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With his experience reaching as far back as his school days, Vincent Allan, who is the founder and owner of the Mpumalanga-based MacMachines, says the demand for high quality and made-to-spec plant for macadamia processing operations has resulted in deliveries as far afield as northern Mozambique with countries such as Malawi and Zambia looking to place orders.

As South Africa’s macadamia industry is set to more than double its production over the next five years and farmers across the country’s sugarcane growing regions continue to replace the crop with macadamia orchards, demand for high-quality machining is now at a premium.

Vincent Allan who first opened his own steel-fabrication business in Tzaneen in 2004 said he started to feel the demand for macadamia processing equipment in about 2008.

As a result, he had moved his business to Mbombela in 2015 to be closer to his main customers.

“Most of my orders are still coming in from the Mpumalanga region but orders have definitely increased from farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. We are also seeing interest starting to grow from macadamia operations in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia,” Allan said.

One of his biggest challenges, he said, was two years ago when his business was commissioned to build a 660-ton drying facility in Mpumalanga.

“The area made available for the facility was in a basement with lots of pillars. That meant we had to fit 66 x10 ton drying bins with 23 conveyors into a very unusual floor space. That was quite a challenge because everything had to work seamlessly and without interruption to the flow of the nuts through the processing plant.  I think we must have had about 25 meetings with the farmer during the design process,” he said.

With a staff complement of 21 people, all of them highly skilled and trained, Allan said there was now virtually nothing he couldn’t build for processing macadamia nuts. “I do all the drawings myself using a computer aided design system. Once the drawings are completed and approved by the customer I will then sit with my staff and discuss the build. I have three teams filled with very experienced people – some of whom have worked with me from the beginning – to those who are being trained on the job. If the design is something new or unusual I will work very closely with the teams on the project however, the fact is my work force is very capable,” he added.

Allan, who started designing and making “all types” of steel work when he was still at school said he believed very strongly in supporting South African businesses. “All the steel we use we get from local suppliers. I am sure we could get it cheaper somewhere else, but I believe in supporting my neighbouring businesses because not only does that make sure we have a vibrant economy, but they support me in return.”

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