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Overcome challenges

Sibusiso Hlatshwayo, CHRYSO Southern Africa’s Regional Cement Business Director: RSA, Exports and East Africa


CHRYSO’s main goal is to help their customers in the cement and concrete industry achieve their goals by improving performance and achieving better costs while increasingly enabling customers to achieve a sustainable end product.

CHRYSO FUTURE buildings made with concrete and cement range

“CHRYSO Southern Africa consists of two main divisions, one focusing on concrete which designs, manufactures, distributes and supports concrete admixtures for the concrete industry. The cement business does the same, but it focuses on cement additives that are used by cement factories,” Hlatshwayo says. As the regional cement director, he is responsible for CHRYSO’s cement business in South Africa, the ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa) region while the export of CHRYSO additives to 10 countries including Nigeria and the DRC is also his responsibility.

“My role is to craft the business strategy for the cement business in the region. I am responsible and accountable for its execution,” he says. “In addition, I have commercial responsibilities which include and are heavily focused on new business development and logistics,” he explains.

CHRYSO Partnering to overcome challenges

Challenges

The cement industry, according to Hlatshwayo, has two main challenges. “The first is meeting the ever-changing needs of customers. Unlike, for instance, the automotive industry where a person buys a certain make of car and has five years in which to decide if the vehicle fits his or her needs, the cycle in the cement industry is much faster. Because of pressures which include the cost of electricity, manpower, skills and government regulations, the industry is constantly looking at ways to improve costs and fulfil customer demands. It is never good enough to merely say ‘I have found a solution and I have delivered it’. I find this quite challenging – it is never quite enough,” says Hlatshwayo of this challenging environment.

The first challenge is inextricably linked to the second whereby CHRYSO has to stay ahead of the competition. “We have a rule in our company that a certain percentage of products sold has to come from solutions that have been developed in the last five years. This means that we have a strong focus on R&D. If this metric is not optimal, it means that we are losing the competitive edge. The industry needs are changing, competitors are innovating and we have to stay ahead of this.”

“So in short,” says Hlatshwayo, “what CHRYSO Southern Arica is doing is helping the cement industry achieve its goals. This includes the better performance of cement and at a better cost. Sustainability of cement and related products are increasingly also part of what the cement industry wants to achieve.”

He says that the company’s philosophy has always been to put its customers’ priorities at the heart of its business. “This is why we link our large range of additives and admixtures to various services that range from advice from experts to how products are used from day to day use.”

Mitigating customers’ challenges

CHRYSO works with contractors to mitigate challenges. “The top three challenges are performance, cost and now sustainability,” says Hlatshwayo.

Contractors have performance challenges which include the quality and cost of materials, and the demands from their clients. “We are approached by contractors to find the optimal solution to mitigate these,” Hlatshwayo says. “In addition, contractors are now faced with building in a sustainable manner, a challenge that has existed in Europe for long, in South Africa for about just over a decade and in pockets in Africa,” he says.

CHRYSO Southern Africa aims to provide and create solutions to address the cost challenge by improving the performance of materials, be it to increase the pump-ability of concrete, accelerating setting times or increasing early and late compressive strength. “We offer a range of products that can allow our customers to achieve this,” he says.  “Our products can reduce the customers’ cost as we offer competitive pricing for these solutions – by using our products out clients can get better performance at a lower cost,” Hlatshwayo says.

“The third challenge is the sustainability of the offering. “The production of cement is a major contributor to CO2 emissions. The world is attempting to use less clinker and cement to make better concrete,” he says. For him, this is also the biggest trend.  “In South Africa, you would rarely go to a cement meeting without talking about or without top executives concerned about it,” he says.

The advantages of combining worldwide expertise

“CHRYSO Southern Africa is one of the top five subsidiaries of CHRYSO in the world. It has local Research & Development capability – equipped with testing facilities which include chemical and physical labs for both cement and concrete. We have the ability to have field trials with a particular solution, homologate that product and supply it to the customer,” Hlatshwayo says.

“Our local R&D is done in conjunction with the main R&D Centre which is in Sermaises, France. This is an expansive centre that focuses on both concrete admixtures and cement additives. CHRYSO Southern Africa has strong exchanges with it and the R&D updates from there inform our offering. When a customer approaches us to find a solution, we do not start from scratch. We see what R&D has been done elsewhere in the world. The solution we offer can be adapted or used directly from another region in the world.”

The differing African context

“The rest of the African market differs from South Africa in terms of operating conditions and market maturity. South Africa was the first country in Africa to introduce carbon tax which makes it easier to sell carbon saving products in South Africa as local companies are under pressure to comply with climate change regulations.” This is not the case yet in the rest of Africa.

The methods employed and use of materials in South Africa is more mature than elsewhere in Africa. “We, for instance, have an abundance of fly ash that is used as an extender in cement and concrete production.”

The uneven maturity aspect provides CHRYSO with vast opportunities. “Africa has a severe infrastructure deficit and will need cement and concrete for this. Whilst the rest of Africa markets are different, we have an advantage in that we can use South Africa as a benchmark whilst we localize and tailor-make our solutions for the different contexts and needs of the customers.

In terms of sustainability, Hlatshwayo says that the rest of Africa is fragmented. “Most of the major construction is done by multi-nationals. These companies take global direction to have sustainability as a measurement matrix for their business. Therefore there are pockets of excellence, and it is encouraging that new and established regional players are starting to apply sustainable principles,” he says.

How is CHRYSO a responsible company?

Hlatshwayo says just over 50 years ago there was no additives business. “Additives were subsequently developed for cement which increased performance. Hereafter cost had to be rectified with the use of additives. As environmental concerns grew a green element was added to the production of cement. This aspect now plays a vital role in how we position our R&D efforts – as a true partner in helping customers become more sustainable. The big impact we can make is how to leverage our R&D capabilities to partner with and enable our customers to make a big dent in the efforts to stop climate change.”

This article was originally published in Construction World by CROWN publications.

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