Upholding ethics during hardships


Inferior quality can cost lives at building sites according to Sarma General Manager Johan van Wyk

In a time when cash flow is tight, competition fierce and customers unrelenting, building professionals still need to put quality first and procure only quality assured materials in order to successfully complete projects.

In the face of a myriad of new suppliers offering better pricing for seemingly similar products, it is important to realise the critical nature of the houses and structures that we build and to realise that failures of the materials can have dire consequences for inhabitants of these structures, as well as having the potential to ruin the reputation of companies found to have used inferior products.

South African Readymix Association (Sarma) General Manager, Johan van Wyk, says that readymix concrete is a prime example of a product that cannot be produced much more cheaply without cutting corners. In instances where a supplier is much cheaper than the other the chances are these suppliers might use non-SABS approved cement, illegal aggregates, unqualified labour and non-purpose-built equipment or a combination of these.

“It is interesting to note that most Sarma accredited readymix manufacturers’ prices will be within a fairly narrow band as a result of fixed input costs. These relate to raw materials, capital equipment, labour, transport and other costs and do not differ very much from supplier to supplier. Where larger producers may gain a cost advantage over smaller operators for materials, the smaller ones may make up for these on lower capital repayments or payrolls. This ultimately has the effect of levelling the playing fields and resulting in a threshold where prices are acceptable and producers remain profitable”, says van Wyk.

“Where alarm bells should be sounding for building and procurement professionals is when a supplier suddenly arises that far undercuts the usual suppliers. Then the question should be asked whether the supplier is Sarma accredited or has any other quality certification in place such as ISO 9001 or similar. While anyone can afford to buy a mixer truck and raw materials to produce concrete, not everyone does it right and that is where certification is the only documentary proof that the supplier complies with anything”, van Wyk notes.

Upholders of standards

“Not all suppliers have what it takes to produce the kind of quality concrete that is required in South Africa and  dishonest suppliers may try to provide concrete that does not conform with specifications. This can lead to the premature failure or even the collapse of the entire structure. It is for this reason Sarma was established, to regulate and formalise the industry, as well as accredit only readymix suppliers who comply with all the necessary requirements to produce quality concrete. We conduct stringent audits on all Sarma member plants (on an annual basis) to ensure compliance with quality standards, as well as health, safety and environmental compliance. The plants are also operated with the safety of workers as a top priority and are meant to have a positive influence on surrounding communities. Considering the size and number of mixer trucks, road safety forms an integral part of the annual audits and helps prevent unnecessary accidents on our road,” van Wyk concluded.

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