Building industry veteran, a.b.e. Construction
Chemicals has introduced a modernisation policy of ‘best practice’ to maintain
its leading position in the South African market, says Rob Winter, general
manager of the Chryso Southern Africa subsidiary.
The first stage of the modernisation of production by a.b.e. in
2019 called for an investment of about R3.5 million and another R4 million will
be invested for the second stage – involving increased automation, in
particular – in 2020.
Chemicals was founded in 1932 but started operations in 1939 in Durban as a
supplier of bitumen to municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. The company has over
the years grown in both size and diversity to become a major supplier of
specialised construction products to the building, civil engineering and
building maintenance industries, supplying products directly to customers
through its branch network as well as through builders’ merchants and hardware
Winter says a.b.e. – after more than eight
decades of traditional production methods – needed an injection of best
practice: “In our case that meant workflow maximisation, increased automation,
and slashing of production costs. ‘Best practice’ is a technique generally
accepted as preferable to alternatives because it produces results superior to
other means – and this is precisely what we have implemented for the
restructuring and streamlining of the a.b.e. production processes at both the
company’s Isipingo and Boksburg factories,” he states.
At the Isipingo plant, best practice was introduced in
September 2019 with the implementation of measures such as revising the plant
layout, minimising manual labour, introducing computerised logic control
systems, and installing modern equipment to handle operations such as product
conveying, in-line weighing, box taping, and shrink wrapping.
“It was also decided to move production of the popular a.b.e.
Hydroproof waterproofing range to Boksburg where a new continuous flow
production process is now in place for increased productivity. The relocation
of Hydroproof production to Boksburg was influenced by the fact that
Hydroproof’s main markets are far removed from KZN and mainly centred in
Gauteng and the Western Cape. importantly, it also meant that spare labour capacity
at Boksburg could be utilised,” Winter stated.
“The introduction of production methods and equipment to
achieve best practice has been a challenging process for a.b.e. which started
manufacturing back in 1938, using equipment and systems unheard of in those
pre-war days. Introducing best practice has not only called for staff training
but also for staff buy-in, which is always a formidable quest. But change is
vital to safeguard the future of all at a.b.e,” he added.
streamlined production line for a.b.e. Hydroproof in operation at its new home:
the company’s Boksplant.