Jendamark-sponsored Ironman African champion Kyle Buckingham shares the highs and lows of being a professional triathlete and what makes him take on these super-human feats of endurance.
Q:You and Jendamark share the same home town of Port Elizabeth. What makes the city such a great training ground for you?
A: There is a lot of variety on my bike rides; I can practise on the Ironman Africa race course or head outside the city to tackle some hills. There is also great running where I live in Sardinia Bay. Plus, there’s a handful of quality pools to choose from for my swim and, of course, the Indian Ocean.
Q: What drives you to push the limits of your physical endurance in not one but three disciplines?
A: I love the challenge. I didn’t get the opportunity to try out any other sport beside Ironman when I was younger. I came across it by accident and found I was pretty good at it after finishing my first race.
Q: What has Jendamark’s sponsorship enabled you to do in your career?
A: My sponsorship with Jendamark has allowed me to train full time as a professional triathlete and race not only in South Africa but abroad too.
Q: What does your average training day look like?
A: On a typical day, I will train for at least six to eight hours on all three disciplines. I start with my bike ride – anywhere between two and seven hours. Then I head to the pool at lunchtime and swim four to five kilometres. After lunch I will have an afternoon sleep to recover before finishing off my day with a 45 to 90-minute run in the evening.
Q: How do you fuel your training? What does your daily diet look like?
A: I have pretty normal meals, consisting mainly of good proteins, high fats and lower carbs. When I train, I use energy drinks to help with electrolyte replacement and calories. I burn between 3 000 and 6 000 calories per day. I also take a recovery shake to add a larger number of calories into my diet than food can.
Q: How many pairs of running shoes do you wear out in a year?
A: I go through roughly five pairs of running shoes for training and I use a brand-new pair of racing shoes for every race. So that’s about another four or five pairs of racers.
Q: When you’re struggling on the run/swim/cycle, how do you motivate yourself? What do you think about during those long hours?
A: I think about winning my next event – it is always on my mind. When racing, I think about those long hard days in training that I do. I also think to myself that, when my race career is over, I want to look back and say that I gave my best effort – and not that I should have trained harder!
Q: Was winning the Ironman Africa Championship in your hometown the high point of your career so far?
A: Absolutely, YES!
Q: What’s your favourite memory from the day?
A: My favourite memory is running past my family on Marine Drive. They were all screaming for me and telling me I look amazing, and I just kept thinking, “I feel incredible. I feel like I am walking on water.”
Q: What are some other career highlights?
A: I will never forget the feeling of winning my first-ever Ironman at Ironman Lake Placid in 2014 in my first year as a pro. Another highlight was taking the overall course record at Ironman World Championships in Kona as an age-grouper in 2013 – and still holding that record today.
Q: What has been one of your serious lowlights? And how did you move past it?
A: In October 2017, I had a very upsetting race at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. I was in the absolute best shape and form of my life. Predictions and numbers were showing that I should be in a great position to finish top 10 overall. Then my race didn’t go as planned. I had a mechanical on the bike and was the last male pro to finish that leg. Looking back, I might have also picked up a virus that I didn’t know I had. On the morning of the race I could not stop sweating, which, looking back, should have been a red flag for me. The night after the race I was extremely ill and almost couldn’t catch my return flight home. I was sick for an entire month and slept day and night for the first five days. To get over the disappointment, I had to remind myself why I chose this sport and of the love I have for it. I also had to remind myself that I have a lot of people who support me and surround me with so much positivity. This encouraged me to get my fight back and start my training again.
Q: What are your plans and major goals for 2019?
A: My number one goal is to defend my title at Ironman African Champs in April and also to improve my position at the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii.
Jendamark Automation managing director Quinton Uren was named Africa’s Industrialist of the Year at the grand finale of the All Africa Business Leaders Awards, hosted by CNBC Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on November 29.
Uren, whose Port Elizabeth-based automation company exports manufacturing assembly solutions to 18 countries worldwide, beat out business leaders from Southern, West and East Africa for the overall title at the eighth annual continental awards.
These included fellow South African finalists Nampak CEO Andre de Ruyter, Likoebe Innovation Consultants founder Nneile Nkholise, and Nana Sebelo, CEO of Thata uBeke Manufacturing.
Speaking after the ceremony, Uren said the award was a “massive recognition for what Jendamark as a South African company, has achieved in the export market”.
Since co-founding the small automotive engineering firm in 1992, Uren and his fellow directors have grown the company into a global automation leader with local offices in PE, East London and Pretoria, and an international presence in Pune in India, Penzing in Germany, and Detroit in the USA. Today, exports account for more than 90% of the group’s business.
“The dedication and hard work of our home-grown talented team creates success. We operate in a very competitive manufacturing sector, and we succeed globally,” added Uren.
He attributed this success to balancing sound engineering solutions, driven by the latest Industry 4.0 technologies, with good financial direction.
While the economic outlook remained “tough”, Uren said having a global market strategy is continuing to prove to be best.
“We need to believe in ourselves and our local talent and apply ourselves to the available global markets.”
He said investing in Industry 4.0 was the competitive edge that would help attract investment and transform South African businesses and the continent, enabling on-the-job upskilling and job creation through skills development using virtual reality and augmented reality technology, among other high-tech tools.
“Industry 4.0 and how it pertains to the South African environment is the next big thing for us. It’s not about automation but about developing software technologies that can help our various industries and country become more efficient, effective, and transformed. Together, we can change the landscape, but we have to move quickly or that landscape will become barren.”
On a personal level, Uren, 53, said his award showed that anyone could make it.
“As someone who was classified as ‘coloured’, I come from an underprivileged background. There were no silver spoons, just having the correct intent, hard work and taking advantage of the opportunities I got.
“Today, there are fewer barriers than before and with the technologies that are available to most, young people have amazing tools to succeed. I have hope and proof that it’s possible.”
Nelson Mandela Bay has confirmed its status as the watersport capital of South Africa with the announcement that the Jendamark Bell Buoy Challenge has been included as the first stop on the Open Water World Tour next year.
The 5km ocean swimming race, which celebrates its 10th edition in 2019, will see hundreds of local and international swimmers taking to the waters off Port Elizabeth’s Pollok Beach on Saturday, April 13.
Event organiser Michael Zoetmulder said the inclusion of the Indian Ocean race on the prestigious amateur world tour was a welcome development and a major boost for sports tourism in the Bay.
“As the only approved African event in this competitive series, we are very proud to be able to share the beautiful but tough racing conditions in Algoa Bay with the world,” said Zoetmulder.
With the Ironman African Championships taking place the weekend before, Zoetmulder said he hoped many of those international athletes would extend their stay to compete in the “double header”.
Past winners of the Jendamark Bell Buoy Challenge include Bulgarian Olympian Petar Stoychev, who was the first man to swim the English Channel in under seven hours, and former Slovenian open-water champion Rok Kerin.
Zoetmulder said long-standing title sponsors Jendamark had increased the total prize purse to R77,000, with equal prize money of R10,000 each for the male and female winner.
Jendamark operations director Siegfried Lokotsch said the company was once again proud to be associated with the world-class event.
“As a global tech company that is proudly headquartered in Nelson Mandela Bay, we believe it’s time to show the world what Africa can do. We are happy to be continuing our support for the Jendamark Bell Buoy Challenge and helping to place it firmly on the international stage.”
For the 2019 world tour, South Africa joins a line-up of host countries that includes Greece, Italy, Austria, Peru and Canada.
For more information, visit www.zsports.co.za/bellbuoy
Quinton Uren, managing director of Port Elizabeth-based global technology company Jendamark Automation, was named a finalist in the prestigious All Africa Business Leaders Awards at an event in Johannesburg.
Uren, 53, will now represent the Bay – and the Southern African region – in the Industrialist of the Year category at the eighth annual continental awards on November 29.
His fellow category finalists from South Africa include Nampak CEO Andre de Ruyter, Likoebe Innovation Consultants founder Nneile Nkholise, and Nana Sebelo, CEO of Thata uBeke Manufacturing.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Uren said he was very proud to have received recognition on behalf of Jendamark. The PE-based group has grown from a small automotive engineering firm, which Uren co-founded in 1992, into a global automation technology leader with offices in Pune in India, Penzing in Germany and a sales office in Detroit in the USA.
“I see our company as a beacon of what is possible in Africa and in the Eastern Cape specifically. We have an amazing talent pool and supplier base, which makes us more than a business. We are an industry,” said Uren.
The AABLA Industrialist of the Year award recognises individuals who have made efforts to develop a specific industry in Africa and transformed a market, company, product or service through innovation, special advancements in technology, management production and operations.
Jendamark’s export orientation, which seemed a risky move after the global economic crash of 2008, has paid dividends and today accounts for 90 to 95% of the company’s business. Jendamark is also a two-time winner of the Eastern Cape Exporter of the Year.
Its powertrain and catalytic converter assembly systems, which incorporate Industry 4.0 elements such as augmented reality and predictive maintenance software, can be found in 18 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa as well as North and South America.
The latest machine to roll out of Jendamark’s research and development department is proving the company’s capabilities in building technically demanding and innovative equipment on par with the world’s best.
Two years in the making, Jendamark’s new pinion nut tightening machine represents the next step in the company’s ongoing quest to meet and anticipate automotive customers’ assembly requirements.
Its essential function: To tighten a nut onto a pinion, which is fitted during the vehicle differential assembly process. Its conceptual challenge: To do so while the pinion is in motion.
“Unlike most of our R&D projects, this machine does not address an anticipated requirement but rather an existing one,” says Jendamark design director Yanesh Naidoo.
“However, there are only two or three companies in the world that make this kind of machine. We wanted to prove that we could do it as well as, if not better than, our competitors, while adding our unique Jendamark ‘spice’ to the mix.
“We’ve made various improvements in different areas to make the machine more accurate and faster than others of its kind.”
Mechanical design specialist Barto de Koning explains the importance of the pinion nut tightening process during differential assembly.
“A pinion is a round gear that is fitted to a differential and constrained by two bearings. Using two motors mounted above each other, our machine tightens the pinion nut onto the pinion, while the latter is turning.
“How tight the nut is determines how much friction or ‘drag’ the bearings have. What makes our machine different is the measuring equipment we’ve added, like the torque transducer that measures the drag on the spinning bearings. When the drag reaches optimal levels, the tightening process stops.”
The machine has a maximum rotational speed of 65rpm and is designed to tighten differential nuts up to 1400Nm. All drive components are rated to 2000Nm, while tooling changes accommodate different variants.
While a pinion nut may sound like a relatively minor part of the assembly process, De Koning says dynamic tightening can have major implications for Jendamark customers.
“In the long term, too much drag can cause a differential – which allows wheels to rotate at differing speeds – to fail prematurely. If there is too much friction, the car has to work harder, uses more fuel and produces less power on the wheels.”
Inconsistent static tightening by other machines means that some differentials may fail, whereas others may not, resulting in a worst-case scenario – the recall of a particular vehicle series.
With OEM manufacturers now offering longer vehicle warranties, tier-one suppliers are under increasing pressure to ensure that their components last longer and do not fail with ordinary wear and tear.
“This is the way the industry is moving and we need to equip our customers to manage these changes effectively,” says Naidoo.
“Our competitors have had the chance to refine their pinion nut tightening machines over time but we are effectively on par with them after our first attempt. We’ve made various improvements to make the machine more accurate and faster and also allows us to better monitor the process and react faster to changes or complications.”
As a result, Jendamark is now receiving requests for quotations for complete assembly lines that include this machine. The prototype has been shipped to a German customer’s production facility in China for installation in July.
Jendamark’s rigorous apprenticeship programme contributes to job creation, while building a highly skilled workforce trained to do things “the Jendamark way”. Here two female artisans share their success story.
“The very first thing you have to do is plan your job. You can’t just put it on the machine because you don’t know what complications you’re going to meet and you may have to modify it.”
This is the advice of 29-year-old Funeka Solomon, one of the 20 candidates handpicked for Jendamark’s in-house apprenticeship programme since 2012.
Now a qualified grinding artisan, Solomon successfully completed the company’s rigorous four-year programme in two-and-a-half years after being subjected to several insubstantial learnerships.
Armed with an NQF level four qualification but unable to find the challenge she craved, Solomon finally found what she was looking for when she was recruited by Jendamark.
The demanding in-house programme covers the theoretical and practical modules required by the national sector education and training authority for the mechanical, engineering and related trades (Merseta).
On completion, candidates are ready to sit their national trade test to become qualified artisans – in mechanical engineering for toolmakers and electrical engineering for electricians.
THE DAILY GRIND
Today, Solomon’s single-minded focus, competency and passion for the job are a far cry from her first encounter with the toolmaking trade.
“To be honest, at first I thought I was going to make tools like hammers or pliers. Then, when I learned what it was all about, I loved the challenge.”
Assuming the mantle of mentor, she now shares the technical and practical guidance she received with the apprentices following in her wake.
“The Jendamark artisans who trained me gave me a lot of responsibility and opportunities to learn early on. I can now guide others and be the artisan that someone was for me.”
She says Jendamark’s on-the-job training taught her to raise the bar in terms of performance and precision.
“It’s all about problem solving. If something doesn’t fit, you must find out why and fix it. The things we do here are at a higher level than other companies. I want to be precise, even if it’s only a micron or two, according to the drawing.”
Solomon says the secret to success is simply to love the job.
“You’re always thinking about the job, even when you’re at home. You’re constantly trying to figure out how you’re going to do this or that, because you don’t want to make scrap.”
THE RIGHT FIT
Like Solomon, CNC machine operator Nolovuyo Mjuza completed the programme in just two-and-a-half years because of previous exposure to similar, albeit poorly run, learnership programmes.
“We used to sit at home for up to three months and were taken to companies where they made us paint walls and do odd jobs. When we got to Jendamark, it was different.”
Here she learned to machine to extremely tight tolerances, moving between the milling machine, grinder and lathe, says Mjuza, 30.
“As apprentices, we were shown the entire process – from interpreting a drawing through to manufacturing and assembly. In this way, I could see how my job fits into the bigger picture.”
Although she initially studied mechanical engineering, Mjuza left college to take up her first learnership opportunity, as toolmaking sounded like exactly the kind of mental and physical challenge she was seeking.
“Engineering has always been my thing. I actually wanted to be a fitter but there were only toolmaking opportunities available at Jendamark at that time.”
Today, Jendamark has expanded its programme to include toolmakers, electricians, fitters and millwrights.
As women in a male-dominated industry, Solomon and Mjuza are holding their own in the toolroom. “The guys treat you like an equal; you’re ‘in’ if you can do the job,” smiles Solomon.
Although women’s empowerment plays an important role in the apprenticeship programme, skills development facilitator Marcha van Huyssteen says it’s more about moulding good candidates to become “Jendamark people”.
“These are people who are team players, who aren’t afraid to go the extra mile and do more than is expected of them.”
Van Huyssteen says the ideal candidates need to be technically minded and in possession of their N2 diploma.
“Many people have their qualifications but are struggling to secure the workplace experience they need. That’s why this type of programme is so valuable to them.”