Rheinmetall Denel Munition output keeps rising


Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) increased its output by 20% last year and has several plants running 24 hours a day, while it continues to invest in capacity expansion and skills and training.

RDM Chief Executive Norbert Schulze told defenceWeb the Wellington and Boksburg plants are running 24 hours a day to meet demand and that R90 million has been invested in capacity expansion. Last year 300 people joined the company, pushing the staff count to nearly 2 000. Productivity also went up by 15% – Schulze said productivity needed to match annual salary increases.

RDM has four facilities in South Africa. The factory at Somerset West produces propellants, Wellington produces chemicals, Boksburg makes forgings and Boskop does filling. Apart from steel forgings cast at its Boksburg facility that are used by Rheinmetall subsidiaries worldwide, RDM also supplies fellow Denel Group company PMP with military grade powder for its range of small calibre ammunition.

In addition to producing a wide variety of ammunition such as the 105 and 155 mm artillery shells, 60, 81 and 120 mm mortars, 40 x 51 mm grenades and 76/62 mm shells and mine breaching systems, RDM also builds two to three ammunition filling plants a year for export.

Many of the company’s products were demonstrated at the Rheinmetall Denel Defence Day event last month at the Denel Overberg Test Range in Western Cape. Schulze said the purpose was to show RDM’s international customers what the company is able to do and network with existing and potential customers – around 40% of attendees were existing customers and 60% prospective. He said it was valuable for existing customers to speak to interested potential clients. Denel was a big supporter of the Day, something that makes a bigger impact.

Nearly 400 attendees from 57 countries were present at the 2015 Defence Day, around double that of the first Defence Day at Alkantpan in 2011. Another Defence Day is planned in five years’ time, as it is prohibitively expensive to hold such an event every year.

Schulze said the Rheinmetall Denel Munition venture (51% owned by Rheinmetall and 49% by Denel) is a successful model and that this success will be replicated elsewhere. Last year RDM announced its intentions to establish an ammunition manufacturing plant with Pindad in Indonesia, based on the model in South Africa. He said the deal was not too far off – RDM is negotiating with the Indonesian and South African governments on the initiative, as Indonesia needs to change its laws to allow foreign ownership of defence companies. “The model started in RDM is a very successful once,” Schulze said.

Due to a lack of skills and shortage of qualified personnel, RDM is investing in skills and training. RDM and the North-West University (NWU) are currently running the first explosives training course, with the second due to start in August. Mostly foreign students are taking part in the course, with around 40 attending.

RDM also set up an Academy that involves training graduates in its factories, with students training for a year at a time. The first course began in January this year and saw 1 200 students compete for ten places in the Academy.

Last year Rheinmetall announced it was exploring the establishment of a Rheinmetall Development Centre in South Africa to develop munitions ranging from grenades, mortars and artillery shells to rockets and other munitions for various international clients as it is easier getting export approvals from South Africa than Germany. Schulze said plans are still there but nothing is up and running yet until a research and development project/subject is identified.