Everywhere you look in South Africa there is a need for new buildings; education, healthcare, even the police have a great demand for well-insulated, high quality units – a need not lost on the Government.
It was because of this demand that e-KwikBuild Housing Company (Pty) Ltd was formed nine years ago, with the objective of supplying insulated pre-engineered buildings for a wide variety of uses including camps, housing, offices, classrooms and clinics.
As a measure of just how much requirement there has been for e-Kwikbuild’s products, the company has enjoyed a meteoric rise from a R40 million business a couple of years ago, into a forecast R200 million company by the end of this year.
The secret to e-Kwikbuild’s success is not just down to demand however, as Sello Tlholhalemdjoe, Business Development Manager explains: “We are essentially manufacturers and suppliers of prefabricated buildings – or as we call them, pre-engineered buildings. Our market has greatly expanded not only because of demand, but because we were able to offer the best possible solution and built good relationships through good service and a good product.
“It all started nine years ago when there was a backlog of classrooms across the nine provinces and the Department of Education decided to embark on a rapid building programme – the best solution was the mobile classroom and e-Kwikbuild was created with this express purpose.”
The sale of the company to a Mrs Bulelwua Belu-Toni took place as the company grew in size, before London-based Lonrho Plc purchased e-Kwikbuild a couple of years ago. The company is also registered by SEESA as a Black Women-owned company with 31 per cent of the equity in the company currently held by local Black Women.
As word spread of the success of the company, other government departments began to use e-Kwikbuild; “We have now built and supplied over 160 classrooms in the Eastern Cape since 2010 and earlier this year we were awarded a further 450,” states Tlholhalemdjoe, “however we have also worked with the Department of health and built mobile clinics and laboratories.”
In addition to this work, the company is now coming to the end of a two year contract with the South African Police Force, for whom it has built a range of office and victim support units – to date the business has constructed 120 buildings and hopes to renew the contract later this year.
At present, Tlholhalemdjoe says that approximately 90 per cent of business is derived from Government contracts, with the private sector responsible for the remaining 10 per cent; “However that is a figure we are hoping to change and we are aiming to make the split roughly even in the next two to three years,” he affirms.
“We realised that there was a growing demand in the commercial market from areas like mining and construction and in particular there are more mining camps being built using prefabricated buildings. We felt that this was a good way to go for a growing business and with help from our parent group (Lonrho) we opened up an export division, visited several mining organisations and began to bid on projects. We currently have ongoing projects in Angola, Tanzania and Zambia and have also attended a number of mining conferences and events to help promote our services.
“We have also recognised that the oil and gas sector and construction offer opportunities but for the time being our biggest focus is on mining,” he adds.
So what makes e-Kwikbuild properties so desirable? Tlholhalemdjoe suggests that the combination of turnaround time and quality are important factors and logistics previous logistics problems were alleviated when the company moved its manufacturing and warehousing operations from PE to the head office site in Cape Town.
“The move came 18 months ago and helped us to consolidate the business. We have become much more cost effective and have reduced our overheads, which in turn has kept our customer prices competitive,” he explains. “There is a lot of competition out there due to the high demand – and we have seen lots of new entrants in the market over the last two years, but it remains a good, growing market with additional Government departments like the Department for Social Development and the Department of Housing now considering our structures because of the delivery speed and good price we offer.”
No two projects are the same and company works closely with customers to design to requirements, which increasingly include energy efficiency initiatives such as overhang on roofs to create shade and reduce the need for air conditioning.
Tlholhalemdjoe says that each unit is built within the 3,000 square metre facility, with insulated panels comprising of chromadek metal and polystyrene. “Because our buildings are modular, the designs for customers primarily encompass floor design. We have a single production line that cuts the panels and assembly points where the polystyrene is glued to the panels for insulation. We then ship the panels to the building location and use two sub-contractors (who receive full training) who construct the unit. Each wall is 40-66 mm thick and the roof (which is also insulated) is 60 mm thick.
“Our speed is a big selling point and it takes two weeks for us to deliver the units and a further week to put it up – so three weeks in total.”
Speed is important but Tlholhalemdjoe says in no way compromises quality, with the Cape Town site fully ISO9001 accredited and constant quality control checks taking place through the various manual manufacturing processes. Further checks are carried out by plumbers and electricians before a Certificate of Compliance can be issued.
>Whilst the economic downturn has seen e-Kwikbuild lose some contracts when financing failed to materialise, the company remains in excellent shape for a busy future: “One of our biggest pressures comes from bureaucracy and political issues can provide problems,” admits Tlholhalemdjoe, “however we try to ensure that we have the correct paperwork in place and wherever possible we employ local workers with local knowledge. This means that is we leave a country we are leaving a legacy of skills training.”
“We are hugely appreciative of our Government contracts but the future will certainly see us looking to increase our commercial and overseas footprint; perhaps with Lonrho’s assistance we might also look to broaden our range of products,” he concludes.