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Safal Steel on stream

safal-articleWith the financial support of the IDC, the new Safal Steel plant in Cato Ridge, Durban, is already nudging its short-term target of 150 000 tons a year after just a few months of operation.

After just a few months of operation, the Safal Steel plant is already nudging its short-term target of 150 000 tons a year.

The plant, in Cato Ridge, Durban, manufactures and supplies coated steel roofing bound for the local and global markets.

Ronnie Graham, the chief operating officer, says they went into full commercial production in 2011, and the factory is already producing about 10 000 tons of material a month.

Safal Steel is the South African arm of Safal Group, a major African multinational with its head office in Mauritius. It has a presence in central, eastern and southern Africa. The company made its first ventures into South Africa in 1995.

Its latest investment is the Cato Ridge plant, a partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation. Graham says the IDC's involvement is financial; it is a major investor in the project and has been "fantastic to work with".

The parent company chose to invest in South Africa because it is a major economic hub in Africa. With its harbor, Durban was the best place to set up operations. The port is the busiest in the country, with all shipping lines visiting it. In addition, Cato Ridge is on the main route between the city and Johannesburg.

It has been a fairly long haul to get to full commercial production. Graham says the environmental impact assessment took "a long time", as is the nature of these things. The first soil was moved in May 2008 and in June 2010 the first machine was commissioned.

Now running on full steam, Graham gives figures on the job creation benefits. At the factory itself, there are 370 staff, all but a handful of whom are local.

But there is a multiple factor of eight in related industries. The transport sector benefits particularly well, with 600 trucks passing through the factory gates each month. The harbour is also affected, with thousands of tons of steel shipped through it monthly.

Of the product, Graham says 60% is targeted for the local market and the balance for export. And in about two years' time, expansion will be on the cards.

"The whole facility is designed for double [the volume]. It has a capacity for 150 000 tons a year now, but the end plan is 300 000 tons. We're already approaching 120 000 tons."

Safal Steel adds value to the parent company, which has roll forming, cold reducing, galvanising, aluminium zinc coating and colour coating facilities, among others, in more than 17 African countries.

The local company makes metal coated steel coils. Its metal coating facility incorporates a picking line, a cold reducing rolling mill, an aluminium zinc coating line and a colour coating line. Support lines and services include an acid regeneration plant, a rewind and trim line, a nitrogen generation plant and a hydrogen generation plant.

The coils are produced in a variety of thicknesses, widths and sizes, and can be supplied either painted or unpainted.

There are several steps in the process. Safal Steel buys hot roll coils from Safal Group suppliers. These are cleaned to remove any oxidization and then cold rolled. They are cleaned again before being coated with an alloy of aluminium and zinc. The final process line involves the painting of the coils should this be required.

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