“Normet is focused on growing organically and creating service hubs. The most recent example is the establishment of a legal entity in the DRC.”
Can you give an overview of Normet’s performance in Africa over the past years?
Africa is an exciting region with a vast geographical spread. Every country we operate in has its unique challenges, but at the same time presents us with fantastic opportunities. We have experienced significant growth over the past 5 to 6 years, with a compound annual growth rate of above 35%. This has catapulted us from a market share of approximately 10% back in 2017 to a position where one out of every three machines that go on the market in Africa is sold by Normet. Our success is underpinned by delivering a quality product on time and our global support network. On the safety front, we have been LTI-free for the past 5 years.
How does Normet add value to underground operations?
Normet has machines in various underground mines including a large copper mine in the DRC where we have a substantial fleet of equipment. This fleet is supported by a service contract and an onsite vendor-managed inventory model to support the machines. We are currently implementing a similar model in South Africa with another major mining company. Our ideal business model is to enter into a service agreement with our customers to support the technology and to ensure that we have an efficient and cost-effective supply chain in place. This can be challenging in Africa, and we have therefore over the past 2 years invested in significant stockholding at our Jet Park and Zambia warehouses to reduce the lead times. We fully appreciate the importance of staying close to our customers in remote areas; either directly or through our dealer partners.
What is Normet’s approach to organic or M&A-supported growth in Africa?
Normet is focused on growing organically and creating service hubs. The most recent example is the establishment of a legal entity in the DRC. On the acquisition front, Normet has recently acquired two Finnish companies, Rambooms and Marakon, which is a boom breaker system mounted either on a stationary pedestal, excavator, or a mobile machine. This product line will be supported out of the new facility in Jet Park, Johannesburg where we will have a dedicated workshop and carry the necessary spare parts. There is an installed base of more than 500 systems in South Africa alone. There has also been an acquisition in the ground support space where Normet acquired Garock in Australia, whose products are currently finding their way into markets like East - and West Africa. Besides growing in presence or footprint and inorganic growth, we pride ourselves that we are leading the race with the introduction of new high-technology solutions like SmartScan and BEV. We are extremely excited by the sale of our first purpose-built LDV type vehicle last month, which conforms to mines’ safety requirements as well as the first order received for a fleet of our recently launched Thor scaler.
We have experienced rapid growth in countries like the DRC where we are in the process of establishing a warehouse and technical support capabilities. We are fully committed to meeting localization requirements in the countries where we operate. We have a direct presence in Kitwe, Zambia, and are ready to support customers when operations like Mopani and Konkolo Copper Mines resume production.
What are the risks of operating in the DRC?
Clean governance through tight internal controls is of utmost importance to deal with the corruption challenges. There is also a personal security risk for employees and contractors. We mitigate this by avoiding high-risk areas and planning risk-assessed itineraries with the guidance of our customers where possible. Generally, customers do a fantastic job in implementing security measures and protecting visitors, suppliers, and their staff from these risks.
Can you present how Normet SmartDrive is being used throughout Africa and give your take on innovation adoption?
Our customers are increasingly looking towards battery electric vehicle technology for efficiency, safety, and the decarbonization drive. Generally, Africa has been a late adopter of new technologies, largely due to a lack of skills in many countries. However, the need for improved efficiency and safety has increased interest in adoption, and it is extremely exciting that Normet recently signed a project that will kick off in Q4 2023 with our first battery electric vehicle (BEV). We are in the process of preparing to make this first introduction of Normet BEV technology a success.
Technology adoption goes hand in hand with jurisdiction maturity and I believe that over the next five years, underground electric equipment is going to be more normalized in the most advanced mining jurisdictions of Africa. Although adoption might be slow initially, once the technology is implemented into a mining operation and its benefits demonstrated, there will be exponential growth from then on for the technology. Having tier-one mining houses implementing our BEV technology into their operations in Africa will give its adoption rate great momentum.
What is Normet’s strategy to attract and retain talent?
Normet has recently invested in a 4800 square meter world-class custom-built facility in Johannesburg which we are moving into mid-October 2023. This facility will be a service center where we will be refurbishing machines, and do some service exchange on components, and we will boast a state-of-the-art training facility with virtual reality capability to train our customers’ operators and do maintenance training of artisans. This is a fantastic example of how the company is gearing up to support the significant growth we have already experienced, as well as the next growth curve to come with our BEV technology.
We have our own in-house EFNARC-certificated shotcrete application trainer and continue to invest in equipping our Service Technicians with up-to-date training material and product knowledge. We aim to be B-BBEE compliant in a few months and plan to invest in artisan training as part of the program.