Macsteel Fluid Control has been active in the water industry for over 40 years, supplying a number of well-known products. Now, the business is taking it one step further, manufacturing quality Bermad products locally.

Macsteel Fluid Control is a niche business supplying a comprehensive range of valves, actuators, liquid level gauges, valve interlock systems and a full range of steam products across a number of industries, including water.

Well known as a sole franchise holder in Southern Africa for a number of renowned brands such as Bermad and AMRI, Macsteel Fluid Control has taken a major step towards import substitution with the establishment of
a local valve assembly operation.

Local production

In 2011, the Department of Trade and Industry implemented the revised Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (No. 5 of 2000) in order to boost local production. This meant Macsteel Fluid Control needed to manufacture at least 70% of its products locally.

Although Macsteel has always assembled its Bermad control valves locally, creating some local content, it did not meet these new requirements.

“Meeting this has been quite a challenge, but we decided we wanted to exceed the 70% requirement. However, we needed to ensure we met the same quality, performance and aesthetic requirements as our imported products,” explains Rowan Blomquist, CEO, Macsteel Fluid Control.

Macsteel Fluid Control has been working closely with its principal, Bermad, for roughly five years to fine-tune the local casting and assembly of Bermad control and air valves to the necessary standards. “The locally
cast product will be exactly the same as the imported product in terms of quality and performance,” Blomquist emphasises.

“We have always supported the local industry through employment, social development initiatives and local assembly. By manufacturing complete valves locally, which we’ve never done before, we’re taking another step towards building and uplifting our local economy.”

With Bermad’s blessing, Macsteel will roll out its local manufacturing operation to market in the first quarter of 2019.

A strong service base

Macsteel Fluid Control prides itself on excellent support and backup service, which it will continue to provide in addition to its local manufacturing offering.

The ISO 9001:2008-certified business has an assembly and test plant in Boksburg, as well as an assembly plant for irrigation products in Cape Town. Macsteel employs three local Bermad product specialists, together with five technicians and an extensive sales team, all of whom have technical knowledge and experience.

“Of our 100 employees, 70% are devoted to sales and backup. We also carry roughly R90 million worth of stock at any given time, much of which is spare parts, to eliminate downtime for our clients,” says Blomquist. 

“It is easy to sell a valve. The true test is when the valve fails and you can step in to address the problem in a timely manner. It’s our service and backup that set us apart.”

The business has a network of branches across sub-Saharan Africa and works closely with consultants, offering in-house design services for valve sizing and pipeline design.

Assisting municipalities with NRW

Macsteel Fluid Control works with many of South Africa’s water boards and municipalities, assisting with new installations and upgrades.

“Many municipalities don’t know their infrastructure because they’ve inherited the systems they manage. We work with water utilities to manage their databases and conduct surveys in order to continually repair, update and monitor their networks,” explains Blomquist.

One example is the Royal Bafokeng Nation in North West, with whom Macsteel has been working for six years to maintain and service the municipality’s water reticulation network.

According to Blomquist, the control valve is often the most overlooked part of the water network, often neglected as a case of “fit and forget”. However, he argues that these valves are frequently tampered with, have parts stolen off of them or become damaged, often without the owner’s knowledge. This leads to water loss – a significant problem for a country with a national non-revenue water (NRW) figure of roughly 40%.

By continuously monitoring or surveying water networks, Macsteel Fluid Control is able to detect when control valves are damaged and take action to prevent losses.

The best product offering

The main driving factor behind new valve innovations is reduced costs and longer lifespans.

“As a consumable, every valve has a lifespan. But the goal is to extend that lifespan by offering the right valve for the right application,” explains Blomquist. “We pride ourselves on recommending the right valves for our clients’ applications, and we are confident that the valves we supply offer customers the best quality.

“We’ve often been seen purely as a wholesaler. However, we are more than just valve stockists. We offer on-site service, testing, manufacturing, troubleshooting and more, and we’re on our way to becoming Africa’s leading valve supplier.”  

Notable projects

Macsteel Fluid Control has supplied components to a number of large infrastructure projects:

  • ±90% of the butterfly valves (AMRI) ranging from 3 inches to 1.6 m for eThekwini Municipality’s Western and Northern Aqueduct projects
  • four Amiad filter banks to the Zeitz MOCCA Museum and adjoining buildings – the self-cleaning filters are used to filter and clean raw seawater before it enters the HVAC system
  • 400 mm reservoir inlet and level control valves for Magalies Water at the Mafenya Reservoir, controlling flow rates of 1 530 m3/h
  • 40 bar to 6 bar pressure-reducing valves for Harmony Gold’s air cooler system.