Global Fastener News

2011 FIN – What Sells Fasteners in South Africa

September 29
00:00 2014

The South African Market
August 8, 2011 FIN – The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost of 54 African countries.
South Africa has a population of 49.9 million people. Africa as a continent has 1.02 billion.
The largest South African cities are Johannesburg with 3.9 million people and Cape Town at 3.5 million.
• GDP: According to the IMF, South Africa ranks 28th among the nations of the world with a GDP of 357,239 (compared with #1 European Union at 16,282,  and #2 U.S. 14,780 and #3 China 5,87).
• Geography: 471,443 square miles or 25th largest country geographically (compared with U.S. 3,794,083). The continent of Africa totals 11.7 million square miles.
South Africa has 1,739 miles of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans
• Exports: Corn, diamonds, fruit, gold, metal and minerals, wool and transportation equipment
• Major trading partners: Germany, U.S., China, Japan, UK and Spain
• Flying time to Johannesburg from New York, 15 hours; Frankfurt 11 hours; Sydney 14; Hong Kong 13; Sao Paulo 9; Tel Aviv 9
• Currency: US$1 = 6.67856 ZAR (South African Rand)
• Average annual income: ZAR198,000 (US$29,669). Men ZAR 240,000 (US$35,948) and women ZAR 164,000 (US$24,564)
• Unemployment: 24%. Immigration and jobs are an issue. There are an estimated 5 million immigrants, including 3 million from Zimbabwe to the north.
• Government: Constitutional parliamentary republic. Apartheid was from 1948 until 1994.
Major political party: ANC/African National Congress
Capital: Pretoria
President: Jacob Zuma
• Languages: 11, dominated by Afrikaans and South African English
• Sports: Soccer, rugby and cricket  ©2011/2014 Fastener Industry News.

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August 8, 2011 FIN – The similarities include price competition, importing from Asia, a recession, tariffs, multi-generation family companies and corporate acquisitions.

Differences between the South African fastener industry and how business is conducted in Europe and the U.S. include fewer companies using bar coding, almost no trade associations and fewer outside sales people. recently visited three fastener companies in South Africa: a manufacturer and a master distributor in Johannesburg and a Cape Town-based national distributor.

South Africa is the 25th largest country by geographic size and 28th by population. It’s GDP is the 28th largest.

At 24%, South Africa’s unemployment rate for its nearly 50 million people is staggering compared with American and European industrial nations.

• Except for “safety-critical” applications, fasteners manufactured in Europe and the U.S. are generally too expensive for the South African market.

• Asia is the major fastener supplier to South African distributors. There is growing interest in importing from India and Malaysia.

Manufacturer: Competing With Imports
Just as in North America and Europe, a South Africa manufacturer notices the price competition from imported fasteners.  Imports are the first fastener manufacturing problem Anthony Diamond mentions.

“In South Africa, we are faced with problems from imports and the ever increasing challenges we face with skills development in our industry,” the managing director of Impala Nut & Bolt SA (Pty) Ltd., told

Impala answered the skills development issue by training internally.

Located in the Wadeville, Germiston industrial section of Johannesburg, Impala Bolt & Nut is an independent cold-forming manufacturer of large range of bolts, nuts and screws for a wide variety of industries – including construction, engineering, automotive and mining.

Impala has 5- and 6-station nut formers and nut tapping machines.

Products include metric Hexagon head bolts and screws; metric round head bolts, Hexagon nuts, washers and specials.

In addition to the fasteners being produced in Africa, the steel comes from ArcilorMittal SA. Though a part of the Luxembourg-headquartered steel corporation operating in 27 countries, ArcelorMittal annually produces 5.8 million tons of steel in South Africa from iron ore sourced there.

Impala Bolt was founded in 1995 by Anthony Diamond’s father, Aubrey Diamond.

The senior Diamond had been in the fastener industry for more than 40 years and had owned a company called IFM for many years. IFM merged with National Bolts and he became managing director.

Anthony Diamond entered the fastener business in 1995. He began “moving the business in the direction of supplying good quality manufactured products with the service and care of a merchant – secondary distributor – effectively passing all the benefits of dealing with a factory to the client and also keeping that personal touch that clients want,” the second Diamond reflected.

“The key to success has always been customer service and priority above all else.”
Most of the fasteners Impala manufactures are sold in Africa.

“Impala’s focus has always been to sell to end users, although we have aligned with certain distributors whom we assist in increasing their market share. We have an understanding of cooperating with our distributors entirely so we do not compete at any stage.”

Ultimately, the key to success in manufacturing fasteners in Africa is “knowing the market you are competing in and making sure you are always up for the challenges that manufacturing present in South Africa.”

While more Americans know of “Impala” as a model of the Chevrolet produced since 1958, the bolt manufacturer is named after the southern African reddish-brown antelope with the characteristic “M” rear white marking.

Impala Bolt is located at 48 Nagington Road, Wadeville, Germiston, South Africa. Tel: (27) 11 824 3925 Fax (27) 11 824 3803  E- mail: Web:

Master Distributor: India & Malaysia Growing As Suppliers
“Price, price and price,” master distributor Rob Simes described the key to the South African fastener market.

Simes, managing director of Johannesburg, South Africa-based UPL Socket Screws (Pty) Ltd., and his brother, Richard Simes, are second generation in the fastener industry. Their father, Edward Simes, spent a career in the fastener industry and in finding niche markets.

Today the UPL Group supplies fasteners to a variety of distributors in South Africa.
The keys to success in the South African fastener market are led by “being very aggressive on pricing,” Simes told “You can’t just open up and wait for customers.”

Simes rated delivery on time as the second most important factor in business success.

• The recession that most of the world felt in 2008 also struck South Africa. “It has been a tough market. By the end of 2010 we were in recovery, but not back to what we had in 2007.”

• Inside calls dominate sales.  UPL currently has no reps on the road.

• Simes finds low employee turnover.  Most of the UPL staff “have been here longer than I have,” Simes noted.

• Computerization is limited in the South African market in terms of online purchasing. Simes knows of only a few of his distributor customers using barcoding for a customer.

• Differing from U.S. and European markets, South Africa has very few fastener industry association activities.  The strongest professional group is the Southern African Stainless Steel Development Association.

Development of UPL Group goes back to 1929 when Gordon Webster founded Gordon Webster & Company (PTY) Ltd. as a distributorship for various fixtures and fittings.

Unbrako bought the Webster company in 1966 and changed its name to Unbrako (Pty) Ltd.

In 1985 some university-based owners from the U.S. protested the Unbrako ownership of an African company during apartheid.

In 1986 Edward Simes bought the company from Unbrako and changed the name to UPL – an abbreviation of its previous name, Unbrako Propriety Limited.

Simes’ father had been with National Bolts and was commissioned to open National Socket Screws as its socket screw division. He was then offered the position of managing director at Unbrako South Africa.’

The market was dominated by National Socket Screws and Unbrako as they were the only two companies allowed by the government to import fasteners.

“Those were the good days,” Simes recalled.

Now many distributors can import directly through clearing agents creating more competition for master distributors.

In 1987, Edward Simes opened Minox to import and supply stainless steel and in 1999 he opened Socketex with sole distribution rights of the YFS product. In 2010 all the companies were merged into the UPL Group with branches in Durbin, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

The second-generation brothers each started in warehouse jobs and since their father retired in 2009 they now share management duties at the headquarters in a business/industrial park in suburban Johannesburg.

UPL imports 100% of its fasteners – primarily from the Far East, including India and Malaysia.

UPL represents Unbrako for some applications such as heavy machinery where “life and death” is an issue, Simes explained. Otherwise U.S. and European fasteners are generally too expensive for the African market.

Simes and his father attended Fastener Fair Stuttgart in 2007 and anticipates going to Fastener Fair India next year. “We are getting very good fasteners and prices from India,” Simes explained.

The Simes brothers attended a fastener show in China this year.

Headquartered in Johannesburg, UPL has branches in Durbin and Cape Town. UPL is located at 21 Repens St., Heriotdale 2094 Johannesburg, Gauteng. Tel: (27) 11 626-2600 Fax (27) 11 626-2381 E-mail:

Distributor: Recession Ups Price Pressure
“The competition has become more price intense since the recession,” Daneel Herselman observed of the current South African fastener industry.

Herselman, general manager of the Boltfast seven-branch distributorship based in Cape Town, finds more competition with smaller, new distributors opening. “It has a quick impact on the market with their low operating cost,” Herselman said in an interview with at the Cape Town headquarters. “But they can’t always maintain those lower prices.”

Boltfast seeks to “provide solutions, not just a quick buck,” Herselman added.

A key to Boltfast’s success has been “expertise and focus on services.  We have stock available with one stop shipping.”

Many South African distributors – known locally as ‘stockists’ – “fear keeping too much stock,” Herselman finds.

• Boltfast’s fasteners primarily come from Taiwan or China. There are a limited amount from Europe and the United States.

Today two-thirds of Boltfast sales are to end users, including manufacturing, mining, boating and marine OEMs.  Boltfast’s specialties include stainless steel fasteners.

• South Africa has imposed anti-dumping duties on bolts, nuts and set screws, Herselman noted.

Founded in 1983, Boltfast has grown to a distributorship with seven branches in South Africa.

Boltfast was acquired by a publicly held agriculture-based company, Overberg Agri Ltd., in 2007.

Herselman came to Boltfast from Overberg. He started as Boltfast’s finance manager in 2007 and last year became general manager.

The South African native’s background is accounting – including working for Deloitte & Touche – rather than fasteners.

Now Herselman says he likes the fastener industry.  “You can’t live without a fastener,” he explained his realization of why he has grown interested in the industry.

• Boltfast is accredited by the South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS).

“Unfortunately, there is not a government body for quality,” Herselman said.

There is a Consumer Product Act, but it involves OEM customers more than fastener suppliers.

• Though Boltfast is looking into options to provide bar coding, “there is no bar coding yet,” in the country’s fastener industry, Herselman said.

Operations manager Shawn Duncan noted the purchasing and accounting departments have full control systems.

“We are going green,” Duncan said of new invoices with bar coding.

Herselman noted most sales are by faxes or emails.

Boltfast does has outside sales reps and two “well-qualified quality technicians” who also can provide technical assistance and training.

• More than 75% of Boltfast’s 250+ employees have been with the distributor more than 25 years.

Herselman said Boltfast hires primarily through HR agencies, “though with low turnover we don’t have many vacancies.”

When there are openings, Duncan noted Boltfast prefers to promote current employees to “grow within.”

Boltfast contributes to a compulsory pension fund, medical insurance and the required unemployment insurance fund.

• In contrast to Europe and the U.S., in Africa there are no active fastener associations.

Across the street in the warehouse neighborhood is Boltfast’s internal plating facility. Boltfast provides galvanizing, yellow zinc plating and black oxidizing primarily for its own fasteners.

Boltfast stocks 24,000 items including stainless steel, brass, high tensile, mid steel, socket head fasteners and roofing & fastening systems.

Boltfast has seven locations in South Africa and is headquartered at 4 Cable Close, Western Province Park 7460, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel: (27) 21 505-1000 Fax (27) 86 536-8246 Web: ©2011/2014 Fastener Industry News.

For information on permission to reuse or reprint this article please e-mail:

Sampling of African Fastener Websites
Automatic Mass Production (Pty) Ltd. —
Bearing Man Group / BMG —
Boltfast —
CBC Fasteners —
Fowkes Bros. (Pty) Ltd. —
Impala Bolt & Nut SA (Pty) Ltd. —
National Socket Screws —
President Bolt & Tool —
RB Fasteners (Pty) Ltd. / Holokrome —
SafeTop (Pty) Ltd. —
Screw Man —
Verbolt (Pty) Ltd. —

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