DACT incubation centre promotes innovative projects

THE Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT) in Richards Bay has created a new incubation model to  accommodate a broader market of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs).

The DACT Board of Directors are proud to say that the centre has incubated more than 500 local businesses over the years.

Members of the Board of Directors are

  • Craig Ullbricht – Chairperson,
  • Sam Zungu,
  • Dr Chris Mlosy,
  • Dr Syd Kelly,
  • Lindani Khoza,
  • Khayelihle Ndovela,
  • Cedric Mnguni – Seda representative,
  • Natalie Waller – Company Secretariat.

‘When I joined in 2013, the centre was focusing on incubatees manufacturing products for the construction industry. These products include gates, burglar guards, et cetera, made of aluminium and steel. However, our main funders (Seda) considered a different market as the targets were changing’, says DACT Manager, Phumudzo Madzunya.

The DACT team: (back) Boniwe Lushaba, Phumudzo Madzunya and Cynthia Mtshali; (front) Bafana Khoza, Sipho Mzileni and Wiseman Mtshali

We basically wanted to introduce a different market which meant adding on general engineering entrepreneurs.

The aim was to assist SMME’s in beneficiating steel and aluminium.

Madzunya said in 2015 an assessment was conducted to determine whether the center is adequately geared to assist high tech clients.

‘We looked into re-modelling and recapitalising, and that involved procuring new equipment and space to accommodate such clients.

In 2017 South32 responded to a business plan we submitted and they agreed to provide funding of R6.8-million. They appointed Tushiyah Advisory Services to oversee the re-modelling process.

An exterior view of the Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT). Hillside South 32, the main sponsor, can be seen in the background on the right

The aim of the centre going forward is to allow for the beneficiation of metal in different ways.

‘We have 10 cubicles which our incubatees partners can use, using our equipment if and when they need it. During the upgrades we have been able to expand available space.

‘We have also added an Internet café to allow them to run their businesses electronically. We also make the café available to Alton businesses,’ Madzunya added.

Two incubates in training: Nsiki Mthiyane from Skhangabathiyane (Pty)Ltd and Mthobisi Mbatha from Durable Energy Solutions Cooperative

DACT also boasts a design studio, allowing incubator entities to expand their product range and come up with different ideas, draw them out and then print them on a 3D printer,’ said Madzunya.

The design studio is equipped with Autocad and Solidworks design.

We don’t want them to be manufacturing the same old products. They must be be creative because aluminium has vast usages and innovation is required so that their businesses are sustainable and to be able to compete in the industry. We want to get them out of their comfort zones.

‘The centre is open to any race, people of different ages, disability and gender. I know that engineering is a male dominated industry, but DACT wants more women involved. That is why we partnered with EDTEA because we want to empower more women in the engineering industry.

Centre Manager Phumudzo Madzunya opens the door to a newly renovated and improved DACT centre

‘DACT will not be where it is today without the support of our sponsors particularly South32 and Seda, who have been backing us and our vision. We truly appreciate the faith they have in us.’

Laying the foundation for success

TWELVE years ago Vukile Ndhlovu of Empangeni abandoned his day job to start his own engineering company.

The 56-year-old opened Vuks Engineering and Construction, a steel fabrication and welding company, in 2006.

Making a contribution to the economy

‘I create steel gates, aluminium pipes and do a bit of welding,’ he said.

Shortly after starting his business, Ndhlovu joined the Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT) incubation programme.

He said his journey with the centre has not only been beneficial for his business, but promoted growth as well.

I found out about the centre from a newspaper article. At the time I was looking for space to house my business. When I approached DACT they enrolled me into the programme and I was able to use their
cubicle space to work from.

Ndhlovu said being new in business, they assisted him from the ground up.

DACT incubatees (Back) Vukile Ndlovu, Sanele Simelane, Ndaba Mbatha, Scebi Dlamini, Musa Zikhali, (front) Zamani Mtshali, Njabulo Mthiyane, Thembile Mthethwa and Mthobisi Dlamini

‘I did not have the necessary documentation for my business. So when I began the programme they helped me with that and assisted me with compliance.

‘They have provided me with the tools to truly understand what it takes to be a businessman,’ he said.

He said since joining the incubation programme, his business has been doing well and he has been able to attract big clients.

Opening doors of opportunity

THE Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT) incubation programme has opened doors of opportunity to many budding entrepreneurs who on their own would not have been able to progress.

This is according to Mthobisi Dlamini of Mabhuyeni, the co-founder of Thudelisiswe (Pty) Ltd, a steel fabrication SMME.

Co-owner of Thudelisiswe (Pty) Ltd engineering company, Mthobisi Dlamini using a grinding machine

Dlamini said his love for business studies in high school inspired him to become an entrepreneur.

‘After high school I made the choice to start my own business. Because my business partner and I have always been creative and able to learn things very quickly, we joined forces to start the company.

‘I worked as an employees for one of DACT’s incubatees before starting my business and I would often see people working and creating steel gates or windows, and I knew we could do it.

‘In February we registered the business and started the programme.’

He said he is proud that through the business, he will be able to contribute to growing the South African economy.

After finishing school most young people go job hunting. Yet government continues to encourage
young people to become entrepreneurs. So my partner and I decided we had to create our own employment opportunity.

Dlamini said he is grateful for institutions such as DACT that provide a platform for small businesses to establish themselves.

We are all treated equally. No business is greater than the other. We are given equal attention and guidance, they do not discriminate.

Expert mentorship boosts business success

CO-OWNER of Durable Energy Solutions, Mthobisi Mbatha, says his LED lights business makes a meaningful impact in support of green energy.

Mbatha studied at uMfolozi College TVET College and recently joined Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT) as an incubatee.

The 26-year-old electrical engineering student says the business was formed during a MerSETA programme at uMfolozi TVET College.

‘That is how we were introduced to DACT.

‘The programme required students to create co-operatives that are engineering based.

‘Our co-operative deals with renewable energy and we focus on LED lights. With current pressures on Eskom and calls for people to save electricity, we wanted to provide a product in support of green energy,’ Mbatha said.

He said joining DACT in 2017 proved to be an eye-opening experience.

When we started the programme we knew nothing about running a business. We then attended  workshops and were taught the mechanics of drawing up a business plan, how to market our business, developing strategies, networking and compliance.

Mbatha applauded the mentoring and skills development he has received through the centre.

When you share your vision with them they help you turn it into reality. They have contributed tremendously to our growth as entrepreneurs.

Sponsors

  • Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (DACT), ZCBF Community Park, South Central Arterial, Alton, Richards Bay
  • Tel: (035) 797 1500/5
  • www.dact.co.za
  • Email: [email protected]
  AUTHOR
Gugu Myeni

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