Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager James Mitchell
With sirens ablaze and red lights flashing, a fire engine races through the streets of South Africa. Having arrived at its destination, the crews begin their rescue operation.
Who supplied the fire engine they were driving? Marcé Fire Fighting Technology, a leading manufacturer, importer and exporter of fire fighting vehicles and emergency equipment.
The firm was formed in 1998 and operates from premises near Pretoria. It started as an importer of fire fighting vehicles and equipment, but in 2001 management realised there was "potential" in manufacturing locally, providing that high quality standards were met. And this is what it has done.
"We provide unparalleled customised solutions to the needs of emergency services and adding value to the industry," says Jan Steyn, commercial manager, whose wife, Danielle, has been the driving force behind the business.
Marcé moved into its current design, engineering and manufacturing base in Centurion last year to cater for the "rapidly growing demands for its vehicles" and after enjoying "exponential growth".
The new building houses the head office and there is very tight control on quality.
Virtually all the components are made on site, using the latest technology and modern equipment.
This includes a large painting booth that delivers a very high quality level of finish.
"Basically we have grown so fast over the last couple of years and we have had exponential growth of about 30 percent per annum so we have pretty much reached the point where we needed to expand to cater for the growth and we have invested in this plant," says Steyn. "It is a world class facility and it puts us into another bracket when we compare ourselves with international manufacturers. We can now aggressively enter the international markets and showcase Marcé as a world class manufacturer."
Marcé now boasts the facilities that match its world class products.
The foundations have been laid for "future growth".
"We invested some R40 million just in terms of facilities and then we obviously put a lot more into the equipment – laser cutting machines, spray booths, testing areas and overhead tanks etc. We invested a lot of money into this facility," Steyn explains.
The company employs 150 people in total and it has branches in Polokwane, Western Cape, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and various agents in Africa, so its footprint is rapidly expanding. "We have ambitious growth plans, targeting expansion in the African market. We would like a presence in every single country in Africa. We are looking at setting up a dealership and representation in new areas and are looking for well-established agents in all these countries, not just selected countries. We have a strong policy that we cannot sell into a market without our own network or service backup or a very good dealer that is able to provide first class aftersales backup and support.
"We face strong competition but believe we now measure up to the world's best in terms of quality and innovation."
When choosing the right partner for your emergency services needs, Steyn believes it is "essential" that you choose a supplier that can offer you everything under one roof.
"You cannot afford to take any short cuts because we are in a life and death business. We offer a one stop turnkey solution – and this is extremely exciting - that will enable a client to walk into a completely equipped fired station and operate. Marcé was established in 1990 and since then we have collaborated with various International suppliers and manufacturers and supplied various products to Africa and beyond."
This is the first time we've come across a company offering fire station turnkey solutions.
Huge demand lies in the mining industry and with local governments.
"We have just recently started this one-stop solution for Africa where we can build the fire station completely," says Steyn. "We can construct anywhere in Africa, on any site. It is pre manufactured and a complete turnkey solution with vehicles, furniture, computers and all the management and command and control software – anything. We could, for example, put up a fire station for a mine or fire department within a period of about six months from start to finish in conjunction with a local partner who we'd bring in to do the building but we'd provide all the components, logistics, materials – everything – from South Africa.
"Personally, I've never heard of a company being able to do this and this is a first time it has been done. Over and above the solutions themselves, we also have finance available from South Africa to fund these projects. We have had an enormous response on this and this is really a world leading type of innovation. We have developed it in the last two years and we are on the verge of signing our first contracts now."
Steyn sees a number of opportunities opening up.
"You get a full turnkey offer, covering all you need. Yes, I see a bright future. We are more than capable of meeting all your fire fighting needs. Key to growth is to provide a good aftersales service, a good product, and build good customer relationships. And if you don't innovate – constantly improve your products - as the world market develops and improves in technology then you get left behind. "
As it goes into "aggressive expansion mode" and the market becomes more and more aware of its fire station turnkey solutions, expect to hear and see much more of this fast-growing South African business.
To learn more visit www.marce.co.za.
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