Breaking new ground can be a long, drawn out affair for a business. Alternatively, a company can hit the ground running and quickly establish itself as a leading player within its chosen market. Such is the case with Metix (Pty) Ltd. which has carved itself a niche in South Africa, in the last 10 years.
“The company is a leading provider of process plants and engineering services for smelting, pelletising and sintering for the ferroalloy industry and developed specialised patented equipment,” states Klaus Schmale, non executive director of SMS Siemag South Africa.
Schmale has worked in mechanical engineering, where he has had a focus on thermodynamics for the past 30 years, with SMS Siemag, who acquired a majority shareholding in Metix in June 2011, which saw Schmale relocate to South Africa in early 2012.
He brings vast experience in design, project management, site management of erection and the commissioning of plants and is responsible for sales and the realisation of many projects around the world, including turn-key projects.
“Our focus is on the development of new plants and processes, for steel plants, gas cleaning and de-dusting systems, energy recovery systems and SAF-plants,” he explains.
“Metix was established in 2003 by an ex-team of Samancor Cr, Titaco and Bateman. With exposure to many furnace projects in the last years Metix has developed a wide range of technology equipment and services, making it the dominant supplier of such plants and equipment in South Africa,” Schmale adds.
The company essentially operates as an EPCM business, with the manufacturing of plants and equipment predominately sourced in South Africa, although some of the special equipment is supplied by contract partners in China.
“Metix aims to supply mining companies and businesses requiring further beneficiation of the ores – for example the pelletising and sintering ores and melting ores used to produce ferroalloys or non-ferrous products,” Schmale explains.
Most of the company’s customers are in the Johannesburg area although the business’s footprint extends into the sub-Sahara region and Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, while other clients are based in China, Russia and the UAE.
“Metix has only the one office in Morningside, but there are many sites Metix has supplied plants and equipment to. Our philosophy is to keep close contact to our customers, thus Metix specialists are frequently visiting historical and new customers, to have an exchange of ideas, to present new developments and to consult the operating people,” Schmale says.
In October of this year, the company celebrated its 10th anniversary together with faces from its past, current clients and representatives from SMS Siemag. Nowadays Metix is owned by SMS Siemag, who hold a majority share, and by its directors, holding the remaining shares.
Metix has grown substantially over the decade and now employes around 80 people and according to Schmale has planned turnover of 40 million euros for 2013, with steady increases projected for the following years.
Expertise ranks high among those 80 staff members and has played an essential role in growing the business, as Schmale outlines:
“Over the last decade Metix has been closely involved in the management and engineering of many ferroalloy smelter projects. This experience goes back to direct involvement in engineering and management by Metix’s senior personnel of large CaC₂, FeCr, FeSi, FeMn and SiMn furnaces. This fortunate exposure included many different technologies, their associated problems and improvements brought about by South African producers and other engineering companies in the region. It has been the foundation on which Metix’s technology is built.”
He explains that this experience ties-in well with that of SMS Siemag, as he continues:
“For more than 100 years it has been the business and tradition of SMS Siemag to work out solutions in the field of submerged-arc furnaces and electric smelters. We are actively working to combine the SMS Siemag experience and know-how with the proud track record of Metix on projects and technology equipment. Our track record is based on reliable technical services, local and abroad, for new and existing clients and we would like to offer the same to AL.
“In order to maintain the well established brand name, Metix will continue to operate as a standalone business unit in Southern Africa. In addition, the Metix current portfolio of products has been significantly expanded to cover the other product ranges including Si metals, non ferrous metals, precious metals, calcium carbide and TiO2 slag.”
Whilst the market has had it fair share of peaks and troughs in recent years, Metix was recently awarded a big order for a new plant, which will keep workloads high until early 2016.
“The integration of SMS Siemag’s leading technology with the local Metix expertise had resulted in Metix being awarded a new contract for a copper smelter in Zambia and recently in a big order abroad for a complete new smelting plant being supplied by Metix on a EPC basis.
“Metix has access to new technology and equipment processes related to DC furnaces, rectangular furnaces, energy recovery systems and gas cleaning. More importantly the Metix range of products can be marketed on a global stage through SMS Siemag in Germany,” says Schmale.
“Metix/SMS Siemag have several projects in the pipeline. It is our goal to grow our business to the next level. Our goal is to be the No. 1 metallurgical technology provider and business partner for all our selected clients and market segments within Southern Africa and southern Africa.
“Because South Africa is the largest source in the world for both chrome and manganese ores it is also the major source for beneficiation of these ores into ferroalloys. Currently South Africa produces over 40 per cent of the world’s ferrochrome, which is a vital input to stainless steel production, this market is growing up to 7 per cent each year. With Metix being the major source for technology equipment and project implementation for the ferrochrome industry in Southern Africa, and SMS Siemag Group being the largest similar source in the rest of the World, SMS Group perceived it as a “win win” situation to acquire Metix.
“The SMS Group sees great potential to explore additional Southern African markets through both of our South African subsidiaries.”
As for the rest of Africa, Schmale sees great opportunities ahead:
“We are already executing projects in Zimbabwe and Zambia and we are on the way to extend our involvement in the African economy. As an example, we are installing right now a larger smelter for a copper producer based in Zambia.
“Based on the strong technology track record of SMS Siemag and the local expertise of Metix, Metix received an order for the engineering and supply of a 6-inline rectangular slag cleaning furnace. SMS Siemag are proud, to assist Metix by providing the technical know-how from Germany. Through Metix’s focus on new projects, and SMS Siemag SA’s focus on supporting our existing clients, we see a successful strategy to further expand our already successful business in the African copper belt.”