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Buyer Beware When Dealing with the Far East

Get the Best Deal when Importing Manufacturing Machinery from the Far East.

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Imagine spending hundreds of thousands of US dollars to import rollforming machinery from the Far East, only to discover upon its arrival, that the machine does not work and cannot be fixed.

Many businesses, daunted by the high cost of metalforming equipment, decide to buy from the Far East. Their reasons are twofold: prices are often far lower than their American or European counterparts, and local engineers often do not have the experience for advanced machines such as high speed lines with in-line punching configurations.

Once burnt, twice shy

Greg Fuchsloch, CEO of Metalforming Technologies South Africa, has been in the metalforming industry for 18 years and has seen local entrepreneurs forced to shut their doors after buying insufficient machinery from the Far East.

“One client only realised after the machinery was installed that it couldn’t run the material he had bought at a value of R2 million,” says Fuchsloch. “The only way to rectify the problem was to either buy a new machine or buy new material.  It simply would not rollform the material that the client intended profiling.”

According to Fuchsloch, if the price seems too good to be true, there is something to be concerned about.

So, is it possible to procure good quality equipment from the Far East? Fuchsloch believes it is. “It’s possible to find well-made machinery at lower prices, but you need to know exactly what you are looking for and where to go. Take the time to do plenty of research and visit each machine builder personally, even if it means visiting upward of forty manufacturers.”

Choosing the right equipment

Fuchsloch shares five tips on what to watch out for when sourcing a good deal on imported equipment:

1) Can replacement parts be found in South Africa?

Before purchasing any machinery, look carefully at each component and ensure replacement parts can be sourced locally. Some parts and components in the machines are critical in their design, and it is not worth taking a chance with cheaper, poorly designed alternatives. Look specifically at PLCs, electric switches, electric motors, drives and hydraulic components. Ensure the product list is detailed and steer towards brand name components. They may cost a little more initially, but the machines will stay in good working order for longer.

“While you’re at it, double check that all of the components used are authentic,” says Fuchsloch. “In many cases, known brand components are not supported in theFar East.”

2) Get a service agreement and warranties

Take special care when looking at the service agreement. Some manufacturers offer a one year warranty on paper but will refuse to replace the part when it breaks, suggesting the component broke through operator error. The supplier must agree to fly out a technician within a few days and at their own expense, or work with an approved local company who is able to service or repair the equipment.

“A local company recently bought four machines at a very cheap price from the Far East,” says Fuchsloch. “Three roofing panel machines and an insulated panel machine, none of which were in working order when they arrived.

“The client thought it was a small problem and brought in an engineering company to look at the machine. They were unable to fix it and so turned to me to see if I could help. After looking at the machines I determined that they were so poorly designed that the components could not even be used separately.

“The only option was to dump the machines and start over. The client wasn’t happy with my findings and showed me the door. Unfortunately his business didn’t survive this very expensive lesson.”  Be sure to inspect the machines in theFar Eastbefore shipment.

3) What is the delivery date, and what are the repercussions for late delivery?

Have precautions in place for possible problems such as late delivery. Ensure that the company you are dealing with is proficient in English and able to communicate your requirements and any possible future problems you may experience.

“Alternatively use a local company who deals in machinery, who knows the lay of the land and has done this many times before,” says Fuchsloch. “You might pay a little more up front, but it will save you a ton of heartache, lost production time and money in the end if you buy from a reputable company.”

4) Is the supplier also the manufacturer? 

Not all Far East manufacturers have an export licence and so they use a local middle man to manufacture the machinery. It’s hard to tell which one you’re working with, especially when the massive factory floor is filled with many machines you assume are made on the premises or at least by the same company. The agent often doesn’t have the technical expertise to answer your questions or adequately understand your requirements.

Visit the factory yourself; there is no way around it. Make sure you see the factory and not just the showroom, warehouse or someone else’s factory. And take a translator with you  some bigger companies have staff who can speak English, but most of the technical staff cannot.

5) Get a technical manual in English 

Finally, Fuchsloch recommends getting a technical manual written in English. “It often happens that I get a frantic call from buyers who can’t use their machines because they haven’t been supplied with a manual and can’t figure out how to get it working,” he concludes.

Good deals are out there

Despite the obvious obstacles, Fuchsloch does believe that it is possible to find a good deal if you’re prepared to put in extra time and money to research what you are getting, or work with an established and approved company with years of experience.

Metalforming Technologies SA has offices both in South Africa and in China. For more information please visit http://www.metalformingtechsa.com/

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Digital Learning Challenge Crowns 2018 Winners

AGEC proves that digital learning is an effective way to grow and develop a culture of entrepreneurship among SA’s youth.

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Shriyaa Sooklal, from Maris Stella High School in KwaZulu-Natal, has been crowned the champion of SA’s leading digital learning challenge – the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge (AGEC), conceptualised specifically to develop the minds of young would-be entrepreneurs and coach them on how best to think like entrepreneurs. The results were announced at the AGEC grand finale at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg last night.

AGEC was established by long-term investment company Allan Gray and developed by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation – a foundation committed to investing in the education and development of individuals with entrepreneurial potential in Southern Africa. The Challenge was designed to develop a culture of entrepreneurship in the minds of grades 8-12 using digital learning and gamification.

Currently in its second year, the Challenge seeks to inspire learners on how to influence change in their community, their country and the world. Learners were required to complete weekly micro-challenges that further exposed them to a variety of entrepreneurial skills, which were then applied to real-world scenarios.

During weeks one to three, learners began their entrepreneurial journey by exploring local challenges and opportunities in the areas of social entrepreneurship, transportation and healthcare. In weeks four to six the competition shifted focus to global themes of climate change, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. Last night’s event wrapped-up six weeks of inter-school and inter-pupil participation across the country.

According to Anthony Selley, AGEC’s Head of Gameplay, entry participation doubled for the 2018 season, from 4 000 in 2017 to more than 8 000 in 2018. In addition, more than 600 schools across the country participated in this year’s Challenge.

“We are incredibly proud of every participant, and for the second consecutive year this Challenge proved that web-based experimental learning is an effective way to foster a culture of entrepreneurship among our country’s young folk,” Selley says.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

The AGEC top five candidates include:

  • 1st place: Shriyaa Sooklal – Maris Stella High School
  • 2nd place: Sara Gopel – Riebeek College Girls High School
  • 3rd place: Saheel Rajnarain – Crawford College
  • 4th place: Kai Parsons – Cedar House School
  • 5th place: Tahir Omar Carrim – Sutherland High School

Selley says the Challenge seeks to directly address the country’s alarming levels of unemployment using entrepreneurship as the main vehicle for change. The competition focussed on developing five overarching ‘habits of thought’, identified through academic research as key components of an entrepreneurial mindset. These include: intellectual imagination (innovation); personal initiative (initiative); courageous commitment (resilience); spirit of significance (change maker) and achievement excellence (drive).

Generation Schools Hermanus is the challenge’s top performing school with Glenwood House in second place, followed by Maris Stella, Kloof High School, Somerset College, in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

“It’s been a phenomenal season, candidates have demonstrated impeccable skill and they’ve proved that they have what it takes to think like entrepreneurs. The success of this year’s event means we’re already in planning phase for a bigger and better 2019 season,” Selley says.

For more on the top 20 AGEC learners and schools, click here.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

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Creating Jobs Is Team Work

It takes stakeholders from across the business sector to cooperate in building businesses that can create jobs, says Cash Converters CEO Richard Mukheibir.

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The franchise sector continues to grow healthily, according to the survey results recently released by the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). That sounds as if we should be in a good position to answer the President’s call to create jobs – but, as the saying goes, the truth is rarely simple.

The sector’s estimated turnover was R721 billion in 2017, growing its healthy contribution to GDP from 13.3 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. International investors have clearly been impressed by the SA franchise sector’s track record and are confident about its prospects. The number of international franchise brands in SA more than doubled from 12 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2017.

We saw employment rise in the franchise sector last year by 7.6 percent as 26 254 jobs were created in contrast to shrinking employment in other parts of the formal sector and in agriculture. At Cash Converters, for instance, we also responded to the Youth Employment Service, launched in June this year, by creating and training a roving stock-take team of first-time employees.

We would love to say we are expecting more of the same results this year – but that would disregard the economic and legislative environment where we try to make this happen. We congratulate multinational corporates such as Coco-Cola and SA Breweries who have committed to greater job creation and support among emerging farmers and local suppliers. In some senses, this is what the franchise industry does and wants to continue doing.

Of the 369 573 people employed in SA’s franchise sector last year, according to FASA, only 25 586 – or 6.9 percent – are employed by the franchisors to manage and operate their brands. The bulk of those employed in the sector – 343 987 people, or 93.1 percent – are employed by the individual franchisees.

Related: Be Your Neighbourhood’s Best Buddy

In other words, they are employed by small business people balancing the risk of their own capital investment in uncertain economic times against the benefits of operating within the support structure of a franchise brand. We need more of these bold souls to take on the challenge of becoming franchisees if we are going to be able to continue expanding the sector and creating new jobs.

But the economic picture in South Africa is still complex and difficult to read and we are seeing that having an impact on franchisee start-ups. On the one hand, we have had a good operational year with trading up by double figures across the Cash Converters group. On the other hand, we have had a slow year when it comes to franchisees opening new stores.

Everything from fuel and food prices to the exchange rate is shrouded in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty. Would-be entrepreneurs have lost confidence. They are sitting tight in a safe position, not wanting to risk their capital at the moment by starting up a new venture or growing their established business further.

But job creation can be sustained only on the back of a growing economy. Instead, the doubt and uncertainty is being felt at many different levels across the financial ecosphere. Banks are communicating their own uncertainty at the future by slashing the risk they will take on SA’s business sector.

At Cash Converters, three out of four of our would-be franchisees normally succeed in securing the finance they need to get their new store off the ground, start employing staff and contributing to our country’s economy. This year, though, the situation has been reversed. Only one out of four would-be franchisees have seen their finance approved and been able to set up and start trading.

All the rest – who were prepared to step out of their comfort zone, to cope with rental escalations, to tackle the ever-mushrooming pile of official regulations that encircle business ventures and to take risks in a difficult economy – have been left by the wayside. And so have the people they might have employed and their families.

Each of our start-up stores employs an average of 12 people, usually expanding to about 20 over the first year or two as it begins to break even. But in too many cases, those jobs are not being created. As a result, for every would-be store that is not opened, up to 120 people are not being fed.

As we all reflect on this Jobs Summit, I invite SA business and our financial partners to consider how we can bridge this gap effectively and create the jobs that are waiting in the pipeline.

Trading and entrepreneurial instincts are key elements of the business DNA of Cash Converters Southern Africa co-founder and managing director Richard Mukheibir. He traces his family’s lineage in small business development back more than a century to his grandfather who founded Mukheibir Brothers in Barkly East in 1897. Mukheibir co-founded Cash Converters Southern Africa with Peter Forshaw in 1994 and has now been involved with franchising for nearly a quarter of a century, thriving on its energy and the people-driven environment.

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Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk) Returns, Seeking Digital Solutions To Local Healthcare Access Challenges

Despite major advances in modern medicine, universal access to healthcare remains the largest unmet medical need. Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year’s competition expands to seek broader digital solutions to local healthcare access challenges.

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Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, today announces the launch of the second Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk).

The Sandoz HACk is a global competition that invites entrepreneurs and innovators in the field of digital technology to submit inspirational ideas with the potential to complement – or even positively disrupt – established approaches to driving access to healthcare. Sandoz HACk opened for entries on Friday, 4th October, closing on November 30, 2018.

Universal access to healthcare is still arguably the largest unmet medical need and, while great strides continue to be made globally, access challenges vary hugely across geographies and communities. Therefore, a major step towards improving healthcare access globally is to identify and understand the specific needs of local communities.

“There are still two billion people in this world not getting the medicines they need. This is why we are launching Sandoz HACk as we aim to inspire and embrace the brave and innovative thinking of entrepreneurs and visionaries to improve access to healthcare around the world”, said Richard Francis, Division Head and CEO of Sandoz.

Francis added: “Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year we are broadening the competition to anyone, anywhere, with an idea that uses digital technology to help address a local healthcare access challenge. By collaborating, we hope to create ambitious-yet-practical digital solutions that, with scale, could have a significant impact on people’s lives.”

Related: How do I Start a Primary Healthcare Business?

Digital innovation promises cost-effective and practical solutions with the power to transform access. Last year, Sandoz HACk focused on m-health (mobile health). This year’s theme is ‘Leveraging Digital Technologies to Solve Healthcare Access Challenges’: Encouraging ideas that can drive patient access or help healthcare providers to reach more people.

Three shortlisted entrants, to be announced in January 2019, will receive support from Sandoz experts to develop their ideas and transform potential into real impact. Our three finalists will travel to the world’s leading forward-focused gathering of creative minds, South by Southwest (SXSW; Austin, Texas) in March 2019, to explore, network and discover the latest innovative trends. Following in-person selection, one winner will be chosen and awarded seed funding and support from Sandoz, to help bring their idea to life.

For more details on how to enter the competition and terms and conditions, see here.

For further details visit www.sandoz.com/makingaccesshappen

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #SandozHACk.

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