Komatsu Africa, the southern African division of global capital equipment manufacturer Komatsu, has opened its new multi-million-rand industrial hub.

It has been established as a solid foundation for the company to accelerate growth and enable the business to capitalise on future market resurgence opportunities. CHANTELLE KOTZE attended the opening.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 1, 2019

Built at a cost of R985 million, the campus located east of Johannesburg in Germiston, is one of the largest industrial campuses in South Africa and will serve as the central hub from which the company will manage its widespread operational footprint across South and southern Africa.

Borne out of the need to consolidate Komatsu Africa’s geographically dispersed operations, Komatsu approved the purchase of the land and the development of the new campus in 2015.

This was approved at a time when the global mining market was going through a significant and major economic decline.

Despite this downturn it was clear, that to meet its commitment to provide a safe, healthy environment for its employees and to provide quality support to its customers, Komatsu Africa needed to improve its facilities.

On 12 April 2016, Komatsu broke ground on the development of the 300 000 m2 purpose-designed and built campus which has consolidated the jigsaw of facilities into a single, convenient complex as a means to streamline existing operations.

Komatsu Africa Holdings MD Mike Blom says that the development clearly reflects Komatsu’s confidence in South Africa and its future.

“The campus also serves as a launching pad to meet our objective of growth through innovation.

It will also enable us to render support in the much-needed expansion of the local economy through the seamless supply of equipment to the mining and, construction,” he adds.

Creating the campus

The main drivers behind the development of the campus was to enhance safety, health and efficiency – all of which are top priorities for Komatsu worldwide.

Blom believes that the campus gives workers a modern, pleasant workspace in which the company can grow and innovate and will have a positive impact on the levels of service and support provided to customers through improved logistics, workflow and communication.

The campus comprises the company’s head office operations, the Gauteng branch (which predominantly supports the Gauteng and North West regions), as well as a state-of-art technical training centre, equipment workshop and parts distribution centre.

Training centre takes on technical skills development

One of the biggest challenges in South Africa is a shortage of technical skills, therefore technical skills development is one of Komatsu’s greatest priorities, says Blom, who notes that over the past five years, more than 130 apprentices (many of whom are female) have gone through the Komatsu apprenticeship programme – 98% of which qualified did so within their first attempt.

The training centre currently offers 36 courses and has provided training for more than 2 300 people over the past three years, and Komatsu has committed to expanding its apprenticeship programme further to continue adding to the country’s pool of technical resources. It will also provide job opportunities for South Africa’s youth.

Komatsu plans to expand its skills development in the critical areas of health and safety, technical skills and quality to meet both employee and customer skills requirements.

The centre features revolutionary virtual reality technologies with realistic machine controls for simulated operator training and testing.

A bigger and better parts distribution centre

The parts distribution centre is 21 000 m2 in size and 23% larger than the previous facility and incorporates best practices in warehouse design and operations from Japan, Europe and Australia as well as advanced logistics technologies like the Komatsu’s Global Warehouse Management System and SAP interface.

The parts distribution facility comprises inventory of around 43 000 line items and distributes around 12 000 pieces to more than 40 destinations every day, including Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi and Zambia.

Floor space within the parts distribution centre is maximised with the use of high-level semi-automated turret trucks enabling safe, accurate access to the highest racking areas of up to 14 m.

At the same time ‘supermarket’ techniques are employed to keep fast-moving items at eye level to optimise picking cycle times.

The parts distribution centre currently employs 47 over two shifts – 8h00 until 16h00 and 14h00 until 22h00 – as well as 24 hour a day, seven day stock support.

Remanufacturing centre

The final phase of the campus will include the construction of a R280 million technologically-advanced component remanufacturing facility. Construction of the centre, currently 98% approved by the board, is expected to break ground around April 2019.

Construction of an undercarriage repair and rebuild centre, to be constructed at about R40 milllion, is also earmarked for 2021 and is currently awaiting board approval.

Also speaking at the event, Komatsu CEO and President of Komatsu Ltd Tetsuji Ohashi said that Africa, and South Africa in particular, have become an integral part of the company’s global business.

He added that the country is not only the company’s biggest market on the continent but also the base from which operations in nine separate countries across the region are driven.

“What we are doing today is sowing the seeds for future growth,” he said.

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