CONSTANT innovation supported by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has ensured the success of Port Elizabeth-based Welfit Oddy – one of the only specialist steel tank container manufacturers in the world outside of China.

“All our products are for the export market, and we therefore have to be developing all the time,” says Tim Mclaren, engineering executive at Welfit Oddy.

NMMU’s Mechanical Engineering Department and its engineering technology innovation station, eNtsa, support the development of new products, and provide product verification and product testing services.

“The faculties provide access to expertise which we do not have in-house – through them we are able to conduct product testing and development which we would not otherwise be able to do,” he says.

The University’s Industrial Engineering department works closely with Welfit Oddy to provide training on site four days a week after hours, according to company’s human resources executive Lee Dobell.

NMMU assists companies like Welfit Oddy by conducting psychometric tests to identify the strengths of employees before training starts, according to Dr Ann Lourens, head of the Industrial Engineering department.

Training at Welfit Oddy has included a short course designed to bring the academic level of staff members to the point where they can be accepted into the Operations Management Diploma course, says Dobell.

In turn, Welfit Oddy supports the School of Engineering by providing in-service practical training required by students to obtain their diplomas.

According to Lourens, there is such strong demand for a six-month short course in Operations Management from professionals and shop floor managers that NMMU hosts lectures on Saturday mornings. She says lecturers from the department have also gone off-shore to provide training. Employees of Continental Tyres from around the world were trained by lecturers Jaco Snyders and Cobus Joubert in 2013.

According to Snyders, the four-week course was presented at the Continental Tyre headquarters in Hannover, Germany, Mt Vernon (USA) and Puchov, Slovakia.

Continental employees from 12 countries and four continents around the world attended the courses.