Colin Fairweather, CEO, Facet Engineering

As more and more locally produced products continue to be displaced by imports, one South African company is proving that local is as good as international any day. Colin Fairweather, CEO of Facet Engineering, talks about the importance of procuring local.

There is no denying that manufacturing in South Africa is under pressure. It’s not an easy environment to operate in; with ever increasing imports and a tendency to look to the East for bulk handling solutions. The stagnant economy has also not helped matters much. Never before has it been so important to boost local industry.

There are many benefits in using local manufacturers. The first and most obvious one is having a local supplier available at a moment’s notice.

Working with local manufacturers from the beginning builds relationships that ensure long-term solutions are cost-effective rather than bringing in suppliers at a later stage to troubleshoot.

Too little too late

In that instance one is literally putting out fires. Sometimes the challenges are fixable through a few adjustments or some basic changes, but often the solution is to replace completely. That involves designing, manufacturing, installing and commissioning the entire system from scratch again. It is a costly process.

Whilst many companies have been looking internationally for bulk handling solutions, local companies are as capable of delivering the required equipment as their overseas counterparts.

At Facet Engineering, we truly believe that we are able to provide not only the same quality, if not better, products but also at a highly competitive cost. Having been business for more than 30 years, we have proved our longevity in the market as well as the quality of our products.

We have worked hard towards being able to deliver a service that can meet the needs of any of our clients. Our systems work well because we understand the local conditions and we are able to tailor-make to the specific requirements of our customers.

Price competitive

The tough economic environment has undoubtedly forced many businesses to cut costs and price has become the major driving force in the market.

Cheap imports are available but these need to be weighed up against quality, the cost of maintenance or even a complete stop in production. Our products, when compared internationally to the same quality and workmanship, are completely price competitive. At the same time, the availability of spare parts, maintenance and servicing becomes more affordable if all is procured locally.

Whilst the initial cost might have been marginally cheaper, the cost of waiting for spares, communication problems or even finding a local team to step in in the interim all adds up.

While there has been a tendency to procure internationally, in recent years there seems to be a shift back towards utilising local suppliers. Despite the slow economy, business has been booming in local markets. This is good news because it does imply that there is still faith in the local manufacturing sector.

When it comes to aftersales service, local manufacturers do have the upper hand. Aftersales is critical in the bulk handling sector. A breakdown can stop production for days and it has a massive cost impact. Local teams are quick to respond and can address the problem much faster, which means loss of production is minimised.

Service first and foremost

The principles in bulk handling have been tried and tested over many years. Being familiar with a variety of systems makes problem-solving much easier. We have found that where we are involved from the get-go right through to commissioning, our conveyors don’t give hassles. In fact, they don’t break down. We are able to deliver that critical aftersales service continuously and maintain the equipment to the right standard and that is what makes the difference.

Service has become a differentiating factor. We believe in finding solutions for our clients that meet their exact needs and delivering a service that allows them to focus on their core business and not worry about the equipment – that is our job. We pride ourselves on providing that service.

Facet Engineering has found it vital to diversify and to work in a variety of sectors. This approach has been beneficial as we are also able to offer a diversified service to our clients. We have an inhouse design team that can develop bespoke solutions or we can supply standard options. We then manufacture, install and commission the equipment and have a full after-sales service and maintenance programme that we implement. Being able to offer such complete service is important as it does make us more competitive.

We ensure that we stay up to date with the latest industry developments and trends. All of our systems are updated annually and we continuously invest in machinery for our production facility so that we are always in the position to deliver the best solutions available.

Facet Engineering has started to implement a growth strategy looking beyond Southern Africa. With good opportunities throughout the African continent, we have the expertise and the ability to service the market well. We are not only looking to Africa, but also other regions in the world. Even though we are growing beyond South African we also need to ensure that we are servicing the local market well. To that end, we also have a regional sales office in Cape Town, which enables us to serve the entire country.



Automation ensures product consistency; this important, particularly for quality control of the final end-product. Incorrect ratios of inputs can result in an overpriced product or a product that is of an inferior quality or nutritional value.

Highly sophisticated computer software is used in automated process plants and allows for close monitoring of all activity in the plant. It also enables highly accurate reports to be generated which are used for record-keeping and quality control purposes. It is absolutely vital to be able to closely check the plant’s input (raw materials) and output (final finished products) levels.

Automation creates more scope for altering all the parameters; both production inputs and outputs. It allows for greater control throughout the plant. PLCs throughout the plant enable instantaneous fault-finding, particularly with the electrical components of the plant such as motors and gearboxes. Product levels and operating capacities throughout the entire plant can be carefully monitored.

Plant automation has also developed to such an extent that the system allows for remote access to the plant, particularly with fault and capacity reporting. This allows for off-site monitoring and management.

Automation in production results in a significant reduction in labour costs. Labour costs continue to be one of the most expensive inputs for the manufacturing sector. With an uncompetitive and unreliable force, often prone to unrest and inconsistency, labour problems are often costly and impact heavily on the production capacity of a plant. By reducing the need for workers, many of the costs involved are substantially reduced.

By having more control on production inputs allows production costs to be reduced Automation ensures the plant runs as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. It essentially becomes cheaper to produce the end product, which creates opportunities for an increase in competitiveness, growth and profit for the product manufacturer.

The reduction in production and labour costs also greatly assists in the automated process plant to effectively pay for itself in a relatively short time period. The initial capital expenditure is offset fairly quickly by the cost- and time-saving benefits of the plant.

Automated process plants are fully customisable and are designed around the client’s specific processing capacity requirements.

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