Travelling again – I find myself in transit on the way between South Africa and India, then on to China. By some uncanny stroke of brilliant luck, I was asked to go and inspect a highly critical piece of equipment. Our supplier is using Chinese and Indian-based fabricators for portions of the work. Lucky me!

Through my particular niche in the project team I am working in (mechanical equipment selection and purchasing) I have been simply astounded at how many SA-based companies are importing major components from Asia – in particular China. Due to SA’s good relationship with the exporting super-power and our open business environment, imports in recent years have skyrocketed. This is maybe not such a great thing for local factories – but a condition that they have obviously adapted to extremely well – turning their production facilities to overseas-based factories and capitalizing on the affordability of equipment through trying economic times.

One barrier to relationships between Chinese fabricators and SA industries (end-users) is the challenging quality issues experienced. Unfortunately, quality is a concern, but one that is fast-becoming obsolete. As Chinese companies engage in more and more business from countries the world over with developed industries (like the SA mining industry), Chinese companies are themselves developing advanced quality protocols and procedures to match the best. Through continuing to pursue relationship-building and effective communication between companies, quality issues will soon be a nightmare of days gone by.

Understandably, the huge amount of expansion and exploration work being done North of our border in Central Africa has been extraordinarily good for SA design consultancies and EPCM houses, along with fabricators from both SA and China alike. The amazing thing is that even through economic crisis in the last 5 years, development in Africa has remained on the up-and-up. With the slowdown of Chinese growth and difficulties European investors will face in African developments, it seems Africa will need to take her growth into her own hands.

Either way, its bound to be an exciting trip – I may even have to learn Mandarin shortly!