Pamodzi Unique Engineering

Manufacturing better prospects for women

Pamodzi Unique Engineering, a 100% black-owned engineering company with world-class design and manufacturing facilities, has for 28 years supplied companies in a number of sectors in South Africa with their innovative and locally manufactured products.

Committed to growth in Southern Africa and beyond, Pamodzi Unique Engineering is able to offer custom-made products thanks to the company’s diverse array of engineering expertise.

“We service the mining, rail and construction sectors primarily. While we do offer our own products to those sectors, we are not limited by these products alone. We are very open to taking on any idea presented to us by a client and, using our design capabilities, come up with a prototype before taking it to market,” says Sindisiwe Dlamini, Pamodzi Unique Engineering’s CEO.

Pamodzi Unique Engineering is well known for its pump range, particularly the mining industry’s workhorse, the Wilflo DD 25 and DD 50 double diaphragm range. These locally designed and manufactured products have been successfully pumping sludge, slurry, water and sewage for more than 35 years. The company’s offering further includes Eco Pumps, Unique Blast Barricades and BES Pantographs. All products are distributed through an extensive network of local and international distributors.

Dlamini first joined Pamodzi in 2003 after serving her articles with Ernst & Young and qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. Working her way up the corporate ladder from group accountant to group Chief Financial Officer, Dlamini played a significant role in the acquisition of Unique Engineering by Pamodzi Group.

“I started my career at Tongaat-Hulett Sugar as an accountant after completing my B. Com degree, and this was my first taste of the manufacturing sector. I also worked as a Tax Auditor for the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and completed the Strategic Leadership program from the Gordon’s Institute of Business Sciences (GIBS),” she says.

“This is my second year as CEO, and it has been an exciting opportunity for me. The timing of this move was perfect; I felt I needed a change, an exciting challenge. I’m not an engineer, and this is a new world to me, but I don’t regret my choice to take up this position.”

She has also served on the boards and audit and risk committees of various organisations, including Altech IT, Marine Products and African Women Chartered Accountants. She currently serves on the board of Pamodzi Group and Anglo American Inyosi Coal.

Throughout her career, Dlamini has always been determined to overcome any obstacle that may come her way, especially when it comes to gender.

“One situation comes to mind. It was when I served as a board member for a company, and there were no ladies’ rooms on the same floor as the boardroom, so I would have to go downstairs, and often I would end up missing out on crucial parts of the meetings,” she says.

“We also recently placed female apprentices with an engineering company, and there were no ladies’ changing facilities. I think we are getting there, and we are closing the gap, but it will take more women in these kinds of positions to ensure that our male counterparts understand the need to create the appropriate facilities. That said, I think our biggest challenge is often our own fear, and the more fear we impose this on ourselves, the less likely we are to succeed. Once you overcome that fear, you are in a better position to overcome these challenges.”

At Pamodzi Unique Engineering, women empowerment starts with the recruitment process, where there is a firm focus on black women in terms of new opportunities and upliftment.

“What we find is that these young women often need to be mentored, and we believe in giving them meaningful work rather than fancy titles with no real responsibilities. I think it's important to give them a chance to test their capabilities, but also to hold their hand and guide them through. How do you know if they are ready if you don’t allow them to try? It is vital that we encourage women to believe in themselves,” she says.

“And if I had to share some advice, it would be to just go for it. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by what people perceive a particular sector to be. Believe that you can do it, and know that there will be support. There will be ups and downs, but you get up, dust yourself off, and ask for help when you need it.”

The leadership at Pamodzi Unique Engineering is also passionate about the skills development of the company’s employees, regularly promoting learning and education through employee bursaries to ensure that they are able to further their studies.  Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) is just one of the opportunities available, assisting employees in qualifying as tradesmen through strategic partnerships with the relevant FET colleges.

The company has also offered many unemployed youth apprenticeships in fitting and turning, welding and electrical trade, and the company has permanently employed those who have passed their trades. 

“We also offer in-service training to engineering students – both mechanical and industrial - who have completed their S4 subjects and are needing practical experience in order to qualify. These students come from institutions in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal,” says Dlamini.

Pamodzi Unique Engineering also has several learnership programmes for people with disabilities to assist in ensuring that they are employable.

Looking ahead, Dlamini would like to create an innovation hub for young engineers to experiment and create exciting new inventions without fear of failure.

“I see great value in giving young engineers the space to try new things and come up with ideas. This would be a place for them to experiment. I find that when it comes to the youth in this country, they often have ideas, but they don’t pursue them for fear that they might. For me, it is important to have a platform where people can explore these ideas without fear of being penalised,” she says.

“If we can harness the power of these young and inquisitive minds, I believe that we will go far, growing into an institution of excellence and innovation. That is more of a long-term goal, so, for now, I think we need to concentrate on making sure that we are ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Our workforce needs to be aware that these changes don’t mean that they will lose their jobs. Instead, they will be equipped to understand the new opportunities 4IR presents,” she says.

She also hopes to increase the value of the company and triple the size. Pamodzi Unique Engineering currently boasts a turnover of about R120 million and employs over 170 people.

“But what we have noticed is that funding is always a challenge. Government and financial institutions must create platforms for people in business to share their frustrations and experiences around funding challenges. A lack of funding can hinder growth, and you can only access opportunities if you have the right resources. Through this platform, we could share critical information with the banks. They are risk-averse, of course, but from an operational point of view, we might also be able to assist in mitigating the risk. In this way, we are able to secure their monies while still growing our business,” concludes Dlamini.

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