Quarry Southern Africa July 2017 - Page 35

profile were there. It was also great to see how the industry’s demographics are changing, with more woman taking leadership roles. Overall, this year’s conference had a great spirit – and I’m not just talking about the party! We had a lot of fun even talking to our competitors and that is something good to look back on. From a business point of view, yes we made some good contacts, but that wasn't the main purpose of our stand, it was much more important to us to speak to our existing and potential customers face-to- face and build those relationships within the industry. RG: Caldas Engineering is a small, family-run business. How do you manage to have such an extensive geographical reach with only 25 employees? RC: Well, even though we only have 25 employees, we have representation throughout the country through what I like to call our associate companies. I don’t like using the word ‘dealer’ or ‘agent’, because that is very impersonal and to me, ‘associates’ is more descriptive of our culture as a company and of our relationships with those people. RG: What would you say are the biggest challenges the quarrying and construction-related industries are facing in the region? RC: One of the biggest challenges is a lack of infrastructure development. There is a lot of talk about the importance of infrastructure development, and the government’s national development plan, but very little is actually happening. The public sector is a big driver of infrastructure development, so the delays on that end have a significant impact on us. But essentially, demand for our products and our customers’ products is driven by projects and development, and there just isn’t enough happening. Another one is fluctuating commodity prices, which impact across all industries, including ours, but also impact regional economies, which then also affects development. RG: What would you say are the biggest opportunities for your business and industry? RC: For us, the two areas we are focusing on is creating new markets in Africa, and growing our presence in the mining industry, that's where the opportunities are for us. The parts and services we supply are broadly applicable across a host of applications, not just the quarry and aggregates industry, and we are also active in ferrochrome, gold, diamonds and even coal. We are looking specifically at growing into the copper belt in the DRC and Zambia. We have been present there for a while, but not as successfully as we would like because it’s also a commodity-driven market. But there's a lot of mining development in East and West Africa currently, and Tanzania specifically, is another area we are looking at. RG: Two big areas that came up at the conference, aside from legislation, were environmental sustainability and technological advancement. How do these areas impact your business? RC: The critical aspect for our products is metallurgy. We are constantly trying to find new alloys to offer increased wear life and help our customers to reduce their production costs. Another area that we focus on, and this is an area that Michael drives a lot, is improving design profiles for specific applications. As a small company, we have a lot of flexibility to work with our customers to develop solutions that are specifically tailored for their operations and the local conditions, and so on, and testing is a critical part of this. We believe it gives us an advantage over our major global competitors, because it allows us to tailor our products to what our customers need, rather than offering only stock-standard products designed for general applications. Everybody seems to think that crushing is crushing. It's not. There's a science attached to crushing, and people need to understand that while the equipment that's used for crushing can be changed, the geological and physical properties of the material that needs to be crushed can’t be changed. And that’s the area that we want to work in. Customers buy standard equipment from OEMs, and we come in once they are operating to identify the specific challenges they are facing and help them to address those challenges by using better metallurgical processes or improved profiles. In this game, what a laboratory tells you and what happens in the field are two different things. In-the-field testing is vitally important to us, because even when people are operating in very similar applications, they can use their equipment in very different ways, so we rely on our customers to give us specific feedback about products QUARRY SA | JULY 2017 _ 33