When Sotsho Treated Timbers sought to revive its operations by installing a CCA treatment plant, they needed a solid business case based on a turnkey plant proposal, to back up their application for funding.
Dolphin Bay provided them with this proposal as well as substantial input on their business plan and process, and in 2020 Sotsho obtained the funding it needed from the National Empowerment Fund (NEF).
Sotsho is a long-standing poles business located in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, near the KwaZulu-Natal border.
“The business started as a creosote operation in 1990, when my father Arthur won an open-bid tender from the then-Transkei government,” said Managing Director Sivuyise Sotshongaye. “We sold creosote-treated poles to hardware stores, but over the years sales started to decline as more people wanted to buy CCA-treated poles. We ceased operations in 2015.”
“As Dolphin Bay, we did a few modifications on the timber treatment plant door, designing and installing an innovative hydraulic opening mechanism … This was the first of its kind in South Africa.”
Sivuyise took over the day-to-day running of the business, planning to revive the operation by installing a new CCA plant. He applied repeatedly for funding through vehicles like the National Empowerment Fund, without success.
Sotsho first approached Dolphin Bay for a turnkey plant option in November 2016, after which we supplied them with a proposal. After many delays, the project gained impetus in mid-2020 when we provided a turnkey project. Dolphin Bay provided input on the feasibility of the business plan, direction around pole costing models, advice on manufacturing processes, project management, plant commissioning, operator training, plant fabrication through SpecPipe, plant installation, and general guidance across the whole business.
Says our Business Developer Manager Darren Marillier: “As Dolphin Bay, we did a few modifications on the timber treatment plant door, designing and installing an innovative hydraulic opening mechanism so that there wouldn’t be a need for the cumbersome job of opening it manually.
“This was the first of its kind in South Africa.”
The complete working plant was handed over to Sotsho in July 2022. In the meantime, Sivuyise had been building his case with the NEF. Dolphin Bay attended numerous meetings with Sotsho, and NEF representatives and the business plan was approved, securing funding for the treatment plant, trucks, and forestry equipment – including the chainsaws and civil work on the site.
“The NEF was very thorough, with experts from many relevant fields reviewing the plan,” says Darren. “They even investigated whether there was a sustainable supply of timber to supply the business.”
There should be no concerns there: Sotsho Treated Timbers is well located within a forestry area. And while the business does not own the plantations themselves, they harvest poles from the abundant government forests that surround them. Sivuyise says the business intends to target the building and fencing pole market in the wider Eastern Cape region.
“The NEF also appointed a project management consultant to monitor the project implementation to ensure all milestones were met,” said Darren. “Sotsho met all the requirements and secured the funding. The Eastern Cape Development Corporation is now also interested in supporting the plant with funding.”
Sotsho is delighted with Dolphin Bay’s assistance. “Darren’s the best,” said Sivuyise. “I’d give him 100 out of 100.”
“Dolphin Bay is delighted to add Sotsho as a valued customer,” said Bertus. “Customers sometimes overlook service, and the effort that the Dolphin Bay team takes to make our customers successful from a technical and operational perspective. They often look only at price and not the added benefits.
“This was an ideal example in which a customer benefitted enormously from our technical expertise and valued the support. This motivates us greatly.”