VENTURES: Not Your Ordinary Engineers
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WHAT started off in the early 1970s as a small engineering firm in Windmeul, on the outskirts of the Cape winelands town, Paarl, could have stayed just that – a limited venture catering to local general engineering requirements.
But it found traction in 1993 when entrepreneurs Hennie du Preez, Andre de Wit, Christie van Zyl and Siebert Neethling took that venture, well-known as the Windmeul Group, and built it up so that today its products can be found at some of the biggest food and beverage processors, not only locally, but in export markets as well.
Managing director of Windmeul Loftus Neethling says initially the company decided to concentrate its expertise in mainly two sectors strong in the Western Cape economy – wine and fish.
So it is still today, although the production mix is continuously changing. For example wine products at a time represented around 45% of all business, but with declining investment by wine producers, this percentage has declined over recent times.
He is quick to point out though that the wine industry is renowned for its cycles, and a turn-round is awaiting, Neethling says.
The fish and poultry sectors remain strong and lately Windmeul Engineering has also entered the meat and fruit processing industries as well as mining, where it is experiencing keen demand for its products.
The company can design and manufacture complete processing plants. Products are fabricated under controlled manufacturing procedures which comply with the technical demands of most countries. It makes use of inspection authorities like Avcape Inspection and Lloyd’s International. In addition, Windmeul Engineering is busy introducing ISO 9001 and in manufacturing it only uses ISO compliant materials.
It mostly uses stainless steel and mild steel in its products but, it seems, some clients have developed a preference for LDX steel, which Neethling describes as a very tough, non-corrosive material to work with.
Neethling says the main emphasis of the company is to provide clients with innovative solutions to their unique requirements. “We are regularly required to engineer technologically advanced turnkey projects, with the focus on custom designed equipment”.
Today Hennie Du Preez and Siebert Neethling are the owners of the group, which also owns Wynland Organic Fertilizer, the largest distributor of chicken manure in South Africa, with hundreds of clients buying this product in bulk.
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