PG Bison ramps up eMkhondo investment

PG Bison’s plant in eMkhondo.
PG Bison’s plant in eMkhondo.

Over the last couple of years, PG Bison (Pty) Ltd. announced a R2 billion capital investment to be rolled out over the course of three years, allocated to a major capacity expansion to its existing facilities in eMkhondo (Piet Retief), Mpumalanga, as well as an additional new medium fibreboard (MDF) plant at the same location.

The company, a manufacturer of decorative wood-based panel products, is part of KAP Industrial Holdings Limited, a diversified industrial group consisting of industrial, chemical, and logistics businesses.

The first phase of the upgrades at eMkhondo commenced in 2015 with the installation of the German Siempelkamp Contrioll press. According to Francois Pienaar, PG Bison Lead Project Manager, the first project of R500 million involved replacing the old forming press, and the cooling, stacking, and sanding lines. “Additionally, we installed and commissioned a second melamine faced board (MFB) line with a capacity of 18 000m2 a day. We were also able to ensure that we optimise the use of raw materials through improving the press process”.

The completion of the second MFB line has provided the group with significantly increased capacity to service market demand with its MelaWood, SupaGloss, and Formica LifeSeal Worktop products.

Furthermore, in late 2019, the company commissioned a refurbished Siempelkamp short-cycle press. “The refurbishment was managed completely in-house by the PG Bison project team” notes Pienaar. “This included all the electrical cabinets, the design of the SCADA control system, the pneumatics, the hydraulics – basically a complete rebuild. We also performed the installation and fitted the line with three Kuka robots for out-feed and inspection. To our knowledge, it is the only roboticized MFB line in the world”.

Pienaar says the project team is now busy with the complete replacement of its preparation line for the eMkhondo plant which includes a state-of-the-art Austrian Büttner energy plant and driers, screening equipment, a new flaker, and new conveyor systems. The project is due for completion in early 2022 and it will result in a 25% capacity increase at the plant. The value of the project sits at R560 million.

According to Pienaar, PG Bison has received approval from its shareholder, KAP Industrial Holdings Limited, for the next stage in the eMkondo development, which entails building an additional medium density fibre (MDF) plant.

Pending utilities supply and various regulatory approvals, the project will commence in 2022 and it is expected to be completed by mid-2024. Justin Berry, Sales and Marketing Executive at PG Bison says the capital investment project and localisation opportunities it will create have been positively received by government at all levels.

A total of R1.85 billion will be invested in this new plant. Currently, we produce 400cubic metres per day at our MDF plant in Boksburg. When the additional eMkhondo plant comes online, our capacity will be increased by 200%, with an additional 800 cubic meters per day of MDF. This will give PG Bison a total installed capacity on MDF of 1 200cubic metres per day between our two MDF plants. We believe the impact of these investments will be significant, contributing to the creation of direct and indirect jobs, as well as skills and enterprise development, and further local partnerships.”

The Büttner equipment for the new energy plant and driers is being installed by a team from SGS Industrial Services, an Austrian-headquartered global industrial service provider, and the remainder of the project will again be handled by PG Bison’s in-house project team.

We have manufactured over 500 tonnes of platework for this project between our own workshops in Boksburg and eMkhondo,” says Pienaar.

PG Bison has strategically developed its own project management capabilities to allow for major upgrades to be undertaken internally. “We have a dedicated, experienced workshop manager, and our workshops can manage everything from detailing design procurement to the quality of throughputs from the workshops, supported by the detailing draughtsman,” says Pienaar. “We have also invested in our own state-of-the-art workshop equipment and software packages, with competent operators. There is a massive skills shortage and generation gap in South Africa, but at PG Bison, we have been working to bridge that gap by investing in our own teams, both at plants and within project teams. It takes time to build skills and resources, but we have always understood that for the sake of our own long-term sustainability, we must train up young people.”