How #Gibela is Coping with Covid-19

Railroad equipment supplier and manufacturer Gibela has not been immune to the challenges posed by the pandemic, particularly those presented by the third wave.

“We have experienced a rise in cases within our company, which is impacting on operations. Most of our suppliers were also affected by positive cases and this affected our June performance, as material deliveries were delayed,” says Gibela corporate services and traction motor operation executive Dr Buyiswa Mncono-Liwani.

There was an increase in absenteeism, material shortages and disruptions in operations, owing to decontamination procedures.

“However, we still managed to sell three train sets, in line with our monthly commitment to our customer, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa,” she tells Engineering News.

Moreover, Gibela has implemented plans and strategies to mitigate the challenges and still aims to meet its production target of 44 train sets for the 2021/22 financial year.

Mncono-Liwani states that this target translates to about four train sets a month.

“We are seeing most of our suppliers work on a seven-day shift using skeleton staff. What Covid-19 has taught us is to have and implement an alternative plan. One of the strategies we have implemented is to source more than one supplier for a specific material, each supplier having varying capabilities,” explains Gibela procurement executive Colette Yende.

She states that, when sourcing critical supplies, Gibela has used the strategy of multiple suppliers where possible to ensure consistency in the supply chain.

“Essentially, this ensures that we don’t get too comfortable with one single supplier and we can mitigate force majeure.”

Additional measures have been implemented by our suppliers such as introducing a nightshift to mitigate any workforce challenges posed by the pandemic.

Job Creation

While many companies have felt the effects of the pandemic, resulting in downsizing and retrenchments, Gibela human resources executive Thokozani Mabuya says Gibela is in its ramp-up phase. This results in the company’s employing more people.

“Between now and March 2022, we are planning to employ at least 80 additional people across all our operations. We are planning to maintain the current production target of four train sets per month, at least for this financial year, thus the need to sustain the ramp-up by employing additional people in core manufacturing areas and in services or maintenance areas.

“However, we are not only train manufacturers but in the business of manufacturing trains. “This simply means that, we are also going to be appropriately resourcing, through additional employment, other auxiliary or business support areas to assist the company – as we grow and sustain the business,” he tells Engineering News.

The core jobs that have been created are primarily drawn from the engineering and technology streams with employees drawn from the ranks of technical and vocational education and training colleges, universities, technology institutes and straight from grade twelve or secondary schools. Gibela also develops its people through, among others, strategic collaborations with institutions like the Transport Education & Training Authority.

“We also employ people in business support areas like finance, legal, human resources, procurement and continuous improvement. We are also passionate about growing our suppliers. As we ramp up in operations, we demand more from our suppliers. “That gives rise to the growth of our suppliers and further job creation, which ultimately benefits the whole of our country,” concludes Mabuya. 

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