The Road Ahead: Reflections on Q1 – 2019

The first quarter of 2019 turned out to be quite a challenging one. Internationally we still have trade tensions and potential slowdowns, and the South African elections are only a few weeks away. I need not mention load shedding, the construction, mining and manufacturing industries, business rescues and the like. The Civil Construction Index for the 1st quarter of 2019 is the lowest on record. Let that sink in for a moment.

Like all steel people, we continue to work hard to get through this period and engineer opportunities wherever possible. Growth may be slow after the elections, but I am optimistic that we will start to see a gradual improvement in the second half of the year. The SAISC is committed to promoting the #PositiveStoryOfSteel to all industry players, decision makers, and customers. This is not some flash in the pan marketing trick. We are well aware of the state of our industry, but we must not forget its abilities and potential, its skills base and its ability to recover and grow.

We have been meeting with major clients and SOE’s since January as we recognized the reduction in workloads as a serious concern for the industry. This includes designation and localization which would assist in a low growth environment. The dti has assisted on a number of projects and we thank them for their time and effort. Tariffs and their implementation are an ongoing challenge but we are hopeful that progress will be made for the downstream industry.

We kicked off our Steel Academy courses for the year with Business Development in the Steel Industry, Social media 101 and a Basic Connection Design Course. SASFA ran their builders course and SAMCRA lectured on CPD courses in East London and Port Elizabeth. I am happy to report that they were all well attended. We are experimenting with online courses so please keep a lookout in May and June.

The Industry Breakfast in Gauteng in February provided some thought-provoking ideas and technologies to unblock our industry and move it into the 4th industrial revolution. We hosted a similar event in the KZN region in April.

The SAISC and its divisions strive to be the marketing and business development champions for the steel construction and related manufacturing industry throughout 2019. We are hoping to continue to make progress on Multi-Storey Steel Framed Buildings and together with the University of Stellenbosch, CUT and the dti we will finally begin full-scale fire testing of the SAISC Modular Office Building concept. Steel Bridges (Pedestrian and Road) provide additional opportunities for the industry long term and we have had meetings with the Johannesburg Roads Agency and SANRAL.

Steel is an important part of the mining industry and we are hopeful that the policy in the Mining Industry will improve and that we can continue to collaborate with industry in the future.

The Informal sector needs some attention from us and we would love to hear your ideas on how we can assist in nurturing small business.

Lastly, we need to continue to develop and implement marketing initiatives to counter competing products. We have a few studies in place and will be reporting back over the next few months.

Steel construction has a number of favourable policy support measures with regards to fair trade and many have been rolled out across our sub-associations to widen the net as far as possible. There is still much work to be done but co-operation amongst the membership continues to be a necessity.

Paolo Trinchero, (CEO SAISC) has been involved in the steel industry for over 25 years. He studied for a BSc in civil engineering at WITS graduating in 1990 and then completed a masters in 1993 where he was introduced to the workings of the SAISC through the Steel Design Code Committee. After spending some additional time as a lecturer at WITS, Paolo joined the SAISC in 1998 as Consulting Development Engineer and Technology Director. Wanting some commercial experience, Paolo took up the position as Engineering Manager at Macsteel Trading in 2003 to start their cellular beam division. He then moved onto Long Product Director and National Steel Product Director for Macsteel Trading, ultimately becoming Group Business Development and Technical Director at Macsteel Corporate Services. In 2013 Paolo returned home to the SAISC. Paolo has been involved in a number of projects from conception through to fabrication in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. He is passionate about all things steel and would like to see the industry participating in developing Africa from mining projects through to commercial high rise buildings and other structures.