Quality underground support solutions

Timrite, a member of the Thebe Group, is a leading supplier of underground mining support products and services

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Timrite, a member of the Thebe Group, is a leading supplier of underground mining support products and services and is the largest supplier of timber-based support products in the South African deep-level mining industry

Formed in 1995 by former HL&H executives, Timrite was acquired by Mondi Imbani Mining Supplies (MIMS) in 1996.

“In 2005, MIMS and Timrite were merged with the introduction of a B-BBEE partner, Reatile. In 2013, Thebe Mining Resources, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thebe Mining Investment Corporation, acquired a majority share in Timrite.

“The acquisition of Timrite by Thebe Mining Resources improved Timrite’s B-BBEE score to Level 2 with 70% black ownership initially and this has since grown to 100%,” explains the CEO, Nonhlanhla Mabusela.

Timrite has been able to diversify its mining product range over the years through research and development initiatives.
“Mining timber is no longer our only source of revenue, we have introduced polymer backfill bags and steel support products to bolster the sales and reduce the dependence on timber.

“Timrite has also established an industrial lumber division as well as an Africa division. This further diversifies our sales market and revenue opportunities. We supply value-added, non-mining timber products to both the South African and export markets,” she explains.

Timrite has an impressive geographical positioning, and investing in such an extensive logistical network has directly benefited their customers.

Mabusela explains, “Timrite is strategically positioned with an R&D, sales service HUB in Westonaria and customer service centres in Welkom, Rustenburg, Steelpoort and Klerksdorp to do front-end sales and support.

“We have also backwards integrated over a number of years and own our own sawmills, which are located in White River (Yaverland Mill), Baberton (Satico Mill), Hazyview (Ramanas Mill) and Piet Retief (Kemp Mill).

“All the mills are in close proximity to their source of round timber and railway network. We have total control over the value chain and benefit from the uninterrupted supply, enabling us to do our best to keep costs in line and, most importantly, to keep to customer delivery expectations.”

A leading vision

Timrite’s vision is to be the leading empowered company in its industry. It adopted a dual business focus—to develop safe, cost-effective composite underground support solutions and optimise the value of their timber asset—in order to achieve that vision.

“The key is to continuously be customer-focused and develop around our customer requirements and where our customers are on the cost curve.

“This, together with our long-standing brand and track record and strong B-BBEE credentials, will go a long way in delivering on this dual strategy. However, what is also key is to ensure that we internally align our business to the current market challenges and minimise all inefficiencies,” she says.

Products and solutions

Timrite’s core business is providing underground roof support solutions that enable the mines to safely and profitably exploit the orebody.

“We design, manufacture and market timber, polymer bags (grout bags), steel and electronics-based hanging wall/roof support systems.

“Our products are customised to precisely solve rock engineering challenges encountered in various mining regions. Our products are backed up by the sales and R&D team that has years of experience in underground mining and who are mostly IP protected,” Mabusela says.

Safety is paramount

In 1990, the company established a state-of-the-art research and development facility in order to ensure it complied with the various engineering and mining standards.

Mabusela explains that, operating in a mining space, safety is their top priority, and by investing in this facility, they could test and certify their products.

Timrite prides itself on being the leader in diversified mine support, optimising costs without sacrificing safety.

“With this ability to test in-house, we are able to react fast to market requirements and, thereby, increasing our competitive edge.

“This also provides customers with a readily accessible testing facility for their own ongoing quality audits, which is quite crucial,” she elaborates.

Industry 4.0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is ushering in smart new automation tools and technologies.

According to Mabusela, due to the advent of Industry 4.0, mining will become safer and more effective, where data can provide information that is readily available.

“Our engineers are currently far advanced in converting most of our support products into products, which can measure, predict and warn.

“We also have a new range of steel props computing and pre-signalling when danger is identified,” she explains.

Mabusela believes disruption can be turned into an opportunity for their products to offer move value-add in terms of keeping miners safe underground, by linking with these automation tools and technologies to provide an aerial view of the mines underground and creating additional opportunities for pre-warning mechanisms of all sorts.

A natural born leader

Mabusela is a Charted Accountant by profession and started her career in investment banking, which gave her an appreciation for project and business risks and mitigations, and exposure to diverse businesses globally.

“What was key as a Banker was that I always had to put on the hat of going beyond even the risks that a business owner would consider so as to minimise all potential default risks, and this provided me with a solid foundation to be a well-rounded business person who can adapt to any situation.

“I was also exposed to fairly senior positions earlier on in my career and ran my own business for five years before accepting the Thebe role, and all of this, together with my strong Christian faith, prepared me for this role,” she says.

According to Mabusela, the biggest challenge she faced while rising to her position of leadership, particularly as a woman in what can be considered a male-dominated industry, was that of culture “where, in most cultures (both black and white), men are not used to women telling them what to do especially women way below their age”.

“This, together with a stereotype that most black women are placed in senior positions to meet B-BBEE quotas and, therefore, are not expected to know much.

“I declined many roles in the past where I felt I was not ready, and refused to pretend. I have a personal policy of accepting roles where I am confident of my ability to deliver.

“This was challenging as I had to constantly be firm and stand my ground with regard to my vision and strategic direction that I, as a leader, believed in, and not succumb to pressure from those who believed they were better and knew more. I had to first be clear on exactly what it was that I was being paid to do, which was to provide strategic direction and guidance,” she recalls.

In terms of some of the most important leadership lessons she’s learnt during the course of her career and how have they moulded her personal brand of leadership, Mabusela says, “A person is as good as his or her team. If a team is not clear on its mandate to support and share in the same vision and goal, and if it’s getting lost in competing and trying to prove who knows better, that team is doomed to fail.

“I have also had to learn that I have the greater responsibility of understanding the vision and goals of whoever it is that I am reporting to—in my case, the board.

“A lot of people get lost in the process and think it’s the other way around, and believe that companies need to align to their own preferences and ways of doing things, and this is the biggest career-limiting move.

“The leader or senior carries the vision, therefore, one has to first understand it and then do one’s best to fit into that vision and style. Only then can one start a dialogue of negotiating one’s own preferences and key requirements/requests,” she explains.

Mabusela’s idea of effective leadership is when a leader can add value to the day-to-day lives of the people who report to him or her by providing a different option or solution where there seems to be none.

“A good leader delivers on the results and a great leader has a team that makes it look like a walk in the park, and a team that has personally contracted to the vision and mission beyond how much they get paid,” she concludes.

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