The financial year ended June 2007 was good for Murray & Roberts Cementation, with the company reporting revenue growth of approximately 20% over the previous year. However, profitability was lower than expected, primarily due to the unprotected industrial action experienced during the second half of the financial year.

The company’s operations are still mainly focused on South Africa and with all the current local project opportunities, it does not anticipate any change to this in the short to medium term. However, Murray & Roberts Cementation’s target market remains the entire continent of Africa and it currently does work in Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia. Part of its strategy is to follow its major clients into Africa to carry out project work there.

“The management team has identified seven principle challenges for the business to ensure sustainability of the business growth it is currently experiencing,” Laas says.

Three of these are:

  • A company-wide commitment to zero harm
  • Management and skills capacity within the business
  • Employee relations

As an organisation, Murray & Roberts Cementation has a commitment to zero harm and as part of establishing this culture, employees have been exposed to a number of safety initiatives over the past twelve months. These were further reinforced at the Safety Summit held on July 20, 2007.

As far as the company’s targets are concerned – these are all expressed as per million man hours. It has an LTIFR target of 2.5 and a RIFR target of 1.25. For the new financial year, it is the stated goal that no project or part of a project should have an LTIFR of more than ten.

“We acknowledge and understand that these targets are challenging, but this underlines our commitment to zero harm,” Laas comments.

Looking at the previous financial year, the company started the year with an LTIFR of 7.59 and ended with an LTIFR rate of 6.45, which was measured on a twelve month rolling basis. “This rate improvement shows that we are moving in the right direction, but we are still far from our target.”

Although the year ended at an LTIFR of 6.45, there was only one other mining company that achieved a better rate. “Unfortunately we had four fatalities during this year.”

One of the initiatives being put in place to improve the safety result will be a significant focus on training throughout the business. The board has approved capital of R15 million for the 2008 financial year to develop and upgrade the training facilities at the Murray & Roberts Cementation Training academy at the Bentley Park complex.

The second challenge centres around management and skills capacity, which is not only a challenge within the company, but industry wide.

Murray & Roberts Cementation is investing 3.4% of its annual wage and salary bill in training and development, which compares very favourably with the national average of 2.8%. It currently has 100 people on learnership programmes, seven managers in training, 30 people on the graduate development programme and 35 bursars.

In July 2007 the company launched a new management programme in association with the Wits Business School which will be a tertiary qualification at NQF Level 5 and 6.

“If a company invests as heavily as we do in developing capacity in the business, it is important that skills are retained and in that regard a concerted effort is going into developing an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) together with succession planning and career path development programmes.

The third challenge is in the area of employee relations. Murray & Roberts Cementation currently employ 13 000 people in the business and with the forecasted growth, it expects this number to increase even further.

“Obviously, with an increased workforce, employee relations become more important. It is our intention to fundamentally change the relationship we have with all our employees. Development of the EVP will go a long way to achieving this objective,” he concludes.