SA Roofing February 2018 // Issue 97 - Page 31

REGULARS: PERSONALITY PROFILE Uwe Schlüter – bitten by the bug As a novice I find that meeting experts in the industry who are open to latest ideas and ways of doing things is rare. I met with quite the contrary when I sat down with Uwe Schlüter from MiTek, who says that it is part of his job. By Ntsako Khosa C urrently the general manager of the light gauge steel (LGS) Ultra-Span division at roofing system company, MiTek, Schlűter’s focus is on everything and anything that has to do with light gauge steel in construction. “I am excited to get involved with all of it – costing, profitability, marketing, structure design, software, logistics, manufacturing and finding new opportunities. Basically, everything that is involved in running this division,” he says. Introducing something new in a traditional industry can be a very difficult thing to do. When he returned from running the MiTek German operations to assist in building up LGS in South Africa in 2003, Schlűter started with a very low base. “The market wasn’t ready. South Africa didn’t enjoy LGS, they were very traditional,” he says. Despite his small team he managed to develop an export base out of South Africa into the rest of Africa, which represented roughly 80% of sales at the time. “We developed a very strong export base. And then slowly the local market accepted LGS as an option,” Schlüter recalls. He believes in LGS stating that it has the potential to grow exponentially as it gains market share quicker than timber. Schlüter has worked in the roof structure sector of the building industry all his life. Initially introduced to the construction industry by his father at a German construction company in Lagos, Nigeria, he had no interest in continuing in this line. Uwe Schlüter from MiTek is happy to work hard to change people’s mindsets. “I did however use this time to study the first aspects of engineering through correspondence with the German University of Darmstadt while I was working in Lagos,” he says. He explains that landing in the roofing industry was all by coincidence and through life events which took him from Lagos to Zimbabwe (ex- Rhodesia at the time) where he worked as a junior designer for a roof construction company. Although he had other job prospects, designing roofs had fast become his favourite thing to do. “I was so excited with structures and understanding how to design them and put this all into practice, I got bitten by the bug,” he says. He worked closely with MiTek during the 1970s in designs of roofs, that when he decided to leave Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) due to political tensions, they offered him a post in South Africa. He has been with MiTek ever since. Over the past 14 years he has been a valued part of the local LGS industry, continually growing the Ultra-Span market share, winning various LGS awards and setting up MiTek operations in different African countries. He describes that being traditional and sticking to old ways is one of the challenges that currently face the industry in South Africa. “The industry needs to be open minded to new concepts and ideas, to take full advantage of the latest technologies that are available,” he advises. Advantages linked to the latest technologies include cost savings, it is less time consuming and is environmentally friendly. RESIDENTIAL // COMMERCIAL // INDUSTRIAL FEBRUARY 2018 29