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Just looking at the industries that the company is involved in and the limitations of what it can and cannot do, not to mention the trade unions’ involvement, it is a well-known fact that the local manufacturing market is challenging. It might be a lesser-known fact that in South Africa, there is a limit to the number of working hours allowed in the manufacturing sector. Compared to other countries such as China, India, Japan, and even America where companies do not mind extending their working hours, South Africa is locked into an agreement regarding this.
A misconception exists that you can survive in a manufacturing environment by working very few hours at a high rate per hour. This is causing South Africa to become less competitive compared to the rest of the world. If this way of thinking does not change, more and more manufacturing companies in this country will struggle to survive in the long term. This is one of the main reasons that the company has chosen to invest a great deal of capital in its plant, automation, and new technology to streamline its production. Producing the volumes that it currently does on an old-school labour-intensive plant would have meant 400–500 people doing the same volume of work. This is not a feasible option when you want to sell at competitive prices.
Another difficulty arising from a manufacturing point of view, is having the support to keep the latest and greatest technology going. You need to be able to employ local people with the correct skill set to maintain imported machines. Not always being able to find these skilled workers means having to employ people and upskilling them. This moves them from blue collar to white collar employment where they have sufficient knowledge and skills to program and run these machines. Back in the day, a millwright, tool and die maker, or boilermaker would have been able to get these jobs done, but these days, you need tradespeople with a solid understanding of production, electronics, and programming — a fusion of the skill sets, which is hard to come by.