Reaching new heights – Brelko’s upward trajectory continues

If you want to achieve great things, you must have a vision of what you want to accomplish. For Brelko Conveyor Products MD, Kenny Padayachee, that vision is to ensure that the company is well-equipped to ensure that it has capacity to service existing clients and secure new ones, thereby growing the business. Gerard Peter reports.

Padayachee started the company 36 years ago. Today, it is a leader in designing and manufacturing conveyor belt spillage control equipment for the mining industry. This includes belt cleaners, belt ploughs, Keyskirt Chute sealing systems, Hi Impact systems and Belt Tracking systems. There is also a strong focus on ensuring safety. In this regard, Brelko introduced the Nip Guard safety device. It improves worker safety while working on conveyor belts and has been designed to prevent unnecessary injuries that are known to happen around pulley nip points and pinch point hazards.

Brelko has established itself as a market leader, not only in Africa but on a global scale. “Over the past few years, we have grown our footprint in the SADEC region as well as the DRC and Egypt. Outside of the continent, our products are in copper mines in Mexico. We recently landed a contract with Arcelor Mittal in the country. We have reorganised our US branch by appointing a new company President, additional staff and new tooling and vehicles with a view to explore opportunities there,” Padayachee explains.

In South Africa, Brelko has secured multi-million-rand contracts with Eskom. This includes five-year deals to supply, install and service its OEM equipment. “We are currently working on securing contracts at 7 power stations,” Padayachee adds.

Padayachee is astutely aware that in order to expand the business, there is a need to increase capacity and also implement measures that will not only save costs but will also make the company self-sufficient. And that is exactly what he and his team have done.

Brelko moved into its current premises in Booysens in 2010. Walking through the 18 000 m2 factory, it is hard to believe that it was once part of the old Booysen’s SPCA hospital. In order to ensure operational efficiency, the company has streamlined it production processes.

Not only that, but it has fully embraced automation to increase output. This includes robotic welders and gluers to ensure a more efficient production line and less wastage. Other initiatives to improve capacity and operational efficiency include the company making its own moulds and a massive investment in research and development. “We have a dedicated R&D department that uses the latest software such as Syspro and AutoCad to develop new products as well as upgrade existing ones,” Padayachee explains.

Brelko keeps a big stockholding to service its customers. In addition, it also has 46 service teams in nine provinces in South Africa. “Each team comprises two members equipped with everything that is required to service our customers, including parts. We also have a consultant who provides health and safety reports as well as advise how we can meet our clients’ requirements,” Padayachee states.

Taking destiny into its own hands

There has also been a concerted effort to ensure that the company is able to function uninterrupted. “To deal with this, we have commissioned a solar plant which produces 3.5 MW of power a day. We have a diesel generator as back-up but we are currently working on switching over to gas power. Not only does this save us money but it reduces our impact on the environment,” Padayachee explains. The company also has invested in battery storage that provides 800 KW of power. In addition, Brelko has its own water supply, thereby reducing reliability on municipal supply. This is in the form of water tanks for storing rainwater to be used later, as well as implementing grey water storage to be used in the gardens and for the washing of pavements and cars.

Realising a greater objective

Brelko may be on the upturn in business terms but the company actually has a greater cause. While it continues to garner business throughout the world, there is still a strong emphasis on contributing to the South African economy and reducing its carbon footprint.

Brelko’s manufacturing and distribution department also uses recyclable materials and has removed non-recyclable plastics for all packaging. These have been replaced with various recyclable materials such as poly-propylene bags, cardboard, or wood. The company has also placed great emphasis on dealing with e-waste in an environment-friendly manner. Most companies will have a fair amount of e-waste including computers, laptops, keyboards, screens etc. Recycling of all e-waste is a priority – what can be donated is, and what is unusable is sent for destruction and recycling.

All raw materials are sourced locally and this approach has enabled the company to provide employment opportunities for more than 220 people, with 70% of its workforce comprising local employees. Going further, the company has also given the local community a ray of hope by creating a recreation park for children and helping to get rid of nefarious activities in the area.

At the end of the day, Padayachee’s vision is built on resilience; something he says is engrained in South African culture. “Brelko is built on a people-centric culture. People who are resilient and this is what will make us grow in the future,” Padayachee concludes.

Mining Review
By Gerard Peter – NOVEMBER 2023

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