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30 November 2018

Komatsu opens new southern Africa hub

First published30/11/2018
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Komatsu African Holdings has unveiled a new industrial hub built at a cost of US$7.2million (R985m) near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Komatsu African Holdings, the southern African division of international capital equipment giant Komatsu, has unveiled a new US$7.2million (R985m) industrial hub in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Komatsu says the 300,000m² development, which opened on November 22, is one of the largest industrial campuses of its type in South Africa and will serve as the central hub from which Komatsu South Africa will manage its widespread operational footprint across South Africa and the southern African region at large.

The venture brings together multiple previously geographically dispersed operations in a single complex that has been purpose-designed to streamline existing operations and enable the business to capitalise on future market resurgence opportunities.

“This development clearly reflects our confidence in South Africa and its future and serves as a launchpad to meeting our future growth objectives through innovation," says Mike Blom, MD of Komatsu South Africa. "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, construction and utilities markets."

The campus comprises the company’s head office operations, Gauteng branch and a training centre, equipment workshop and parts distribution centre (PDC). Komatsu says that construction on a technically advanced component remanufacturing facility will begin in 2019 and is set for completion the following year. Construction of an undercarriage repair facility is planned to commence in 2020, and to be completed in 2021.

The PDC is a massive 21,000m² facility, 23% larger than the previous premises. It carries an inventory of about 40,000 line items valued at US$65.2m (R885m). According to Jean Barclay, senior manager - national warehousing and logistics at Komatsu South Africa, the PDC distributes 12,000 pieces to more than 40 destinations across southern Africa. It feeds branches and depots in Namibia (eight), Botswana (six), Zambia (three), Mozambique (one), and South Africa (22). It also caters for Komatsu customers in Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

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The parts distribution centre carries an inventory of about 40,000 line items valued at US$65.2m (R885m).

The PDC features semi-automated turret trucks designed to enable safe, accurate access to the highest racking areas in the facility. The facility has 14m of height to roof but is currently being stocked to 7m. Stock processing is undertaken using Komatsu Warehouse Management System and SAP interface. ‘Supermarket’ techniques are employed to keep fast-moving items at eye level to optimise picking cycle times, and subsequently quick delivery times to customers. It currently employs a total of 47 workers, working two shifts a day.

The training centre facility features a technical, health and safety, and operator training dojo focused on meeting employee and customer skills requirements. It also features what Komatsu says are "revolutionary" virtual reality technologies with realistic machine controls for simulated operator training and testing.

Blom says the investment in a technical training centre highlights Komatsu’s commitment to skills development, given the skills dearth in the country and southern Africa at large.

The centre currently offers 36 courses and has provided training to more than 2,300 people over the past three years. Over the past five years, more than 130 apprentices have gone through the Komatsu apprenticeship programme.  

Blom highlights the main drivers behind the campus development as the creation of a safe, pleasant and modern working environment for employees and the delivery of enhanced operational efficiencies. He says these will have a positive impact on the levels of service and support provided to customers through improved logistics, workflow and communication.

“Africa, and South Africa in particular, have become an integral part of our global business,” says CEO and president of Komatsu, Tetsuji Ohashi. He adds that the country is not only the company’s biggest market on the continent but 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,” adds Ohashi.
The investment comes as Komatsu prepares to mark its centenary year in 2021 and the promoting of its mid-range management plan – ‘Together We Innovate GEMBA Worldwide: Growth Toward our 100th Anniversary and Beyond’ which is based on innovation and structural reform to accelerate growth. ‘Gemba’ is the Japanese word for ‘the real place’ or ‘the place where work gets done’.

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