MAC Consulting helps businesses operate more effectively and efficiently.
MVW: MAC Consulting was established in the mid-1990s with the aim of assisting mining companies to improve operational performance. As with the Indaba, we will be celebrating our twentieth birthday in 2014! Over the past two decades MAC has expanded its services and deepened its capabilities. We assist leading South African, and increasingly African and international mining companies to tackle their most significant strategic and operational challenges. MAC is not involved in heavy technical design, nor the static elements of a business such as equipment, technology and so on. MAC’s focus is on the dynamic environment within organizations, especially on people, and how to make businesses work more effectively and efficiently. In addition to mining and resources, MAC also now serves petrochemical, telecommunication and the financial sector clients.
MAC helps businesses work better; is it difficult getting such an intangible concept across to your potential clients?
MVW: In the mining industry, we are often dealing with well-established organisations, sometimes over 100 years old. Many of these firms are essentially run by engineers who, although fantastic at what they do, are not always familiar with latest developments in business management and performance improvement, such as we see in motor industry and FMCG. Mining is a highly lucrative industry where we can see anything from 20% to 70% return on investments, whereas in the motor companies or breweries we see more like 2% to 4% return on investment forcing those companies to work smarter.
What is the geographical reach of MAC consulting; where have you worked so far and where do you intend to work in the near future?
MVW: To date, approximately 90% of our business activity has taken place in southern Africa, although we have also worked in many other African countries and internationally. However within the last three to four years we have pursued strategic expansion in SADC countries and in East and West Africa. MAC intends, within the next few years, to be conducting 30% to 40% of our work in the rest of Africa. We have worked primarily in gold, platinum, diamonds, coal, iron ore and copper, but in essence our work does not depend on a specific commodity and can be effective across the mining industry, as well as in other industries.
If I was to ask MAC’s clients for their perception of MAC consulting and what makes them different, what do you think they would say?
MVW: MAC is a very people-orientated consultancy compared with others in the field, I see the “people transformation” that comes from our work as quite special. A key indicator that our clients value our work is that they keep coming back to us with new requests for assistance. The requests from the mining industry are becoming more specific as the industry matures in its use of consultants. Two common specific requests made of us, across Africa, are to assist with supply chain and logistics, and safety for the mining industry. However we have seen a general trend towards “operational excellence” or “continual improvement”. Where previously firms would look to solve certain issues, we see and encourage this trend towards looking at businesses holistically, as an integrated and dynamic entity.
Such terms as “operational excellence” or “continual improvement” come across as management initiatives, coming from the top down rather than the mines themselves; would that be fair to say?
MVW: This is often the case and therein lays a problem. We believe the sustainable solutions are bottom-up rather than just top-down approaches; ideally it should be a combination of both. Real operational performance is delivered by the miners in the operations.
Does it take a mature mining firm to take on such consultancy or do you also get a lot of clients from the outset of their business?
MVW: It takes a mature mining company to easily identify the inefficiencies within their business and therefore take the decision to seek a consultancy for assistance. However those companies who, from their early stages, can see the benefits of looking at their business holistically would have a great advantage over companies who pursued this at a later stage. I have seen some fantastic young organisations who demonstrate great efficiency and whose people interact wonderfully with the static environment. Meanwhile you also get those who just push tonnes and throw value out the door.
In an African context do you see businesses, be it young or mature, with the desire to look at their businesses more holistically in the style MAC promotes?
MVW: The further I look into Africa, the more I see businesses mining for revenue, seemingly content that if things break down while they are chasing tonnes, that is ok. A company can be in and out of an area within five years; create profit and then move on to the next area. Whereas more and more of the big mining houses are starting to look at their businesses more holistically, realising that everything makes a difference be it safety, legislation, environmental or social governance. Such an approach allows a company to be sustainable and therefore stay in business. The evolutionally nature of doing business in Africa now will begin forcing companies to start thinking differently about their style of business very soon.
Could you highlight one project for MAC that you are particularly proud of?
MVW: I worked for a large established mining group when MAC helped us with our business restructuring and operational excellence programme, encouraging an integrated system and taking experience from other industries. Initially we doubted how much impact MAC could have on such established and successful businesses and set ourselves a target of 10% increase in productivity per year. Over the five-year period we achieved 350%, this was for a variety of reasons including removing some under-performing assets. MAC works in the background to a certain degree, facilitating others to take the lead in such initiatives therefore allowing those within the company to take ownership and credit for improvements. MAC employees gain a great sense of achievement from seeing our involvement make positive impacts on a company.
How do you expect MAC to be different in three years from now?
MVW: MAC will continue on its path of diversification into industries such as petrochemicals, telecommunications and the financial sector. MAC also expects to increase its footprint throughout the African continent; we feel there is significant additional value that can be unlocked in Africa. We expect to see a number of the larger consultancies expanding into Africa in the coming few years and we hope to be ahead of that trend.
What is your final message to the delegates of Mining Indaba 2014?
MVW: To quote John Shook, for whom I have a lot of respect, “it is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting”. We need to start doing things differently rather than think about doing things differently, this is something I believe the mining sector should consider and it is embodied in the way MAC Consulting assists its clients. In the current financial, cost and HSE climate it is even more important for mines to start planning in a more sustainable therefore efficient manner and it is time to start acting: improvement is a deliberate act.
This interview was conducted as part of the research conducted on African mining jurisdictions by Global Business Reports (GBR) as part of our partnership with African Mining Indaba LLC. The aim of this partnership is the production of the single most comprehensive intelligence report on the continent’s mineral sector. The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, will be launched next February 2014, as the only official publication providing country-specific information at Africa’s top mining event, the 2014 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba™ held in Cape Town, South Africa.