AfriSam has kept its Centre for Product Excellence (CPE) operating throughout the pandemic, according to centre Manager Mike McDonald, although this had meant adapting to Covid-19 restrictions while dealing with depressed trading conditions in the sector.
“Our product development team works closely with customers to develop and test products to suit their specific application requirements. We also conduct ongoing training for customers and the industry at large, empowering companies with skills for quality construction.”
McDonald said the CPE, based in Roodepoort, Gauteng, also supports the continuous improvement of AfriSam’s range of technology and offerings in cement and construction materials, adding that the demanding conditions in the country’s construction sector – where work in many segments is hard to find and margins are narrow – make it essential that human resources are leveraged to their utmost.
“Skills development remains a critical aspect of contractors’ and concrete manufacturers’ competitiveness, and we have been able to continue our training programmes despite the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the rapid uptake of digital communication platforms since the first lockdown has opened new opportunities for our training events.”
He said the centre not only reaches a wide audience with its online training but has optimised the functionality for more interactive learning as well as more effective evaluation of learners’ performance during and after training.
“We have found that electronic questionnaires, for instance, can add considerable value in the context of adult education programmes. This helps us to strengthen both our internal and external programmes to the benefit of the learners and their employers.”
These advances have not replaced the physical or face-to-face training though, as this remains preferable for many applications, including smaller companies who don’t have the digital infrastructure to support virtual learning. The AfriSam CPE team still goes out to site regularly, and has its own training rooms, observing the necessary health and safety protocols.
A focus of its training is to demonstrate how the complexities of cement and concrete can be best managed to achieve quality and durable structures, thereby lowering risk and promoting business sustainability. This includes supporting small and emerging businesses with the basics of mortar, plaster and concrete production, as well as with business skills and management training.
McDonald said the CPE is also instrumental in pursuing environmental issues related to cement and concrete use, particularly for large projects where stakeholders prioritise the carbon footprint of the materials used.
He emphasised AfriSam’s progress in becoming a leading producer of low carbon cement and concrete. While ordinary Portland cement generates about a ton of carbon dioxide per tonne of cement, AfriSam has standard products available that generate only half that amount of emissions per ton.
“Carbon emissions is becoming more topical, as about eight percent of the world’s carbon dioxide from human activity comes from cement production. The AfriSam CPE collaborates with customers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, leveraging our extensive expertise ensuring they can do this without compromising quality and integrity in their structures.”