Local manufacturing will fast-track economic recovery

The unprecedented economic challenges ushered in by the pandemic are impossible for any government to solve alone. Recovery will be a complex process that will require partners and stakeholders across multiple sectors to work together and use their strengths in new and innovative ways. Our labour-intensive manufacturing sector is critical to this collaborative effort, which puts the spotlight on leading local manufacturers like the Beier Group.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan earlier this year, he rightly noted that all social partners – government, labour, business and community organisations – recognised the need to cooperate and agreed on what needed to be done to set the economy back on the path of growth. Manufacturing, which was identified as a key sector in the plan, has a significant contribution to make in this recovery process.

The onus lies with local manufacturers to respond to the President’s call and take action to support the priorities outlined in the plan, which include reducing reliance on imports, making local exports more competitive and creating jobs. These are objectives that the Beier Group has long shared.

“Manufacturing is indispensable when it comes to recovering from the pandemic and creating employment quickly and on a large scale,” notes Beier Group CEO Wolfgang Beier. “The President gets right to the heart of what needs to be done to reverse the decline of the sector and drive industrialisation.”

Over the past decade alone, Beier Group companies, with assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry, have collectively invested more than R230 million into local expansions and infrastructure growth. Well before the arrival of COVID-19, the company had also focused its efforts on rerouting supply chains closer to home and nurturing domestic suppliers. 

This long-standing strategy of localisation meant Beier was in a strong position to withstand the supply-chain disruptions triggered by the pandemic and to identify opportunities to localise even further.

To help the country meet a soaring demand for protective masks, Beier’s BBF Safety Group member company, the largest head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer in Africa, ramped up efforts to localise components for its Nikki disposable particulate-filtering FFP2 face mask through supplier partnership developments. 

“We worked in collaboration with local suppliers who were able to deliver on critical components to make production possible,” notes Beier. “Thinking local works – BBF has since been able to scale up its mask production capabilities by over 1,600 percent.”

In order to truly revive the local manufacturing sector, however, much more needs to be done to improve the skills and efficiency of smaller local producers – and larger manufacturers like Beier have a vested interest in this. It’s an objective that aligns with other key priorities outlined in the President’s recovery plan, which places strong focus on supporting smaller enterprises and women-led businesses.

“As a company, we will continue to do our part in helping smaller entities to overcome the many barriers they face, whether it’s through financial assistance, the transfer of skills and expertise, or access to markets,” stresses Beier. “It’s one of the most important ways that we can contribute to the rebuilding of our economy.”