Brelko Adapts, Survives and Thrives

COVID-19 pandemic has brought the local manufacturing sector to its knees, with global supply chain disruptions adding a further layer of misery to manufacturers and forcing suppliers to international markets to reconsider their global market growth strategies.

According to a recent paper by PwC entitled: Impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain industry, the pandemic has severely impacted production as it places restrictions on people and goods through border closures.

“Manufacturers and distributors have found it difficult to replace or replenish their inventory and equipment or machinery, due to supply-chain disruptions globally. Importers and exporters have also found it challenging to deliver or bring in goods across most international borders, as the seaports, which are the main route for international exchange of goods, have been impacted by restrictions and the slowdown of industrial activities of major trading partners,” PwC said.

For Gauteng-based Brelko, which exports its spillage control equipment across the globe, the company has had to look for growth locally. Brelko supplies product across the globe, from North and South America, Europe, Middle-East, Asia and Australia. “Where the time lag for shipping and receiving products is estimated at between seven and eight weeks, recent supply chain constraints have led to lead times being extended to as much as 20 weeks. Coupled with these delays has been the soaring cost of shipping which adversely impacts the bottom line,” says Brelko’s MD Kenny Padayachee.


The spillage control equipment supplier has looked to both the local and African market for growth, targeting large scale clients, such as local power producer Eskom and global mining giant Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals (RBM). RBM, a leader in heavy mineral sands extraction and refining, is South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer.

Having supplied “good service and excellent quality products” to Rio Tinto’s QIT Madagascar Minerals ilmenite project a few years ago, Brelko was recently approached to supply its suite of products to RBM.

“Brelko has been contracted to supply 120 units of conveyor cleaning equipment, and to date has delivered and installed 100 of these units. As soon as the force majeure (declared by Rio Tinto in June due to an escalation in the security situation at the operations) has been lifted, Brelko will install the balance of product,” states Padayachee.

With an eye clearly focused on the continent, the spillage control equipment supplier has also made inroads into supplying product to Canadian miner, Ivanhoe Mines new mechanised, underground mine – the Kamoa-Kakula copper project – in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Brelko is supplying a full turnkey service offering to the project, including Primary and Secondary scrapers and Angle Ploughs as well as Keyskirt, Belt Tracking and Hi-Impact Systems,” states Padayachee.


Speaking at a virtual Coal Industry Day recently, Eskom’s GM for primary energy, Sandile Siyaya, told delegates that as a substantial portion of Eskom’s coal was being nicked, there was a growing preference for coal to be delivered on conveyor belts as this would ensure a predictable price path and security of coal supply.

Eskom’s CEO André de Ruyter has added that the trucking of coal to power stations was increasingly becoming expensive, with the options of conveyor belts and rail becoming decidedly more attractive.

In fact, the power producer recently signed a deal with Arnot Opco, which will relay coal to Arnot power station via conveyor belt.

The power producer’s preference for coal delivery on conveyor belts certainly bodes well for conveyor belt clean equipment suppliers, such as Brelko.

In fact, Brelko, which has a long history with the power utility (spanning over 30 years) is looking to grow its offering to more power stations, including Kendal, Lethabo, Matla, Majuba, Kriel, Kusile, Medupi, Camden and Tutuka Power stations.

“While Eskom is known to get a lot of bad press, my experience has been extremely positive with our interaction being with a group of hard-working people eager to help support the local community surrounding its power stations.”

As a case in point, says Padayachee, suppliers to the power producer are required to redirect one percent of the value of the contract to uplifting the community surrounding the identified projects.

“As part of the Kendal power station contract, Brelko was required to invest one percent of the R15m contract towards community improvement as was the case with its contract with Lethabo power station. As part of promoting job creation, we hired locals, such as boilermakers, from the Meyerton area.”


Since its establishment 35 years ago, Brelko has patented numerous product innovations. “We have a steadfast focus on research and development aiming at constantly improving and enhancing our products through innovation– this has earned us a reputation for delivering premium quality products,” explains Padayachee.

The company recently designed, developed and commissioned, its new Nip Guard safety device which looks to eliminate unnecessary injuries known to occur around pulley nip points and pinch point hazards.

“We understand that we have a responsibility to our workers and that those working on our products must, as far as possible, remain safe and free from harm or injury. The Nip Guard is our latest product innovation and we believe that we have created a product that provides safety, efficiency and improved productivity.”

The Nip Guard has been manufactured to meet the various mounting standards, including SABS, CEMA, Australian and PROK. “The product requires low maintenance, operates in all conditions and owing to its robust construction, ensures product longevity, thereby contributing to lower expenses and improved productivity.”

According to Padayachee, the Nip Guard has already been commissioned and tested onsite at a number of mining operations. “All problems have been ironed out and the Nip Guard is working well on mining conveyor systems. For Brelko safety is non-negotiable and we therefore work to constantly improve our product range.”

Materials Handling
By Nelendhre Moodley – SA Mining – NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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