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Piping Up All the clean water in the world means nothing if the infrastructure to deliver it isn’t in place. Cost effective, low maintenance, easily installed pipes and pumping stations are vital for the continued development of multiple industries including agriculture, industry and mining, as well as the supply of clean water to populations all over Africa. spoke with Donald Coleman from Sizabantu Piping Systems, about the company’s important role in providing this infrastructure.

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Manufacturing

Donald Coleman, Sizabantu Piping Systems

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izabantu’s history reads like a quintessential African success story. Founded in 2002 in KwaZulu Natal, the company quickly established itself as a supply and sales agent for Marley Pipe Systems, using this relationship as a springboard to open new operations both across South Africa and Africa as a whole. The company built a reputation for quality, competitive rates, excellent service and its ability to understand customer needs.

Consolidation

Sizabantu manufacture, sell and distribute plastic piping solutions for portable reticulations and bulk water supply lines. It also provides professional consultation and advice and assists with the construction and operation of pumping stations and other infrastructure.

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The company’s pipes supply a wide variety of purposes, including agricultural irrigation and industrial power generation, although the utility market is its focus, as Coleman explains: “One of our main focuses is on water utility infrastructure. Where water is conveyed in its raw state from dams, rivers or natural reservoirs, to water purification plants and is then redistributed as a potable water system to the towns and villages.” Sizabantu’s specific focus is on supplying appropriate technology plastic pipe solutions to its clearly defined target markets – a classic example of market niche exploitation.

“Sizabantu’s history reads like a quintessential African success story.

“Our industry players have gone through many changes of ownership and varied marketing strategies over the past years,” says Coleman. “This created a gap for us to fill, and soon the people in the industry recognized our expertise and experience in plastic pipe systems. Our philosophy and focus hasn’t changed for the past 15 years.”


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Responsibility

The company is also keenly aware of social issues and social responsibility as a corporation. “We are an accredited BBBEE (Broad Based Black Employment Equity) supply company. The target procurement initiative was introduced by the South Africa Government in 2004 to encourage government, municipal and contractors to purchase materials from previously disadvantaged black-owned companies.

“Our contribution here starts with providing the most appropriate technology. We offer training on how to install our user-friendly products and ensure that we have the full roster of products needed to complete a project, offering a one stop shop supply solution. “In terms of our social program, we purposely outsource as many functions as we can, including transport and logistics, security, cleaning services and engineering. Our skills development program starts with

“Sizabantu’s specific focus is on supplying appropriate technology plastic pipe solutions to its clearly defined target markets – a classic example of market niche exploitation. financially assisting nominated employees with their commercial and or technical education at recognized institutes of learning. Professional consultants are contracted to mentor and train operators in our factory in various operational disciplines.

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S h a r e

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“This has helped create an ownership culture and has been key to the positive energy and success of our business.

“So I think that’s our social responsibility side. Our business model is also based on ownership, though – so we offer ownership to our key personnel. They can become shareholders. That is partially responsible for our success – when you join our company and are a positive contributor we do offer shares in the business.” There’s more to this attitude than just good citizenship. This sort of inclusive staff-focused policy also helps with staff retention, recruitment and staff attitude, something that Coleman is keenly aware of. “Our choice of good people in the industry has been a real strength. It’s been organically grown rather than through

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acquisitions. This has helped create an ownership culture and has been key to the positive energy and success of our business.”

New developments

Sizabantu is particularly proud of its new factory in Richards Bay in KwaZulu Natal. Construction began in 2015, and the factory is the first manufacturing facility in Africa to produce Molecor Bi-axle Orientated TOM 500 PVC-O technology pipes. This has enabled plastic piping to enter the traditional metal market, where large diameter, high pressure units are required for bulk water applications. Sizabantu established a relationship with the Spanish company Molecor Canalziones


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in 2013, which involved marketing and distributing its worldleading molecularly orientated PVC technology in Southern Africa. The rapid acceptance of this product in the market led Sizabantu and Molecor to form a joint manufacturing venture. “We were initially very cautious to just climb into manufacturing traditional plastic pipe commodities, which has its own set of problems. But when we were offered the license to manufacture this world leading technology product, this was the key to start our own manufacturing operation.” The factory is the first of its kind in Africa and the piping it produces is rapidly becoming the industry standard in South Africa, offering a range of piping from 50mm to 800mm in diameter and capable of handling pressure up PN 25 bar. It will provide new jobs for the Richard Bay industrial area, reducing the company’s reliance on import products and making it easier to locally source components and equipment for much needed water infrastructure development.

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Considering climate change

As climate change accelerates, South Africa and areas across sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly finding it vital to invest in water infrastructure both for agricultural and industrial purposes and for general civilian use. With droughts becoming more and more prevalent

“Without both effective transport and drainage solutions these industries may either grind to a halt or severely pollute the surrounding area. (Western Cape has borne the brunt of this recently in South Africa, and droughts are endemic across the continent) reliable low-cost infrastructure that can be easily installed and reliably used with little

maintenance may mean the difference between life and death for many communities. Water shortages and inefficient supply mechanisms also pose a problem for industrial development across Southern Africa. Mining, industry, power generation and particularly agriculture are highly waterintensive, requiring a steady water supply to operate. Without both effective transport and drainage solutions these industries may either grind to a halt or severely pollute the surrounding area. Sizabantu and Molecor’s piping factory is now producing this new technology locally and has built up a good case history of successful installation and operation throughout Africa. Coleman explains its advantages: “The product itself serves a definite need in Africa – that’s user-friendly plastic products which compete with metallic products. Metallic products require sophisticated installation equipment. The plastic


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technology we supply fulfils the same function, but it’s much more user-friendly, cost effective, maintenance free and gives the engineer ‘peace of mind’ when specifying for emerging markets in Africa. “Simplicity, cost and ease of installation are confidence factors for the specifying consulting engineers, who favour this product for emerging contractors who don’t have easy access to sophisticated installation equipment.” The partnership with Molecor led to shared technological solutions that have enhanced Sizabantu’s production and design techniques. “PVC bi-axle technology or PVC-O, is changing the

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random molecular structure of the material to form a chain structure. This process doubles the strength of the material, giving it much stronger properties. This technology was developed some 30 odd years ago. “The international acceptance of PVC-O pipe in the market was hampered by some inherent problems with the integral jointing system of the pipe. PVC is a member of the thermoplastic family, which means it can be recycled and reshaped by applying energy. Thermoplastic is also known to have a memory. In other words, if energy is applied to a converted product and reshaped by applying heat, once it cools down it will remain in the new formed shape.

“However, if it is re-energized once again with heat, its memory kicks in, and the product will go back to its original converted shape. This was one of the challenges facing the bi-axle orientated PVC-O pipe industry, when the pipe was re-energizing to form a socket bell. The molecular structure wants to revert to its original random molecular construction. The Molecor technology has overcome this inherent problem, by orientating the pipe and socket in one process – so that’s really the trick in their technology.”

The three Cs

Sizabantu service not only the purchaser of its materials but all three parties involved with the piping system: the customer, consultant and contractor (a


Manufacturing

trio Coleman calls “the three Cs”). The importance of all three parties having their needs fully understood and the best solutions offered to meet them is only possible by ensuring a good relationships in each case, something which takes care, experience and expertise.

The company is also a member of the South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA), a regulatory body which oversees reputable industry players and ensures that piping and materials are manufactured to an appropriate standard.

At present, Sizabantu has a good foot print with strategically placed divisions to service its markets. There are 10 offices across Southern Africa, including

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“The Molecor technology has overcome this inherent problem, by orientating the pipe and socket in one process – so that’s really the trick in their technology.

izabantu Piping Systems

Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, Central, Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mozambique and Swaziland with an export division servicing Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The company has many plans and projects on the go for the future expansion to service subSaharan Africa.

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Sizabantu Piping Systems 20 Umdoni Crescent Mahogany Ridge Park, Pinetown, 3610 Tel: +27 (0)31 792 9500

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