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New era at Metso Southern Africa

First publishedin Aggregates Business International
September October 2017
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New era at Metso Southern Africa
Mikhail Kirienko, vice president – Operations Africa (left) and Qasim Abrahams, vice president – Sales & Service, Southern Africa, form part of a new Metso Southern Africa executive team

A new executive team at Metso Southern Africa has an end-to-end focus on its business, all the way from human capital through to sales and operations, but understanding its customers’ businesses and provision of unmatched service rank highly among its key focus areas, writes Munesu Shoko.

As part of Metso’s global focus on its human capital, a new executive team has recently taken the reins at Metso Southern Africa. Comprising five key personnel, the young and dynamic executive team brings a whole new perspective and renewed energy to the business. It comprises Julian Palliam, administrative managing director; Steve Clark, director - Africa Market Area; Carmen Theron, head of human resources; Mikhail Kirienko, vice president - Operations Africa; and Qasim Abrahams, vice president - Sales & Service Southern Africa. 

In a recent exclusive interview with Aggregates Business International, Kirienko and Abrahams reiterated that while there are possible challenges associated with having a new team at the helm, the scope to establish a high-performing organisation is much higher, especially considering the experience the whole team brings to the table, complemented by renewed energy from the frontline to the back office.

From a sales perspective, which is obviously a huge driver of growth for any business, Abrahams brings a wealth of knowledge of the African market from his previous engineering, sales and management roles. A mechanical engineer by profession, he started his career as a design engineer in the offshore mining sector where he was involved in design engineering, quality control and commissioning.

Abrahams joins Metso from ABB where he held several roles from business development through to head of sales and head of business unit during his tenure from 2009. Notably, during the initial stages of his ABB career, he spent the first six months of his ABB tenure working across the African continent, putting together a market approach in a bid to develop the company’s business outside South Africa at a time when only 30% of its business was generated from markets outside the country. He also went on to hold several key managerial positions, and his most recent role, just before he joined Metso, was head of a business unit within ABB, with strong focus on the sub-Saharan African market.

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Metso increasing manufacturing capacity
Metso is increasing its manufacturing capacity for large crusher wear parts castings by investing in a second melting furnace at the Isithebe foundry in South Africa

Kirienko brings a wealth of international experience to the service operations side of the business. Born in St Petersburg, Russia, he is an electrical mechanical engineer who majored in robotics. He spent the initial stages of his career at the Russian Design Bureau where his role entailed the designing of satellite antennas for ships, before he got involved in the design of layout for concentrators with a big international concern.

Kirienko joined Metso in 1992 as a project and sales support manager before taking the role of vice-president - Services three years later. He also briefly worked in South Africa back in 1999 as project engineer in a manufacturing environment. He assumed his current role as vice president - Operations Africa on 1 November 2016, where his major task is to oversee all activities concerning deliveries to customers and related services.

The new executive team has an end-to-end focus on Metso’s business in Southern Africa. “We are looking at this from an end-to-end perspective, all the way from finance, human capital management, sales and operations, ensuring we have a fully functional team in our goal to be a high-performing entity,” says Abrahams.

“Operational excellence is a huge focus for us this year, notwithstanding the most important factor, which is our people. We have a huge drive in 2017 to make sure that we have the right people doing the right jobs. This will be achieved through a special focus on our skills development programme to be able to produce the specialised skills we need,” explains Abrahams.

Abrahams adds that in the quest to have a high-performing organisation through operational excellence, there is a big focus on transferring the knowledge from the back office to the market-facing personnel.

Kirienko further reiterates the importance of service provision to customers. “There needs to be a greater balance between sales and execution. My portfolio entails the understanding of customers’ businesses and formulating best ways to go around their operational challenges,” he says.

While there is general sentiment that both the mining and aggregates sectors are not enjoying the best of times, Abrahams is of the view that he joins Metso at a very opportune time because there is a major shift in the global market where both international and local customers, including junior miners and aggregate suppliers, are abandoning their conventional ways of operation, changing the ways they look at suppliers of technologies and services.

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Operational excellence
Operational excellence is one of the crucial pillars of Metso SA's growth strategy

“Other than being a technology supplier, Metso is a solutions provider. This is a huge differentiator for the company. We have the ability to go in and understand the challenges facing our customers, and we have the portfolio and expertise to provide solutions that can best help them achieve their objectives,” says Abrahams. By doing so, Abrahams says Metso is able to establish long-lasting strategic partnerships, helping its customers achieve best business performances in the process.

In his role as vice-president – Sales and Services, Abrahams is also responsible for identifying who and what Metso Southern Africa defines as key customers and strategic partners, key markets the company needs to prioritise, as well as the product lines and solutions that should be going into those identified markets. In its area of expertise, Metso Southern Africa still sees lots of opportunity to grow in South Africa. For more incremental growth, Abrahams believes opportunity abounds in countries such as Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Namibia, and these are key target markets outside South Africa.

To better service customers in all key regions, the company is also looking at expanding its presence in all strategic areas. This will entail appointing service partners where necessary. “On the execution side of the business, we are looking at appointing local service partners, preferably in more remote areas,” says Kirienko.

“We are identifying a few potential partners, especially in the Central African region. We are considering areas where there is density of business to warrant the establishment of service partners,” says Abrahams.

The company is also pursuing strategic partnerships with its vendor suppliers on the manufacturing side of the business. “We have our own Metso manufacturing facilities, but we are selecting strategic partners for the manufacture of certain components and provision of certain services,” says Kirienko.

To meet the growing demand from the mining and aggregates industries, Metso is also increasing its manufacturing capacity for large crusher wear parts castings used in minerals processing by investing in a second melting furnace at the Isithebe foundry in South Africa. The €3.5 million investment will ensure the availability of Metso’s heavy crusher wear parts globally.

The upgraded foundry will be able to manufacture wear parts for the Nordberg MP2500 cone crusher as well as for Metso and third-party primary gyratory wear parts with full use of the latest manufacturing technologies. The first product deliveries from the new furnace are scheduled for May 2019. During the renovation project, production of castings will continue as usual in the existing facilities.

The Isithebe plant is part of Metso’s global foundry network, consisting of foundries located in Ahmedabad, India; Prerov, the Czech Republic; Quzhou, China; and Sorocaba, Brazil. The renewed foundry will be built to follow Metso’s strict sustainability and quality principles as well as international standards.

Looking ahead, both Abrahams and Kirienko are excited about the prospects of Metso’s growth in the region. However, Abrahams says for the year ahead, there is a need to understand the base, considering that the market is just coming out of a tough cycle. “We are targeting to stabilise in 2017, before rolling out a specific growth plan going into 2018,” he says.

Abrahams says there is also a need to realise that the company has a new executive team in place, and is going through a lot of changes as an organisation, which are being implemented in a phased approach, with a clear view of how and when the company will need to grow. “I would say that we are keeping it on a flat line between 2016 and 2017, and we are targeting to have more growth from 2018,” says Abrahams.

Abrahams says these are the very early stages of an upward cycle. “2017 will see a lot of companies relooking at their existing assets. We will start to see some interesting changes in 2018 as customers start their consolidation of operating assets. We see a good and healthy market outlook from 2018 to 2020,” concludes Abrahams.

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