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Unica Steel focus manufacturing


Unica Iron and Steel Pty Ltd’s managing director Mohammed Asif Qasim talks South Africa Magazine through a plan to considerably expand production and create local jobs.

By Ian Armitage

nica Iron and Steel Pty Ltd’s fully integrated mini steel plant is a first of its kind in South Africa. It is a scrap based steel plant, where scrap metal is melted in induction furnaces and made into ingots. These are then reheated and rolled into mild steel square bars, mild steel flat bars and mild steel angle iron, managing director Mohammed Asif Qasim says. “The concept originates from China and India. Basically we are making steel from steel. We take the scrap and roll it into light mild sections which are used to produce mild steel products like window sections, flat bars, angles and channels.” Domestic demand has been strong he says, which has led to Unica embarking on a major investment programme. “At this present moment the capacity has reached its maximum of 3000 tons and now we are in an expansion phase which will be completed by year end. Thereafter we will be able to manufacture 8000 tons a month,” Mr Asif Qasim explains. “We currently employ 450 people and the main area is 36,000 square metres, with 10,000 under roof. With our expansion, our employment will go up to 650 people and the main


Unica Steel focus manufacturing

area will be nearly 100,000 square metres with around 17,000 to 18,000 square metres under roof.” He says that Unica currently runs an induction furnace with six-ton capacity and a cycle time of under two hours. “With our new furnace, which will be installed, that will dramatically improve. We will have 20 tons per cycle.” Elaborating on the manufacturing process, Asif Qasim continues: “After we have made the billets we heat them at around 1100 °C so that they become soft and from there it goes into the rolling mill where it is rolled into mild steel square bars, mild steel flat bars and mild steel angle iron. The products that we’re rolling at the moment are 25 x 25 x 2 mm angles to 40 x 40 x 5 mm angles. In the future we’ll be able to manufacture up to 60 x 60 x 6 because


Marshal Manufacturing & Exports Private Limited

The concept originates from China and India. Basically we are making steel from steel

Marshal Manufacturing & Exports Private Limited is a multi faceted company, which started off as a trading house and has gradually consolidated its business by getting into manufacturing. Today MMEPL, operates across various industry verticals from steel, cement to agriculture, power and earth moving equipment. MMEPL has also been aggressively executing turnkey projects in Middle East and Africa for sponge iron plants, rolling mills, clinker grinding units, ball mills, oil expellers, solvent extraction plants and refining plants since 1998. Over the years MMEPL has earned itself a reputation of being one of the very few companies in its field that delivers with honest, clear and consistent business practices. Unica Iron & Steel has been sourcing raw materials and consumables from MMEPL since 2008. Mr Ashish Kampani, the Global Business Head of MMEPL says, “Unica and we share a long term relationship. It has developed successfully based on our mutual understanding of achieving best practice and sustainable competitive advantage.”

the new mill will be bigger. Our range of products will then increase also. We’ll be able to go up to a 100 millimetre flat bar.” All products are currently manufactured to SANS 1431 250 WA, a mild steel commercial grade. Other grades are available on request he says. The process is labour intensive – using workers rather than processing machinery – and the company believes in multi-skilling. Asif Qasim says the new investment will create jobs. “We had budgeted the expansion at R45 million but we’re expecting by the time it is completed in February next year it will be up to R60 million for this build. It has been financed part by us (50 percent) and our investment has been matched by the IDC (the other 50 percent). They’re backing us as we are proven investors and also because of steel consumption here in South Africa. The country consumes five million tonnes of steel every year. Unica production is at the moment yearly is 20,000 tons. With this

expansion, it will go up to a maximum of 110,000 tons. The consumption of South Africa yearly is five million tons and the most I can produce is 110,000 tons. So obviously the demand is there and we could produce more if we had room. There’s a lot of capacity still to fill and this will create a lot of jobs.”


Unica Steel focus manufacturing

Unica has a strong marketing division he explains, selling products to all the biggest consumers in the domestic market – the likes of Pro Roof and Durban’s Macdonald Steel. “These are big names in the market. Each one of them has very strong retail branches – some have up to 20 branches - and each one can sell around 3,000 tons of steel a month. My production per month will be 9,000 tons divided between eight or more customers so I do not see any problem selling it. In fact we are always under pressure and behind our orders.” Asif Qasim says when the plant first opened, Unica had to go to India to find skilled staff as it was a new concept locally and there weren’t the skills. Money was invested into training and local people now have the knowledge to play a


role in the expansion. “In South Africa we actually have a lack of skills and you must remember the plant we have is the first of its kind in the country. Steel banks are here but they are huge plants, more automated, but our plant is more manual and labour intensive. This is a concept from India and China. We are the first of our kind here. When we first started up we had a lot of trouble being able to train people so we went to the government and asked them if we could bring in skilled labour from India to train the local people and they allowed me to bring in 45 people. Those 45 expats are staying here in South Africa and are residents. They are taking care of the old plant and under them about 405 other people are working in the mill. We have trained

Alert Steel Established over 30 years ago, AltX listed Alert Steel provides various steel, steel-related products and services to the building industry. With 18 operations in South Africa and a growing list of AlertExpress containers, the group is well equipped to meet the needs of its growing customer base.

There’s a lot of capacity still to fill and this will create a lot of jobs

about 100 local workers so when our capacity increases obviously we’ll spread these guys around to different departments and enhance their skills further. We have got a fully operational skill development department, which takes care of each and every person. They’re monitoring people and taking care of them, helping them to work in the industry. With our expansion we’ll employ more people. There will be more manual labour.” Unica has a policy of creating employment for as many people as it can and we wish them luck with the expansion. To learn more visit END .


South Africa Magazine, Suite 9 and 10, The Royal, Bank Plain, Norwich, Norfolk, UK. NR2 4SF TNT Multimedia Limited, Unit 209, 16 Brune Place, London E1 7NJ Enquiries Telephone: +44 (0) 1603 343367 Fax: +44 (0)1603 343502 Subscriptions Call: +44 (0)1603 343502

Unica Iron & Steel 9th Street Erf 87 Babelegi Pretoria South Africa Tel: +27 (0) 12 719 9736 Fax: +27 (0) 12 719 9135 Email:



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