“Manufacturing in South Africa in the current climate is not for the faint hearted,” says Mike Sessions, chief executive officer at eDART. “Material costs are high, skills at all levels are scarce, labour laws and health and safety regulations are stringent and restrictive, and the volatility of the Rand makes long-term planning a challenging exercise.
“Many of our local customers from industries such as mining, oil and gas, sugar and pulp and paper, are all operating at low levels of production and those that service SOEs and municipalities face a different set of problems but the end result is similar – smaller order books and lower margins. The sourcing of low-tech products such as valves from the Far East, due to cheaper costs, makes competition extremely fierce, yet despite this, the eDART Slurry Valve Company continues to achieve market growth and expand in this tough climate because we manufacture products of good quality coupled with our proven expertise in providing practical long lasting solutions.”
Launched in 2006, eDART Slurry Valve Company is a local valve manufacturer that has grown to become a significant force in the market employing over 60 people. The successful strategy behind eDART’s continued growth has been based in designing and producing bespoke specialised valves for a niche market – slurry control valves for flotation plants – and getting involved with the process to prove that better level control results in greater productivity for the mineral processing plant.
In the past, when new plants were built the emphasis was on the advantages to the OEMs of handing over the manufacture of the valves to a specialist company resulting in easier installation and reduced commissioning times. Sessions says that as the market has altered in recent years the focus has changed to working more with end-user mines and to initiating the idea of improved performance of existing plants through the use of better level control valves.
The key to the company’s success has been the merging of various skills within the management team towards this common objective. Traditionally, most valve companies have just supplied products to their customers – selecting the most appropriate type of valve for the application. Control valve companies usually go further by selecting the most suitable sizes of valves as well.
The eDART team
“The knowledge eDART has acquired of our customers’ processes enables us to offer holistic solutions rather than just the valves. When this knowledge is combined with the ability to design and develop innovative products then a winning formula is the result. Our projects department comprises four project engineers with extensive process engineering and instrumentation knowledge. Our design department is manned by three design engineers plus a computerised fluid dynamics specialist,” adds Sessions.
“Technical director Richard Rule heads up the company’s project division. His instrumentation background and process knowledge enables us to offer clients advice on plant design to enable the control valves to perform under optimum conditions,” he continues.
The design and engineering department, run by Oliver Sessions, is constantly adding new valves to the company’s range ensuring that the designs follow a modular pattern so that spares are easily identifiable for future maintainability.
New products are the lifeblood of the company. A range of poppet samplers was first to be added to the valves, coming from the need to measure in order to control. The company now offers sampling systems to suit a variety of applications. A unique solution to the control of two valves working in parallel to each other resulted in a dual valve controller where a single signal is split into two for optimum control.
More recently the company has built on its established reputation as a slurry control valve company by adding in other on/off and manual slurry valves to its offering – the C-Tech knife gate valves and Red Roc pinch valves.
Advantages for project houses
Ten years on, eDART now consists of a group of companies making these different valves and actuators, and a sales and marketing company called Afrivalve which offers a wide range of valves to complement those manufactured in-house. According to Sessions, this capability is advantageous when working with project houses because it enables eDART to provide a complete valve solution, rather than just slurry valves.
“The future is uncertain and there is no room for complacency in the market place,” he concludes. “The companies that succeed will be those that are able to adapt to the new conditions. The ability to adapt, adjust and innovate is at the core of the eDART ethos.”
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