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SOLID STEEL LHL Engineering chevron-square-right phone-square (031) 7055856

Founded in 1969, LHL Engineering (LHL) has been operating in South Africa for 50 years. Stationed in New Germany, just 15km from the Port of Durban, LHL has come a long way from its simple beginnings, and made the most of its extremely strategic location. We spoke with Nelson Govender, LHL’s Chairperson, about his family’s company and the broad reach it has achieved in its market.

Written by Alice Instone-Brewer


ith half a century of experience, LHL Engineering is well dug in to South Africa’s industrial sector. Working with metal, it specialises in the fabrication of tanks, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, reactors and piping. It takes on all forms of fabrication to do this, using a range of steel grades, from carbon through to titanium and other exotic metals. This range in grades means a range in price points, and also in applications, so it’s no surprise that a broad spectrum of industries make use of LHL’s products and services. They are used by customers in the sugar and food industries, wood and paper, water and sanitation, chemical, petro-chemical, pharmaceutical and even the transport industries. In fact, transport is where LHL’s journey began. When LHL was founded, it was created in order to support the import of the German LHL axel, a mechanical part used in the transport and logistics industry at the time. From this small starting point, it has grown and grown, filling its niche and then continuing to branch further and further out into other industries. Although it was founded to support a German product, it has become local endeavour, and more than that, a family one.

LHL ENGINEERING The Govender family makes up much of its leadership team today, with Nelson as Chairperson, Silken Govender as General Manager and Janice Govender as Financial Director. Each one has their own reasons for being passionate about the company and their work within it: for Janice, it is the sense of traditional and commitment to family, whereas for Silken, it is an enthusiasm for the engineering industry and being able to see it evolve first hand, and for Nelson, it is the constant challenge of business, and an ambitious desire to see the company improve and prosper. To Nelson’s satisfaction, improve and prosper, it has: “We started off in the transport sector and now have a wide range of solutions supporting almost every sector in our economy. LHL historically focussed only on workshopbased fabrication, but we’ve now evolved to include site-based solutions. We have adapted to our customers requiring turnkey project solutions.” It even offers companies a design

service, with design and drawing facilities if clients wish to outsource this aspect of their process. LHL’s fabrication and installation services are no small operations – LHL can boast some huge international clients, some of which are household names. This roster includes Bayer, BASF, Buckman Laboratories, Dow Corning, Tisand, Rohm and Haas, Sara Lee, Unilever, Degussa, Cray Valley Products, HOSAF, Scott Bader and even Coca-Cola. With this broad a reach, LHL is well and truly integrated, with a diverse scope that means whatever up and downs different markets take, it should be steady and secure. “The majority of our products are manufactured for the Southern African market,” Nelson told us, “And we are currently working on expanding our international client base.” The diverse industries its specialist offerings are used in make for a secure launch-pad from which to branch out to other nations. To date, the company has exported to Australia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, the Comores Islands and Hong Kong, and it plans to spread much further. Whilst it intends to expand its export market, LHL is very aware of the numerous benefits of its physical location, and it plans to stay put. New Germany is a town close to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s second largest economy, contributing an average 16% to the country’s GDP. It has highly advantageous access to two of Africa’s largest ports, Durban and Richards Bay, with direct access to the Indian and Pacific Ocean rims. It is the second most industrialised area in the country, and is, unsurprisingly, one of the top locations for export, thanks to its location within world trade routes. All in all, it’s a perfect base of operations for a company like LHL. In fact, its manufacturing sector is the second largest in the country, topped only by Gauteng Province, and two thirds of this is geared towards export. LHL’s move to expand its global reach will take greater advantage of this trend and its fantastic location for carrying this out with ease.

SOLID STEEL LHL is also looking to grow locally, and is looking for companies interested in benefitting from what they offer: “We are now at the growth phase of our business, looking for input from companies. We have 3000m² under cover, with opportunity to build on a further 2000m² of specialized workshop to suit other companies’ needs. Our site layout allows for effective flows that prevent unnecessary movement as we have three gates to facilitate this plan. We also have 1500Amp of power which allows for installation of large machinery if needed. We have improved our competitive strengths by way of accreditation in ISO9001/2015, ISO3834-2/Appendix 10 and complying to the safety standards of all our clients. We are currently working on ISO45000 accreditation.” Given its established career in its sector, LHL is a member of the Southern African Stainless Steel Development Association (SASSDA). Membership in this organisation comes with certain perks, such as the support of a board of experts and industry people who are ready

to speak with the government on its members’ behalf, and are looking out for the stainless steel industry in the country as a whole. Education, training and events are all parts of the benefits that SASSDA members can enjoy, but with this, there also comes a responsibility to uphold a certain standard. Nelson broke down these standards and responsibilities for us: “We commit ourselves to establishing and satisfying the needs of our users by timeously supplying competitive, quality products; maintaining high professional and ethical standards; through our commitment to interactive and constructive communication between the industry and those it serves; through respecting the dignity, integrity, and safety of the individual; by planning, creating and dedicating the resources necessary for the upgrading of skills, and through the ongoing technological development and upgrading of technical competence and facilities.” This family-run South African company is dedicated to its country and its people as much

LHL ENGINEERING as its legacy. “As a LEVEL 1 BBBEE Contributor, our staff policy is to afford opportunities to employees who exhibit the commitment and skills, with particular reference to addressing past inequalities.” As well as training, the company offers its staff medical aid and other benefits, looking after its own, because it knows that this way, its staff will look after it, too. “Our well-trained, happy workforce ensures stability and continuity.” One of the main challenges that face LHL is what Nelson describes as the “incestuous” nature of South Africa’s industrial sectors. “This industry is very incestuous due to the limited employment scope. Economies of scale do not exist and engineering does not require large staff complements. Customers are not keen to change, and the customer base is almost the same as the industry in that it operates in a closed shop environment. Getting into new customer supply lists can take years if you’re lucky enough to become a vendor at all.” In part, LHL tackles this through a collaborative

approach to business; through working with other companies and teams, it not only makes its own operations more cost effective, but it also helps to promote a ‘you help me; I help you’ culture that spreads opportunities further afield. To keep itself in check, LHL has trained up some of its staff as internal inspectors, to keep an eye on LHL’s operations in addition to the third-party inspections that are required by law. This move to go above and beyond in the name of safety has helped LHL to produce its reliable products and smooth operations, as well as, Nelson told us, “resulted in us achieving a great track record with external inspection authorities.” Inspectors aren’t the only people LHL has great relationships with – it also, as a successful business should, has a fantastic relationship with its customers. “Most customers are repeat loyal customers that we’ve proven our commitment to,” Nelson told us. That, more than anything, attests to LHL’s quality.

SOLID STEEL “Our reliability, quick responses and decision making, excellent lead times and management process makes dealing with us a pleasure.” Having better service than the competition is certainly a goal for the company, and to this end, it has even gone back to the drawing board on how to approach some sectors: “We have re-strategised and increased focus in all sectors (especially petro-chemicals) that can offer repetitive scope in both maintenance and renewal/replacement, with increased emphasis on site solutions.” Ultimately, LHL’s goal is simple: “We want to be a fast and reliable one-stop shop, with value and integrity as our key drivers.” This isn’t a goal that’s easy to achieve, but after 50 diligent years, it already finds itself in a strong position to charge on. Through pulling together all of the offerings it is already capable of, all it needs is to find those companies to collaborate with that can take it to the next level as we all enter the new year.

Pipeline Products Sourcing & Supply(Pty) Ltd. Durban, South Africa email: cell: +27 83 6422 439 “The Lord is my Shepherd” Psalm 23

A Level 1 BBBEE Sourcing & Supply company based in Durban Our KEY focus of supply is materials that are not manufactured nor easily available in South Africa. We source and supply the following material and grades: • • • • • • • • • •

Furnace/Boiler Tubes in P5, P9, P11 & P22 Heat Exchanger Tubes in Carbon Steel and Chrome Moly in GRADES: T5, T9, T11 U Tubes, Finned Tubes in various Material grades Forged Pipes and Fittings in Chrome Moly, Monel, Inconel & Copper Nickel Stainless Steel Pipes and fittings in 316L,317L, 321H & 347H Valves in Alloy, Stainless Steel, Monel & Carbon Steel Plates in various metal grades e.g. 321H,347H Pipes, Fittings, Valves & Stud bolts for Alkylation plant (HFN) Tube-sheets forged in Monel, Inconel, Copper Nickel, Carbon Steel Duplex Material


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