Under an adventurous leadership team, Pindulo VDM is building on a rich heritage by providing an integrated supply chain solution for clients across the length and breadth of South Africa
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Mann
Over the past few decades, the dynamic nature of the industry has been constantly changing. The exponential growth has been catalysed by globalisation, deregulated and open economic trade policies, evolving customer needs and disruptions due to technological advancements.
“We are the world’s largest producer of iron ore, chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium and vermiculite. In addition, the country remains a significant producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile and zirconium and coal. We are therefore a cornucopia of mineral riches, and this facilitates us to be the largest economy and subsequently the gateway into Africa.
“Our company is privileged to be in a land of exponential opportunity.”
Kevin Changoo is talking about South Africa.
As Co-CEO of Pindulo VDM, he is specifically referring to the opportunities arising in the nation’s supply chain industry.
Describing the sector as the backbone for business, Changoo also points to the impact of the fourth industrial revolution and the doors this has opened for multimodal logistics providers.
“The importance of the continued evolution of our transport network is critical for the country and is directly proportional to our economic growth,” he adds.
“As per the South African National Development Plan, one of the key strategic thrusts of the Mining Charter and the National Economic Growth and Logistics Strategy is to upgrade, maintain and align the logistic infrastructure network.
“This will allow it to service the increasing market demand and enable the country to remain competitive in the dynamic global market.”
Supporting a vision
Pindulo VDM is perfectly poised to contribute to this development.
Originally called VDM when it set up in 1976, the addition of Pindulo is aligned to its value proposition which is to be a versatile, dynamic and multimodal service provider, delivering integrated supply chain solutions one delivery at a time.
Such an offering includes warehousing, material handling, containerisation, rail, road, and customs forwarding and clearing services, a portfolio which aligns with the National Development Plan of South Africa.
And it is for this reason that Pindulo VDM has made significant investments in eight back of port facilities and numerous warehouses.
Specific projects within this include the installation and upgrading of more than 11 kilometres of rail sidings, acquisition of four locomotives, investment in the research, design and development of patented multipurpose containers, development of a modular container loading system, and investment in specially designed trailers to optimise road transport legs.
“These investments are part of the foundational work which we can now leverage in order to provide tailor-made, customisable solutions for our stakeholders,” explains Changoo.
“Our customer-centric strategy enables us to add value to our customer supply chain processes and to understand the evolving market, technology requirements and remain flexible to upscale our service offering based on increasing demands.”
The above examples are not the only investments being made by Pindulo VDM, however.
Changoo lists a string of other spending commitments, including 100 specially designed trailers which allow for greater payloads. Related to this, the company has patented a cradle design which enables it to marry unrelated commodities and thereby optimise bi-directional transportation legs, again helping to reduce the environmental impact of its operations.
Indeed, supporting sustainable development is a priority, evidenced by Changoo as he comments on the firm’s work to accommodate specialist solar cargo.
“We are dominant players for the specialised cargo handling of photovoltaic panels,” he says. “Aligned to this we have designed and developed a specialised pallet to increase loads by up to 30 percent on our super link trailers.
“In addition, we also offer specialised cargo handling solutions for concentrated solar power and have designed and developed a tube-tainer to allow for the safe and secure transport of tubes of any length or width.”
Expansion has also been part of Pindulo VDM’s recent investment strategy, the company designing a modular and mobile loading system which has increased its container loading throughput capacity by 400 percent.
It has also invested in 54 Volvo trucks, a move which will increase its fleet capacity by 20 percent.
Moving miners forward
The reason for this latter spend stems from a recent contract award in the mining industry (for South Africa’s largest silicomanganese producer), an area which the company is firmly targeting future growth.
“This project includes the transportation of raw materials and final products for the business and has resulted in exponential growth, meaning that we needed to increase our fleet capacity by 50 percent and add additional staff members to our Pindulo VDM family,” says Changoo.
“The first quarter of the year was therefore utilised to bed down our business processes, to upskill our resources and to expand our operations within this new territory.”
Changoo also explains how Pindulo VDM has identified the need to support South Africa’s junior mining companies, modifying its proposition to help them grow successfully.
This involves warehousing and bimodal transportation, trade support and assurances in terms of risk relating to finance, insurance, admin support services, compliance, marketing and relationship management, these latter services facilitated by a skilled technical consulting division.
“The vertical integration of Pindulo VDM enables junior miners to manage one singular point of contact who oversees all admin, logistics related to both road and rail as well as storage and handling at our strategically located facilities,” Changoo explains.
“Our value addition stems from the fact that we can consolidate inputs from various locations within the country, and thereby establish increased economies of scale and subsequently decrease barriers to entry.”
The impact of this is crucial. By increasing the bargaining power for junior miners and new entrants, such companies can compete with larger players, thus promoting competition in the global market.
This concept of empowerment can also be applied to Pindulo VDM’s own employees.
Indeed, Changoo is quick to state the paramount importance of staff development to the success of the business, adopting a strategy of employing for attitude and training for skill.
“When we are looking to add another employee to our team, we are looking at how they approach communication, their attitude towards people, what inspires them and what will drive them to work at their best,” he adds.
“We are actively searching and recruiting people who treat life as a university of learning, who are reflective and who want to add value and make the world a better place.”
South Africa’s high unemployment has been a catalyst for Changoo and Pindulo VDM to help upskill the population.
In 2017 the company opened its Logistics Academy, a centre which provides training and development for unemployed youth in the form of learnerships, preparing them for a potential career in the supply chain industry.
“I am proud to state that, to date, the academy has trained in excess of 140 learners, all of which originate from previously disadvantaged and socioeconomically challenged communities,” Changoo states, adding that a major priority in the coming year is to expand its reach and scope of teaching.
“In addition, we are also actively involved in community empowerment with a key focus on areas such as education, food security and disaster relief.”
A dynamic future
This empowering capability is exactly why Changoo joined Pindulo VDM in the first place.
Having spent eight rewarding years in the fishing industry, he decided to move out of his comfort zone and pursue a new challenge which would allow him to make a real difference on people’s lives.
“Joining Pindulo VDM also allowed me to work with Deon van der Merwe, my fellow Co-CEO for the business,” Changoo says. “We are both 33 years old and make a fresh, dynamic and complementary team who are geared to captain and navigate our business into the fourth industrial revolution.”
In doing so, Changoo identifies four further priorities for the year ahead, the first involving the continuation of its realignment and diversification strategy centred around its six divisions.
Second is adoption of a new telematics fleet management system, a process which will greatly enhance the company’s ability to harvest, analyse and use data in order to facilitate continuous improvement.
Two further goals include the expansion into the SADC and a greater focus on the FMCG and food sectors, as well as increasing capacity for bulk liquids, fuels and chemicals.
These ambitious plans, coupled with external developments, fill the Co-CEO with confidence regarding the wider development of the industry.
He buoyantly concludes: “Being part of this dynamic business enables me to contribute to the development of the country’s economy, to create opportunity through the empowerment of my staff and greater society and to importantly add value to my growing customer base.
“The increase and more stringent environmental, labour, health and safety legislation, increased pressures from globalisation, an ever-expanding world population, and rapid technological developments makes for an exciting and stimulating journey.
“South Africa is a land of exponential potential and a country which is the gateway to the rest of Africa. I am extremely optimistic regarding the opportunities and rapid growth potential for this industry.”