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With the platinum market experiencing a period of near-unprecedented pressure, how does one of the world’s leading platinum producers manage its financial resources in an optimal manner to ensure the sustainability of the business? For Northam Platinum, the ability to make quick, accurate financial decisions based on a single version of truth was paramount.

“Our legacy systems were hampering our growth efforts and frustrating our decision-making capabilities. We had as many as 120 legacy systems that were not integrated, which made it difficult to make real-time decisions based on a single version of truth. And as a growing business, our existing systems were simply inadequate to handle the growing demands and the impending growth of our business. Our objective was to integrate all our disparate systems – and do it quickly,” says Ayanda Khumalo, Chief Financial Officer at Northam Platinum.

Northam Platinum is an independent, fully empowered integrated platinum group metal (PGM) producer that mines, processes and markets PGM and associated products worldwide. The company has two primary PGM mines, Booysendal and Zondereinde, the latter of which is also the location of Northam Platinum’s metallurgical operations, including a smelter and base metals recovery plant. It has just acquired a third mine called Eland Platinum which was not operational and will thus improve employment in the area as it becomes operational. Northam Platinum employs 12 000 people across its various operations and plans to grow this number

“Our ambitious project scope encompassed financial accounting, management accounting, costing, capital projects, procurement, inventory management, personnel administration, organisational management, payroll, governance, risk and compliance, reporting and scalability. We also had an aggressive timeline, which meant we had to leverage our implementation partners’ industry knowledge and best practices,” explains Khumalo.

Northam Platinum chose SAP S/4 HANA as the technology that would meet their stringent requirements, with implementation partner Deloitte using their Deloitte Mining-in-a-Box pre-configured solution which incorporates lessons learnt and best practices adapted from SAP implementations for more than 20 organisations over the past 23 years. Deloitte also developed a business requirements model by defining and listing the business process prints and developed a business blueprint, which included the key requirements of Northam Platinum.

“Due to the short timeline of the project, there was some internal uncertainty over changes to the business. We managed this by aligning our senior stakeholders to the end vision and goal of the project on a continuous basis. Buy-in from the executive team contributed greatly to driving ownership in the business processes and overall solution. A key success factor was also that our internal team and external implementation partners all worked as a single unit to drive the project to completion,” says Khumalo.

While the project initially planned for 200 users, it went live with a total of 540 users, with a further 220 additional users planned. The entire project was implemented and went live within nine months, with an additional six-week post go-live support phase. Northam Platinum’s implementation of SAP S/4 HANA was recently recognised for excellence at the SAP Quality Awards, where it won gold in the ‘Fast Delivery’ category.

“We now have improved real-time information for cost control across our business, with easy-to-use and more efficient reporting capabilities to meet our monthly, quarterly, half-year and annual financial reporting requirements. In addition, the integrated payroll and time management solution gives us improved visibility, automation and control over salaries. Most importantly, it is a sustainable solution that can scale easily as we acquire new assets. In any business, growth is about efficiencies, and our SAP solution has certainly achieved that,” says Khumalo.

Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa, says: “As one of the leading platinum producers, Northam Platinum has taken a leap forward by establishing a powerful framework that can improve financial decision-making by providing a real-time single view of the truth. As the digital revolution gathers pace and transforms traditional business models, the best run companies are the ones that will succeed. We look forward to a continued partnership with Northam Platinum as it scales into new markets and territories.”