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Japanese capital equipment group remains confident about South Africa’s prospects

The Japanese head office of global capital equipment manufacturer Komatsu recently approved an investment of R300-million by its South Africa-based subsidiary, Komatsu Africa Holdings (KAfH), in a remanufacturing plant at KAfH’s new complex in Sunnyrock, Germiston (Ekurhuleni), just east of Johannesburg.

Japanese capital equipment groupConstruction should start soon and the new plant should open in June 2020.

The new KAfH complex, which includes its head office, a training center, an assembly, a maintenance and repair workshop, an equipment operator training area and a main parts distribution center, was only officially opened last November and was the fruit of an R685-million investment.

This major and further new investment, so soon after the completion of the new complex, was clear proof that the Komatsu group had confidence in the future of Africa and its economy, cited KAfH MD Mike Blom. Komatsu manufactures equipment mainly, but not exclusively, for the construction, surface mining and underground mining sectors. But, while there has been increasing demand for mining equipment worldwide, following the global downturn, this is still not the case in South Africa. Here, the company was depending on its aftermarket sales and services – maintenance and spare parts. “We have the confidence…that things will turn here, too,” he affirmed.

Innovation is very important for Komatsu – so is training. “One of the core values of Komatsu, from a global point of view, is the focus on people,” he asserted. “Everything begins with people. People develop technologies and technologies develop people,” he added, quoting Komatsu’s founder, Meitaro Takeuchi (1860–1928). Every year, Komatsu South Africa sends employees to Japan, Germany, Thailand or the US for further training. This includes young trainees, experienced mechanics and instructors.

“Education and skills are the biggest challenge we face in our region – it is therefore one of the key focus areas and the primary reason we have established a significant training and development Centre on our new campus,” stated Blom. Education and training also form a large part of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme in South Africa. “The big difference we make in Africa is through education and training.”

There are three main elements to the South African CSR programme. They are the Komatsu Foundation Trust, the Komatsu Transformation Trust and the Komatsu Social Contribution.

The Komatsu Foundation Trust includes a university bursary fund, a minerals education trust fund, and a joint programme with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement regarding science and mathematics education. It also includes a technical education for communities programme, which is a joint project with Cummins. So far, the Komatsu Foundation Trust has provided funding of R7.7-million for these projects.

The Komatsu Transformation Trust has, to date, contributed R10-million to seven projects focused on educational “upliftment” and small, medium-sized and microenterprises. These include the Komatsu/Denron adult basic education and training school, in the Eastern Cape province, a connectivity project for rural schools, in the Northern Cape province, and (jointly with one of Komatsu’s customers) an information and communication technology training center, Internet café and mechanical hub at the village of Ga-Molekana, in Limpopo province.

The Komatsu Social Contribution was assigned a further budget of R465 000 for the financial year April 2018 to March 2019.

KAfH is responsible for nine countries in Southern Africa, with a network of 17 branches, 26 depots and four independent dealerships representing and supporting Komatsu equipment in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar and Mauritius. KAfH owns 74.96% of Komatsu South Africa; the other 25.04% is held by its black economic empowerment partners. KAfH itself is 100%-owned by the Komatsu group in Japan.

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