The History of Uretech
Uretech (Polyurethane Technology) was founded on 30 June 2004 in Johannesburg. Uretech was originally started as a subsidiary of Dot Steel (Pty) Ltd, a metallurgical services company. The directors of Dot Steel at the time, George Hoffmann and Brent Loftus, realised that Dot Steel’s dependence on the steel manufacturing industry in South Africa was potentially unsustainable.
Mike Kuys, a Dot Steel site manager in Newcastle, proposed the concept of polyurethane wear resistant liners to the company. The idea of manufacturing process consumable products for the booming mining industry was very appealing and a polyurethane casting expert, Jan Deacon, was appointed during May 2004. The original Uretech factory consisted of an insulated 40-foot container, a paraffin burner and two or three hand tools. The casting facility was adjacent to the Dot Steel insulation factory, which was strategically positioned near Iscor (ArcelorMittal), with whom the company had long standing supply agreements for insulation related products.
The first polyurethane wear liner installation took place during August 2004 at a quartz mine approximately 90km east of Johannesburg near Delmas. The installation was met with both scepticism and optimism. Fortunately for Uretech, the installation was a success and the liners performed exceptionally well, outperforming steel liners and exceeding the new, enthusiastic owner’s own expectations.
The first manufactured liners were light blue in colour, with steel stiffening backing plates. After completing numerous installations and tests with various mines, the success and feasibility of using polyurethane as a replacement for steel soon became apparent. Uretech was however plagued by the in-flexibility of the steel backing plates. Not only was the manufacturing process cumbersome and the liners heavy, it was also very difficult to install.
During 2006, Uretech developed an innovative, unique composite backing plate, which was more flexible, light weight and easy to install. The company successfully patented this new technology, which had tremendous benefits compared to steel backing plates. Shortly after, Uretech also introduced it’s now familiar red and yellow wear indicator liners. These wear indicators give a visual warning when the wear liners are nearing their end-of life and needs to be replaced.
Two years after the 2008 financial crises, the shareholders of Dot Steel and Uretech decided to relinquish the cross shareholding of the companies. A combination of share swaps and buy-outs led to the separation of Uretech and Dot Steel. Uretech acquired the sole manufacturing and distribution rights of the polyurethane and soft refractory products.
Shortly after the separation, 26% of the Uretech shares were sold to Zintle Mjali, a black female lawyer from Johannesburg.
The separation from Dot Steel had a detrimental effect on Uretech’s indebtedness and the company was actively engaging potential strategic partners. The period between 2012 and 2015 was a difficult time and saw the resignation of one of the directors and shareholders, Robert Martin. Wilhelm du Plessis was appointed as the financial director of the company. At the same time, the Uretech factory was moved from Vanderbijlpark to Witbank, where most of Uretech’s coal customers were based. The Vanderbijlpark factory was kept open for another 2 years to manufacture refractory related products.
During 2016, Uretech separated the front and back offices, by creating two separate entities. 74% of the newly created polyurethane sales and marketing company was sold to one of Australia’s largest engineering companies, HMA. As part of the agreement, the new company was called HMA South Africa and appointed the sole distributor for Uretech’s polyurethane products in Southern Africa and Australasia. The relationship and integration between the companies were seamless and HMA opened new export markets for Uretech.
Today, Uretech is a well-established, proudly South African level 2 BBBEE company, with an impeccable safety record and an exceptionally low staff turnover. The new factory is based in the leafy industrial area of Middelburg, approximately 180km East of Johannesburg. The company has ambitions to continuously expand it’s product offering and sales distribution channels.
Uretech is driven by customer satisfaction!