster and face bricks. It also has two concrete operations in Durban, which supply concrete paving and retaining walls. The company produces a billion bricks per year and sells about four million bricks per working day.
Meyer says the new Driefontein facility would produce about 100 million bricks per year – double that of the existing facility – and use only a third of the energy currently used by its predecessor, where the 30-year-old kilns are outdated and not fuel efficient. In addition, the new operation will produce zero waste.
Once the new facility is fully operational, the obsolete older facility will be shut down and demolished.
Following an intricate investigation of three different manufacturing processes, an agreement was signed with German supplier, Keller, for the supply of the technology. Although the equipment will be manufactured offshore, it would be installed using local expertise and labour.
And even though the new equipment is highly automated, Meyer emphasises that this would not lead to job losses. Instead, employees now have opportunities to increase their technical know-how.
Improved efficiency and turnover
In January this year, Corobrik also commissioned a R65-million upgrade to its Rietvlei factory that included the purchase of a blending dehacker, which automatically blends bricks off the line and packages them in a convenient format.
According to Meyer, similar technology will be incorporated into the Driefontein development.
“We believe it will lower the cost of manufacturing whilst significantly improving the quality of our product. This will not only improve efficiencies and grow existing markets, but will also allow us to develop new products and income streams on the back of projected economic recovery in the country,” he states.
The upcoming investment would further contribute towards transformation in the sector, with a staff trust holding 26% of Corobrik’s share capital since 2008. Together with other private shareholders, more than 40% of the business is with black investors.
“Substantially growing the company’s turnover and profits would ultimately benefit all employees,” he concludes.
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Caption main image: An architect’s impression of the new Driefontein factory.
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