The intervention of science and technology can revolutionise business by improving efficiency and operation costs. This has been true for Microfinish, a small black-owned automotive firm located in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bulelani Magwanishe, launched Microfinish as multimillion-rand black industrialist firm today (7 July). The company is one of 46 black industrialist projects that have been approved for joint support by the DTI.

Microfinish received a R13,5 million grant from the DTI's Black Industrialist Scheme (BIS). The BIS is a grant programme of government's Black Industrialists Policy that aims to unlock the potential within black industrialists operating in South Africa through deliberate, targeted and well-defined financial and non-financial interventions.

Microfinish also received assistance from the Department of Science and Technology's (DST) Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU). The TLIU, a DST initiative hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has been assisting Mircofinish since 2013.

Microfinish manufactures ball valves for a variety of applications. The company has its own foundry and also produces castings for valves.

TLIU manager, Ashley Bhugwandin, said, "The company is a perfect example of how a small black-owned business can see rapid expansion with the right support, and most importantly with the right attitude and commitment from business owners."

During the assistance period, it was identified that Microfinish had inherent flaws in their product design and process. The TLIU collaborated with the National Foundry Technology Network (a DTI initiative) to implement major interventions at the foundry.

Previously, approximately 70% of raw material was essentially wasted to produce the final product. A project team was formed during the intervention to increase the metal yield and reduce the cost of casting white iron.

As a result, the following were achieved:

  • Material mass reduced from 4,06 kg to 2,55 kg.
  • Weight reduced by 37%.
  •  Material cost reduced from R121,8/kg to R76,5/kg.
  • Labour cost reduced due to increased productivity.
  • Cycle time decreased.
  • Valve seat capacity and sales orders increased (the order book is at capacity for the next six months).

Due to the interventions, Microfinish has saved more than 60% through product optimisation, lean manufacturing, ERP systems and process optimisation.

In addition, 55 jobs were created and a further 150 people were employed.

Microfinish contributes to South Africa's capability and competitiveness in exporting quality products to first world countries like Germany. It has also utilised the DTI's Export Marketing and Investment Assistance Scheme to exhibit and market the company at international and South African trade fairs, resulting in the addition of new customers in Europe and the Middle East

Microfinish's CEO, Brian Naidoo, expressed gratitude to the Department of Science and Technology, particularly the TLIU.

"Had it not been for the team from TLIU, our business would have likely been another struggling operation. The prospect of being a black industrialist is very promising," he said. Mr Naidoo added that through the coordinated efforts of the TLIU, Microfinish now competes successfully in global markets.

The Department of Science and Technology congratulates Microfinish on this milestone and is proud of the company’s achievements. The DST hopes that many other small businesses can achieve similar success through interventions facilitated by the TLIU.

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology

For more information contact Taslima Viljoen on 082 990 1685 or Thabang Setlhare 072 659 9690