Urgent appeal: help save the SA panel-building industry

August 12th, 2019, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize, Articles: Vector

Earlier this year, I wrote a paper based on local research regarding the challenges facing our local manufacturing industry, which is under severe pressure to survive and to remain viable. This paper was published in the media under the title, “Challenges facing the electrical panel-building industry in South Africa”.

The paper was also directed to two major industry bodies, the EEAIA (Electrical Engineering and Allied Industries Association) and ESASA, to draw their attention to the challenges and to solicit their help in addressing the difficult situation the industry finds itself in.

I am happy to inform you that EEAIA/ESASA/EMASA created a platform to move forward with a plan of action to be presented to the DTI. Of key importance is that we must record what our challenges are, and what actions we deem necessary to improve the operating environment for local manufacturers.

This is where your participation is vital, and I appeal to you to take the time to provide input and contributions for presentation to the DTI, to facilitate change for the better. We must take the lead and present the DTI with specific steps to prevent further decline in this industry, and to stem the ever-rising national unemployment figure. Manufacturing presents the greatest opportunity for job creation.

The main starting point is to identify “electrical assembly” products which can be manufactured locally, but whose local manufacture is under threat from imports (which are often sub-standard) and/or products brought into the country as “kits” under reduced import tariffs, and then assembled here. These are products for which production capacity, know-how, facilities and expertise already exist in South Africa.

At present, we operate in an economic environment that cannot be regarded as normal or stable, and failure to act could lead to the collapse of the local panel building industry.

Most damage is caused by the adverse effect this situation has on job creation and retention where manufacturing of LV electrical panels is concerned.

I have therefore produced a summarised list of electrical assembly products from my own experience but I encourage you to add products which you would like to be included as falling within the scope of the local panel builder.

  • Electrical enclosures.
  • Distribution boards.
  • Control panels.
  • Motor control centres.
  • VSD panels.
  • Soft starter panels.
  • Equipped chassis plates for electrical panels.
  • PLC panels.
  • Remote I/O panels.
  • Field isolator panels.
  • Junction boxes.
  • Starter panels.
  • Metering panels.
  • Isolator panels.
  • Custom control panels.
  • Instrumentation panels.
  • Relay panels.
  • Marshalling panels.
  • Termination panels.
  • Electrical kiosks.
  • Pillar boxes.
  • 19-inch Rack panels.
  • Electrical panels.
  • Resistor panels.

We are, at present, also looking at the import codes to identify possible loopholes which allow manipulation and/or exploitation, so that this can be corrected to afford local manufacturers the protection they need.

Bear in mind that local manufacturers must invest in and comply with test certification; R&D; BEE; employment equity; NBCEI Main Agreement wage rates; training initiatives and others, which importers do not have to contend with. Moreover, we have an obligation to stimulate job creation and upliftment in our own country.

The input the industry needs from you is as follows:

  • Some formal confirmation of your support to protect and retain the local panel manufacturing industry.
  • Identify the products you believe to be at risk for local manufacturing companies.
  • Identify which products you believe should be scrutinised in terms of import duties.
  • Identify specific products which are imported at present, but which you believe could be manufactured locally.
  • Identify specific cases or importers who you believe may be damaging the local panel building industry.

If we receive this input, we can prepare a motivation which includes factual data and realistic proposals for implementation – proposals which are practical and achievable, which facilitate job creation and, above all, are aimed at saving the local manufacturing industry from further decline.

While I understand that time is limited, your contribution is, frankly, critical to our survival.

Please send your input to me or to your industry association administrator (christa@associationadministrator.co.za for EEAIA, ESASA and EMASA members) by end-August 2019 if possible. Once received, the information will be reviewed and collated by the committee for presentation to the DTI.

Contact Johan Basson, JB Switchgear Solutions, Tel 011 027-5804, johanb@jbswitchgear.co.za

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