CAPE TOWN – The Lion Match company has created more than a dozen jobs during the recent commissioning of a multimillion-rand pantyliner production plant in Cape Town.
NSP Unsgaard, based in Epping, Cape Town, is the manufacturing arm of The Lion Match Company for a wide range of personal care products under the Comfitex, Cherubs, Lion-Duel and Loving Touch brands.
The commissioning of the plant in Cape Town is set to more than double local manufacturing capacity and cement its position as market leader in an R400 million market category, currently growing by more than 10 percent in volume.
The pantyliner plant forms part of a broader R100m investment programme that began with the installation of a new line to manufacture wet wipes in 2016 and the newly commissioned pantyliner equipment will be followed by further investments to significantly boost local production of sanitary pads and other related products.
Basie van Wyk, group chief executive of The Lion Match Company said a large portion of feminine products sold by South African retailers are imported and less than half of all products are manufactured locally for what is still a largely undeveloped market.
“Through this investment, we are growing local manufacturing capability in this category. We have also invested in future capacity to grow the market,” said Van Wyk.
He added that prior to the investment, Unsgaard also imported the shortfall in local manufacturing quantities and the new equipment arrived in South Africa from Italy at the end of last year but a lack of operator skills for such sophisticated and highly automated equipment initially led to the delays in commissioning.
George Lemon, general works manager for NSP Unsgaard said that The Lion Match Company created an additional 20 jobs during the commissioning of the plant.
Lemon said included in this were both skilled staff who were able to operate the high tech automated plant and a production planner, as well as semi-skilled and unskilled employees.
“Six existing employees, who were employed in semi-skilled positions, underwent extensive training and development to the point where they now occupy skilled positions as machine operators within our business. We will continue to invest in training further employees so that we have in place a multi-skilled team that is able to operate both the existing and new equipment and future equipment in which we intend to invest. In the future, we also foresee additional equipment and products, said Lemon.
He added that all new employees are from the community close to NSP Unsgaard facility.
Van Wyk said that since commissioning, the output of the new equipment improved exponentially, running at 90 percent of its design capacity.
Van Wyk said that the rationale behind the investment was the creation of local job opportunities, better management of working capital, improved quality control and reduction in foreign currency risks.
He added that the brand is perfectly positioned to attract cash-strapped consumers.
“In a struggling economy, it is important to have the right balance between the product intrinsic and the value it offers the consumer,” said Van Wyk.
He said the company would now shift its focus to the feminine pad category which is worth around R1.3 billion and growing at 4 percent in volume.
“We are now looking at our feminine pad product offering so that we can utilise the success on the pantyliner side and duplicate this on the feminine pad side. Here,we are still a fairly small player with a single-digit market share, so there are big opportunities to grow. For us, the personal care space is our growth area, and we are looking at alternatives within that space to invest and grow further,” said Van Wyk.
– BUSINESS REPORT