Following the announcement by Corobrik of the appointment of Chief Operating Officer, Nick Booth, as the new Chief Executive Officer, Booth spoke with SA Builder.
How are you settling into your new position, and what is the future of Corobrik?
I am settling into my new position well and wrapping my arms around it; leveraging my 40 years of experience in the building supply industry. My career began at Corobrik in 1980 when I started working at the factory in Stellenbosch. I returned in 2017 after gaining a holistic understanding of the building materials supply industry – not just the clay brick industry.
Over the past few months, we have done some restructuring. Due to the poor economy, the demand for bricks declined over the previous four years and Covid-19 created the urgency for the restructure. During the lockdown we closed down four factories, laying off 650 staff members. When Level 3 allowed us to recommence manufacture, we made sure we were ready for the “new normal” in whatever form it will take. We are constantly monitoring the environment in which we are operating to adapt as needed.
Corobrik remains an important supplier for the building industry, and the demand for our products is showing signs of picking up. We have been here for the last 118 years and will be here for the next 118 years.
We continue to invest in new capacity and our plan is to reopen the closed factories as the demand increases; the first reopening will be in November 2020, with the second reopened factory planned to reach full capacity by the end of the year.
Our new factory under construction at Driefontein, which will utilise state-of-the-art technology supplied by the German company, Keller, will restart construction as soon as the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions enables the arrival of the international experts who will oversee the construction. It is expected to be fully commissioned by mid-2021.
My new role as CEO will add value to the Corobrik team and allow the team to draw on my experience to advantage us in the marketplace
What are the current operational challenges (COVID-19, etc) Corobrik is experiencing?
Corobrik has experienced several challenges due to Covid-19. However, the organisation swiftly followed the recommended protocols, ensuring that staff understood the regulations to the letter. We have been practising social distancing in common areas, control measures in the ablution blocks and maintaining careful hygiene control. Our focus has ensured our customers are safe when they visit our premises. As our factories run 24/7, we have introduced preventative measures and controls to safeguard everyone and ensure we do not have any downtime.
There have been very few staff who suffered Covid-19, and we are delighted to advise that all have recovered. We believe this was due to our quick response to each incident and the training carried out within the whole organisation.
The demand for our products is increasing as we were allowed to open at Level 3 which was earlier than expected, as return was originally set at Level 2. This meant that we were able to commence manufacturing and delivering of bricks in June. The bulk of our business comes from Government projects and the commercial property market. The immediate demand for bricks has been based on completion and continuation of existing projects; however, there are already signs of new projects starting up.