SA’s textile and allied sectors set to adapt

Better use of resources and cleaner production techniques provide material for serious thought when lobbying the revival of SA’s clothing, textile, footwear and leather sector

Operating in an energy resource and carbon-intensive economy, South Africa’s industries are under constant pressure. The pressure is applied both locally and from sustainability-minded export markets, insisting South Africa clean up its act. Should South Africa not adhere to it’s call the markets may take their products elsewhere. On the flip side, consumers are facing the very real challenge of making their money go further, and price becomes an overriding factor in the choice of products bought.

An industry under severe pressure on both fronts is South Africa’s clothing, textiles, footwear and leather sector. Since 1994, about R9.2 billion has been spent on modernising and upgrading the industry, making it efficient and internationally competitive and the local clothing and textile industry has grown accordingly to offer the full range of services from natural and synthetic fibre production to non-wovens, spinning, weaving, tufting, knitting, dyeing and finishing.

Although it is still infantile in the world markets, local success stories do exist. Examples of such success are fabric mill Gelvenor Textiles that produces over half the world’s parachute fabrics, and local yarn producer Sans Fibres delivering 80% of the world’s apparel sewing thread.

Crisis = Opportunity

Since the dawn of the new Millennium the industry has borne the brunt of trade barriers being lifted unleashing a wave of cheaper imported goods drowning local competition in our marketplace, with a notable contender in China.

The climate of risk afflicting the textiles sector did not abate here, with local producers facing a production-critical trilemma of increasing resource limitations, rising labour costs, and unprecedented hikes in water and energy prices since 2008. The global economic meltdown of the same year saw retailers chasing profit margins and shareholder satisfaction by diverting their purchase orders to Far Eastern balance sheets.

This cost the industry due to closures, retrenchments and general downsizing being the order of the day. Of course, the downstream effect of this uncertainty was a general halt in new product innovation otherwise, we would by now surely have enjoyed a boom in UV-resistant textiles to protect us against our intense summer heat. The upside for the textile industry is its forward-thinking and embracing of the challenges posed by increased resource scarcity such as water and energy.

Realising that all industries are competing for their spot in the market sun, the textile industry has been quick to its feet in re-thinking and re-inventing its production techniques focusing on process improvement opportunities.

Support At Hand – Every Step Of The Way

Andre Page, Project Manager focusing on the clothing, textiles, footwear and leather sector at the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA), has been working hard for the past seven years to accelerate the adoption and implementation of Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) in the sector.

To this end, he connects industry producers with tailored incentive schemes from the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

Having worked in this industry for over 25 years, Andre has a deep appreciation for its needs and challenges. “I firmly believe that the potential for the sector to grow businesses and enhance their competitiveness through adopting resource efficiency is being realised now. Through receptive transitioning, local producers are adopting competitive business practices that enhance their competitive advantage both locally and globally,” says Page.

The NCPC-SA is the resource efficiency programme of the dti. It is helping the key manufacturing industry at large. It assists the industry to improve its energy, water and material use patterns. Assistance is offered in the form of RECP assessments, with a focus on priority sectors identified within the Industrial Policy Action Plan and in support of the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP).

“These assessments are subsidised by government, and are designed to not only harness improvement in resource utilisation, but also to raise awareness,” says Page. “By building best practices, where cost-to-company is minimal, we encourage businesses to follow through to implementation.”

Success Breeds Success

During the last financial year (2012/13), the NCPC-SA engaged no less than 36 textile and allied companies about RECP, with 50% of these deciding to join the RECP programme and undergo assessments. Of the R41-million in potential savings identified, close to R1.9-million had been implemented by way of low or now cost interventions – low hanging fruit – by the end of March 2013.

Another way the NCPC-SA is supporting this industry is through it’s internship programme. Now in it’s fourth year, the programme was launched in the clothing and textile sector, and it’s success has seen it expanded to other sectors. The NCPC-SA recruits and places engineering graduates in manufacturing plants. They are to identify and, where possible, implement resource efficiency and cleaner production interventions.

The interns are monitored and trained by technical mentors from the NCPC-SA and companies benefit from having an on-site individual dedicated to identifying resource-saving opportunities at an extremely low cost to them. Manufacturing companies are always being sought to act as host plants to the interns. There are also various dti industry incentives through the IDC for this industry.

One such scheme, the Productivity Incentive Programme (PIP), has been the benefactor of skilled employees, product improvements, and technology upgrades across industry peers. With more companies closing down each year, the case is very clear that closing the gap between opportunity and reality can save the industry – not only in terms of cash flow but also mere survival.

email to enquire about an RECP assessment, hosting an NCPC-SA intern or resource and energy efficiency training.

Manufacturers benefit from cost-saving measures in a slow economy

There is a clear business case for investment in organisational sustainability – smart adaptations that save manufacturers money while cleaning up their environmental act – when slow growth releases pressure on the production line.

Sustainable production: a global issue

Increased demand and technical advances over the last century raised production levels, often with very little consideration for the environmental ramifications. This century is a watershed, where population growth, consumption patterns and production methods threaten the natural system that has buttressed our road to social and economic wealth.

Environmental policy revision, corporate reform and consumer activism share the objectives of accountability and sustainable development. A greener global economy requires industrial development that assures economic growth and increased standard of living, whilst at the same time reducing resource use, pollution, waste and its impact on nature and communities.

The business case: industrial sustainability in Africa

A taxing economic climate fuels the urgency to sharpen any organisation’s competitive edge, thereby liberating resources for investment in growth and job creation. South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) believes Africa’s growing domestic markets – 1 billion plus consumers – must be served by boosting local manufacture and free trade.

With African manufactured output doubling over the last decade, the pressure is on for local producers – big contributors to carbon emissions and massive users of water and energy resources – to realise the investment opportunities presented by improved efficiencies in energy and water conservation, waste and GHG reductions.

International and South African authorities have put attractive incentives and support mechanisms in place to aid manufacturers keen on investing in positive change. In short, it is prudent to ‘clean house’ while the economy is slow.

Support mechanisms: industry aided

The United Nations’ Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Environment Programme (UNEP) have been establishing national cleaner production centres (NCPCs) in developing economies since 1994. These NCPCs roll out resource efficiency and cleaner production (RECP) programmes that equip emerging economies with improved competitive technologies sensitive to best-practice environmental and natural resource use. So far, RECP programmes exist in 47 developing and transition countries to harmonise productivity, environmental and social imperatives. The network, known as RECPnet, provides a useful platform for sharing success stories, policies and best practices.

In South Africa, the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA) is funded by the dti as its key industrial sustainability programme for the manufacturing industry focused on energy, water and materials efficiency, as well as waste management.

The NCPC-SA actively engages producers on resource efficient business practices, and offers support through in-plant assessments and training programmes using the RECP toolkit.

RECP assessments are carried out at participating companies targeted using a sector approach, aligned to government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). The process includes energy, water and material assessments to gauge current consumption levels and opportunities for reduction; as well as waste assessments, to benchmark existing waste generation against reduction targets.

Proven cost savings: material drop in energy use

By implementing innovative energy-saving measures, resource-intensive manufacturers find that they can meet the growing demands of consumers for more and cheaper goods, whilst migrating to cleaner production processes and methodologies, reducing their carbon footprint and liberating capital for investment in growth.

This is not pure theory, with many South African success stories in the bag. Businesses adapting in a timely manner through innovative and more efficient methodologies have demonstrated remarkable resilience by developing new business models that recognize the need to do more with less.

Profitability: a steamy return on energy investment

Stanger-based manufacturer Gledhow Sugar Company runs a factory 24/7 nine months of the year to process 1.5 million tons of sugar cane into refined white sugar, fibre for paper production and molasses.

Although Geldhow generates enough steam power for internal use by burning coal and bagasse during harvesting, the factory relies on electrical power from the local municipality out of season, three months of the year.

In 2011, Gledhow Engineering Manager, Barry Parkin, commissioned the NCPC-SA’s Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE) Project to conduct a baseline study into the factory’s energy and mass balance, keen to improve the factory’s energy efficiency, reduce
the amount of coal used and to increase profitability.

Numerous opportunities were identified to improve Gledhow’s steam distribution network, leading to improvements in thermal insulation, boiler controls and the introduction of a steam trap and steam leak maintenance programme. This saved the company R500,000 in energy costs during 2012 alone!

Gledhow invested R210,000 into cleaner production methods, which included courses in energy management; motors; and steam, compressed air and fan system optimisation for the engineering manager, mechanical and electrical engineers, and electrical technician. After attending the courses, the engineering team were equipped to actively champion energy optimisation technologies and initiate energy optimisation projects at the factory, with the tools and insight to ensure success.

Because the investment cost was recouped within six months, Gledhow possessed capital to invest a sizeable R2,25 million into four more energy-saving projects during 2013. This year, Gledhow also installed soot blowers and automated boiler blow down systems on its coal-fired boiler.

To boot, Parkin not only became on of the country’s first Expert Level Steam Specialists, but Gledhow now operates as a Training Host Plant with the IEE Project, fast-tracking advanced energy efficiency implementation for future gain.

As a spin-off, improved energy efficiency may enable GSC in future to bid for renewable energy cogeneration in the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) Procurement Programme.

Put your energy behind smarter savings

The Industrial Energy Efficiency Project (IEE Project) teaches South African industries how to use available energy resources more productively, so that energy-intensive industrial stakeholders (such as mining, automotive, metals, chemicals and agro-processing plants) can implement and optimise energy management systems.

Now in its fourth year, the IEE Project (run by the NCPC-SA, in collaboration with UNIDO) focuses on implementation of energy saving interventions and training energy experts to drive and manage the processes.

To date, 31 experts have been trained and 111 more are undergoing expert level training in energy management systems (EnMS) and/or energy systems optimisation (ESO) – the optimisation of energy systems, including fan, motor, steam, compressed air and pump systems.

An increasing number of companies are signing up as demonstration plants, where energy experts practice their newly acquired skills, implementing energy efficiency interventions that result in substantial energy savings and carbon emission reductions.

To date, EnMS and ESO interventions at demonstration plants have resulted in energy savings of over 270 GWh, which translates into a cost saving of R 229 million and carbon emission reductions of almost 255 000 tons of CO2.

Incentivising savings: return on investment

To support industrial sectors in enhancing their competitiveness and job creation targets, the South African government offers a suite of incentive schemes to bolster cleaner and more resource efficient production with financial support. The dti’s Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP), launched in May 2012 as a key driver of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2012/13 – 2014/15, helps manufacturers to upgrade their production facilities and methods through one of two mechanisms, co-managed with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC):

• the Productivity Incentive (PI) and

• Industrial Financing Loan Facilities.

In granting financial assistance for new technology and advanced manufacturing, the dti makes sustainable transformation more accessible to companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, in sectors under threat from international competition, low margins and increased compliance requirements.

Call to action: the buck starts here

For South African industry to compete in an increasingly environmentally aware global marketplace and on a Continent geared for growth, local companies cannot afford to exclude resource efficiency and cleaner production from their business mandate. And in the face of increasing energy and resource prices, efficiency is now a business imperative – not a nice-to-have…

By committing to implementing sector-relevant adaptations and by increasing awareness among employees and supply chains of this imperative, manufacturers can realise substantive downstream business opportunities – not only in garnering customer and industry reputational mileage, but tangible financial benefits at this time while the focus and feasibility for change is at its greatest!