Dr Jean-Patrick Leger completed his BSc (Chem Eng) at Wits and his MSc (Chem Eng) at Durban University. With concerns about social and worker rights, he co-founded the Sociology of Work Programme at Wits, researching (and campaigning for) better safety and health in South African mines and manufacturing. This led to a PhD in Sociology (Wits) on underground gold miners’ work experiences and skills.
In 1992 Leger joined Vesco, the engineering business founded by his father and mother 60 years ago. Best known for Vesconite, its brand of plain bearings and bushings, the company today has customers in over 100 countries on five continents.
Production is based at Virginia, in the Free State, where compounding, extrusion, injection moulding and 70 computer numerically controlled lathes and milling machines provide a precision workshop to the world.
Leger considers Vesco as one of world's biggest small enterprises - small in numbers, but big in scope and complexity.
Each day at Vesco provides adventures and challenges in overcoming wear.
In a day we may review bearing production for deep mines and mills, seek grease free solutions for construction plant and transport equipment, provide oil free bearings for small irrigation pumps or half-kilometre-long deep well pumps, focus on solving rail/wheel wear on locomotives and rail wagons, offer solutions to reduce the number of dry-dockings of container ships, to make racing yachts move faster, or develop longer life bearings for underwater turbines and remote operated vessels working on the ocean floors.
The talk will be illustrated with photographs of equipment where Vesconite has been applied. The company's training programme will also be discussed - this won the 2017 Seifsa Artisan of the Year award.