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Sheltered Employment Factories

by Lloyd Ramutloa last modified 2012-04-11 20:55

Sheltered Employment Factories

In many countries sheltered employment is expanding with the objective of offering short to long term employment to people with disabilities who wish to participate in the economy.  In South Africa, government’s national agenda on the active participation in the economy of the country by people with disabilities is in line with international initiatives.

 

The Sheltered Employment Factories (SEF) were established more than 60 years ago to provide employment opportunities for those handicapped people who were unable to hold down employment in the open labour market due to the nature of their afflictions.  Currently 100% of the workers in our factories fit this profile.  This is not merely a haven for the unemployed, but for those who cannot compete – often the emotionally / psychologically challenged.

 

The Department of Labour inherited the SEF from the previous Government and has taken the bold step of embarking on a turnaround strategy, that is aimed at converting the SEF into bodies that:

(a)       have a clear and definable legal status

(b)       operate as efficient entities

(c)        serve to advance government’s national agenda on active participation in the economy of the country by people with disabilities.

 

Ownership of the factories is vested in the State through the Department of Labour, and they trade under the name SERVICE PRODUCTS.  All members of the Management Committee, which is the Executive Authority, are senior officials of the Department of Labour.  The primary purpose of the SEF is the economic empowerment of people with disabilities and people with disabilities are the sole beneficiaries.  The SEF is a non-profit organisation.

 

The SEF now has 12 factories across South Africa operating in 7 of the 9 provinces, with only Mpumalanga and Limpopo without a facility.  Factories are located in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Potchefstroom and Pretoria.  Collectively they employ some 1 100 people with disabilities, supported by 120 administrative, management and technical staff.  In time it is envisaged that these numbers will increase significantly as an awareness of the SEF and its purpose is created in South Africa and the potential market for products is addressed.

 

In total the factories have the manufacturing capability that produces some

3 000 different product types in the following fields:

-       furniture (wooden and metal for offices, schools and domestic use)

-       textiles (garments, bed linen, protective clothing, hospital and surgical garb -  with printed or embroidered logos)

-       metal work (shaped and welded construction)

-       leather work

-       canvas work

-       book binding (beautifully crafted leather binding with gold lettering)

-       screen printing (printing onto promotional products – e.g. T-shirts, logos, caps, linen, flags, bunting, banners).

 

The possibilities for added activities are endless.  With current premises – land, buildings and equipment - there is the potential to provide meaningful work opportunities for more than 3 000 people with disabilities.  In addition, the facilities lend themselves as training centres that could be a skills development route for people with disabilities who could enter the open labour market.  This in turn opens an opportunity for many more thousands of people.

 

From a supply chain management perspective, the SEF should score full points in terms of ownership (100% Government owned) and people with diabilities (100% of factory workers are people with disabilities).  Moreover our products combine the positive aspects of price competitiveness, quality (being manufactured to SABS specifications) as well as output.  A few interesting production statistics per annum are worth noting:

 

-        Office chairs (various designs)                 5 000

-        School chairs                                         260 000

-        School desks                                         130 000

-        Teachers tables                                      38 000

-        Teachers chairs                                      20 000

-        Bed sheets                                            900 000

-        Pillow cases                                           360 000

-        Body bags                                             36 000

-        General Assistant uniforms                      18 000

-        Gym shorts                                            84 000

-        Capacity to process 1 000 000 metres of fabric per annum

 

We are proud to be a:

-       100% South African organisation

o         using only 100% South African raw materials

o         contributing 100% to the South African economy

o         focussing 100% on empowering the people with disabilities sector of our country.

 

Collectively the factories have the operational, financial and logistical capacity to undertake a wide spectrum of business ranging from one-off small orders to outlying organisations, to multi-million Rand contracts across South Africa.  The current annual turnover is some R60 million, with the installed capacity to more than double this figure.

 

Our financial capacity is sound and annual purchases of raw materials exceeds R40 million.  Our Bankers attest to the satisfactory manner in which SERVICE PRODUCTS is managed and to its credit worthiness.

 

We are proud of our ethics and our fundamental belief that business should be conducted honestly, fairly and legally.  The prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury Regulations guide our corporate governance objectives.   

 

There is an extensive, country-wide logistical capability that comprises the following:

 

-       Large warehousing capacity at all 12 factories – ranging between 1 000m3 and 6 000m3 - and there is additional warehousing at the premises of the transport contractor.

-       A contract is in place with a reputable transport organisation to supply a logistical service for raw materials and finished products.  Deliveries are made to off-road destinations in far flung rural areas, to individual schools, offices and hospitals, and equally to towns and to metropolitan centres across South Africa.  The fleet comprises 20 vehicles ranging in size from 2 ton (17 m3) to 34 ton (197 m3) carrying capacity.

 

We are happy to discuss any alternative designs with clients and making some pilot models / examples to test feasibility and acceptability.  We are equally happy to consider any other finishings, fittings or accessories that clients may require.  We have the passion and the capability and we want to show the world just what people with disabilities can accomplish.

 

Historically the SEF were the major supplier of furniture to government and State aided institutions and the sole supplier of linen and garments to hospitals.

 

There are more than 2.5 million people with disabilities in South Africa of whom some 10% to 15% probably require an environment such as the Sheltered Employment Factories provide.  Given the business and sales orders, we can deliver the goods and in so doing make a significant difference to the lives of these deserving people.

 

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