Leading In The Time Of COVID-19
By: Nelendhre Moodley
Although South Africa reacted speedily and decisively to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the impact continues to be devastating.
According to Africa’s Pulse, the World Bank’s twice-yearly economic update for the region, COVID-19 is expected to cost sub-Saharan Africa “between $37-billion and $79bn in output losses for 2020 due to a combination of effects”, including trade and value chain disruption, which impacts commodity exporters and countries with strong value chain participation; reduced foreign financing flows from remittances; and foreign direct investment, among others.
Like its global peers, South African businesses are also counting the costs – lives, jobs and a looming global recession.
“Aside from the COVID-19 virus and risks around it, the actual extended lockdown has had a huge impact on business. Without being able to trade, the ability to generate income and contain cash reserves is nullified. There is a risk that more projects will be put on the back burner due to the financial crisis, and further to that the looming peak of the virus has set the scene for a bleak outlook for the year ahead,” says Pam du Plessis, MD of valve manufacturer Invincible Valves.
“There seems to be no light at the end tunnel just yet,” she adds.
Invincible Valves is a medium-sized enterprise located in Knights, Germiston. Established in 1982, the company offers a full range of low-pressure valves, a reconditioning service and an in-house rubber lining service for valves, pipes, fittings and vessels. The company is used by many of the country’s major valve manufacturers.
While the East Rand-based manufacturer has been fortunate enough to be able to sustain its staff’s monthly income and settle with its creditors, its debtors’ inability to meet their obligations, including big businesses that have implemented force majeure, has placed strain on its cash flow.
“Although we are back up and running with 70% staff occupancy and the balance in home offices, we are still finding it hard to source spares etc. as many companies have not reopened and the ones that have are often not operating at full capacity just yet,” Du Plessis told SA Mining at the time of Level 3 lockdown.
Agile and innovative
In the face of the pandemic, the valve manufacturer has remained agile, flexible and innovative.
With close to 40 years of business experience, the East Rand-based manufacturer believes its proficiency in handling challenges such as prolonged industrial action has stood it in good stead during the time of COVID-19.
“Due to past experience, we have learnt to easily adapt our business. So for us setting up home offices etc. was fairly easy considering that we have done it a couple of times over the past decades when we have experienced industrial action. Our business is equipped to work on the move with every user having a laptop as their primary computer, cloud-based email, telephones and pre-existing VPN setup. We have learnt that technology is an amazing tool, allowing us to be even more connected than when we occupied the same space at the office. We have made use of Zoom and Teams for meetings and have been even more productive as there are fewer interruptions and distractions.”
Although Invincible Valves “is doing as most South Africans are doing, which is attempting to survive the pandemic”, the manufacturer has embarked on identifying and creating new opportunities while keeping everyone safe.
It is investigating opportunities to increase its footprint across Africa as well as entering into new industries not usually associated with its valve types.
“We would like to enhance our basket of options and look to offer a wider range for these newer industries,” says the solutions-driven company.
In addition Invincible Valves, which operates from a 6 500m2 facility in Knights (comprising 4 500m2 under roof), recently procured a secondary space in the same street. The new space will house its reconditioning and rubber lining operations thereby allowing the company the opportunity to increase its stockholding at its main office.
A customer-centric approach to business
Invincible Valves prides itself on service excellence and flexibility and strives to enhance its customers’ bottom line.
Given this focus, the solutions provider’s workforce is well trained and equipped to seek better ways to complete tasks for its clients, Du Plessis says.
“Our training centre is working incredibly well, with the majority of our staff having been through a number of training programmes aimed at enhancing their skills and ultimately the company’s skillset. Our learnership programme, which involves learners on the floor as well as off-site, is at 100% occupancy which gives us a great sense of achievement when it comes to the transfer of skills as we strive towards enhanced customer satisfaction and experience.”
The company is an approved supplier of valves to all major industries within the country, including mining, petrochemicals, power generations, water and the sewage industry with agents in all major centres across the country and the globe.
Key mining projects it’s been involved in previously include the Kibali Gold Project located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Newmont Ghana and Elandsfontein platinum operation in North West. Currently the valve manufacturer is supplying valves and accessories to AngloGold Ashanti, Kibali Gold as well as a few smaller maintenance projects in Africa.