Leveraging more than 30 years’ experience, Orange River Tankers continues to set the transit standard across SA’s wine industry
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Josh Mann
Three and a half centuries on from the production of South Africa’s first bottle of wine, it is safe to say that national production of the grape-based beverage has accelerated monumentally in the years since.
According to statistics from Wines of South Africa (WOSA), SA’s wine industry has maintained a compound annual growth rate of approximately 10 percent since 2003, with the country now home to over 94,000 hectares of cultivated vines producing wine grapes.
This in mind, it is no surprise that the International Organisation of Vine indicates that national production exceeded one billion litres during 2017.
With such vast quantities of wine created year on year, it begs the question; how does wine make it from vineyards to retail vendors?
One such company that is operationally answering this is Orange River Tankers, a transport company with more than 30 years’ experience in the transportation of bulk wines and related products across South Africa.
“Going back to the beginning, Orange River Tankers started as a family business in 1981, set up by WHC Barnard to serve the agricultural industry in the Orange River region,” explains Arno Kock, Orange River Tankers’ joint Managing Director. “Since this time, the company has largely focused on the transportation of wines and grape juices, growing in tandem with the thriving wine industry alongside the Orange River.”
Having joined the business back in 2003 when it was still owned by WHC Barnard, Kock has remained with Orange River Tankers throughout a majorly transformational period at the firm, namely through its rebranding following acquisition by Orange River Cellars.
“During 2005 Barnard decided to retire and sold the company with 26 trucks to Orange River Cellars, which was the biggest client at the time,” the MD adds. “Thereafter I was promoted to the position of Financial Director, and during the past decade or so I have held numerous leadership positions, helping to refine the company’s strategic planning and development trajectory.”
Evolution and augmentation
16 years on from the completion of this acquisition and Orange River Tankers has continued to grow, now housing over 120 employees and 70 vehicles following a prolonged 10-fold expansion.
Throughout this period, the company has stayed true to its key philosophies – philosophies that Kock believes to be crucial in the success of the brand.
“At Orange River Tankers we are committed to service excellence,” he reveals. “Our goal is to recruit, develop and retain above average people and always stay true to our core values. We aspire to never lose our passion, to go above and beyond when serving our customers and to make a positive impact in every person’s life we do business with.”
Alongside the affirmation statistics, this expansion has manifested itself in a number of ways, including the opening of a new Orange River Tankers depot in the Western Cape, a region renowned as the focal point of SA’s wine industry.
“The demand for the transportation of alcoholic beverages from the Western Cape to the north increased due to growing consumption in the Gauteng area,” Kock continues. “This provided us with the opportunity to further increase our market share – an opportunity we identified early and acted upon accordingly.
“We decided to open a depot in Heidelberg Gauteng, 45 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport, to both capitalise on new business as more of our trucks began to run north, and equally to pursue new opportunities in South Africa’s neighbouring countries.”
A key facility of Orange River Tankers, the Heidelberg outlet is one of three such ISO 22000 accredited depots that, combined, allow the company to serve the entire region.
Alongside this emphasis on physical expansion, the organisation has equally sought to provide its staff with the opportunity to become educated to the highest level within South Africa’s logistics industry.
In the face of the industry-wide skills shortages that many South African logistics companies struggle with, Orange River Tankers has introduced a skills development centre in collaboration with the esteemed Transport Education Training Authority.
“Each of our truck drivers go through a well-developed selection process and only the best are selected for the 12-month NCPD (National Certificate in Professional Driving) learnership,” Kock reveals.
In addition, Orange River Tankers ensures that each of its drivers undertakes an induction refresher on an annual basis, while the firm also runs its Driver of the Year competition – an event that both seeks to evaluate the knowledge, skills and attitudes of its drivers and promote awareness surrounding road safety.
“I believe it’s important to create a culture and environment for development through learning and coaching, and we encourage all employees to take part in our skills development programmes,” Kock adds.
“I’m captivated by the core values of Orange River Tankers and the culture in our company. We have a great management team and passionate employees together with nearly 40 years of experience in the bulk transportation of wines and related alcoholic beverages. These things give us an edge.”
Focusing on continually bolstering both the performance of its employees and emphasising service excellence above all else, the company has been able to establish a number of long-term business relationships with a broad range of clients.
“This attitude has contributed a great deal to the success of our business over the years,” Kock continues. “Developing and preserving relationships with our clients through good communication and honesty is of the utmost importance to Orange River Tankers.”
Operating proactively is part and parcel of the Orange River Tankers culture, further evident in the firm being the first South African transport company to incorporate the new Iveco Stralis Hi-Way EEV into its fleet, a leading enhanced environmentally friendly vehicle.
“For us, our planet, our clients and our profits are of equal importance,” explains the MD.
“We recognise that the African continent is in many ways not ready for trucks with +Euro 5 emission standards, but we work to reduce our footprint and remain sustainable and responsible where possible. This is why we imported the first of three batches of Euro 5 emission standard trucks during 2014.”
Moreover, Orange River Tankers readily focuses not only on maximising its potential through rapid expansion, but equally through maximising its efficiencies and cost effectiveness through inward critical improvement.
Two prime examples of Orange River Tankers’ innovative outlook, these priorities, amongst others, will remain at the forefront of the company’s strategy moving forward as the firm looks to maintain its organic growth throughout 2019 and beyond.
Kock concludes: “Our aim is to grow our business at least two percent above transport inflation, reduce our operating costs with improved fuel efficiency and limit our maintenance cost. We will focus on less downtime and increasing payload per unit to reduce the impact of raising fixed costs on transport rates.
“The current economic climate is harsh to say the least, but with our unique qualities, our commitment to service excellence and an in-depth knowledge of food safety, we hope to remain at the forefront of the transport industry.
“In my eyes, we have no equal in the logistics industry on the African continent.”