Coated in Trust
Kansai Plascon has been producing industry leading paints and coatings across Africa for almost 130 years, a standing built on constant innovation and unwavering trust in the brand’s quality
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
“I get my inspiration from those who adventure into the unknown and inspire change in our world. I love innovation and the constant drive to push boundaries and discover, with the aim of changing and improving people’s lives.
“I am a naturally curious person and question everything, and chemistry is something that touches our everyday lives all the time and has many of the answers.
“I also love brands, and Plascon is an iconic South African brand that is interwoven into our existence – the homes we live in, the buildings we work in and the roads we drive on. The combination of these two and a company that inspires possibilities and enables change made it an attractive proposition.”
For Alan Cotton, there was a touch of fate about embarking on journey with Plascon.
Joining the paints and coatings manufacturer in the mid-1990s, he now serves as a Director and Group Head of Marketing and Sales, his role being to help write the next chapter in its already illustrious story, a history which dates back almost 130 years to when Herbert Evans set up a paint production operation in Johannesburg.
Plascon was officially formed in 1949 and renamed Kansai Plascon in 2012 after Kansai Paints bought the business from Freeworld Coatings the previous year.
Today, the company operates through an extensive network of facilities across Southern, East and West Africa, with 15 manufacturing plants and more than 3,000 dedicated employees producing paints and coatings, which are distributed to over 20 countries on the African continent and Indian Ocean islands.
From project work and home decoration to preservation of infrastructure and painting of vehicles, Plascon’s superior ranges of paint have become a mainstay in homes, showrooms, roads and cityscapes all over the region.
Moving with the times
But what has enabled Kansai Plascon to remain at the coatings industry forefront for well over a century?
For Cotton, it is a constant drive for innovation and quality, an approach to operating which has built up an enormous degree of trust in the brand over time.
“Our rich history is filled with firsts as we have introduced new coatings solutions to the market,” he says. “Plascon has been pursuing innovation and has built a reputation of trust and reliability that has defined us as the experts in paint coatings.
“We have built this reputation together with our loyal customers, many of whom have literally spent their entire lives with us. And our innovation does not only focus on products, but also the way we make paint.”
Cotton cites the current process using regular high-speed dispersion technology, something which has been in the industry for a very long time.
However, Kansai Plascon has brought it into the 21st century thanks to its adoption of new in-line dispersion technology that not only processes paint three times faster than conventional methods, but with less energy consumption and waste generation.
“This new state-of-the-art system was introduced at our main decorative plant in Johannesburg and has become the new benchmark in paint making – this was the first installing of this technology in a decorative plant in Africa,” Cotton adds.
“The in-line disperser has also changed the way we formulate paint. By harnessing the technology, Plascon is able to produce better quality paint faster and at a lower cost than before.”
Further still, the company has enhanced productivity by incorporating robotics into its new filling lines, machines which will fill paint faster and at double the capacity of the previous manual process, meaning it can fulfil customers’ orders in less time.
Indeed, moving with the times and remaining relevant has been central to Plascon building such a longstanding reputation, reflected by the recent decision to embark on a rebranding exercise.
This includes the new Plascon logo, a vision of the future designed to tell an inspiring and confident story, as well as several new product initiatives which place sustainability at their core.
“Understanding and interpreting changing consumer needs in our fast-paced digital world of today, we decided that a reinvention of the brand was needed to see us into the new decade,” Cotton explains.
“Plascon is embracing 2020 with gusto and a phalanx of game-changing products that are set to lead the coatings industry with outstanding first-to-market innovations available through renewed operations, logistics and distribution.”
Cotton highlights Plascon Professional Hygiene™ Low Sheen paint as a an example of the forward-thinking development of products that are relevant to the market’s needs and demands.
Designed for environments where infection control and anti-microbial performance are essential, it is uses Plascon’s unique BIODEFENCE™ silver technology, which actively inhibits microbial growth to provide protection against bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Within six hours it reduces E. coli count by 99.9 percent and Staphylococcus aureus by 99 percent, far quicker than conventional alternatives which can take two to four times as long.
“Plascon Professional Hygiene is low VOC and low odour,” adds Cotton. “This allows doctors and patients to move in soon after the building’s been painted, making it ideal for hospitals, doctor’s rooms, catering establishments, clinics, frail care facilities, veterinary hospitals or any other space where infection control is paramount.”
Customers gain not only from the quality paint products but can also benefit from the Plascon 360 Partnership Pledge.
This is a bespoke service solution offering coatings specifications, application monitoring and maintenance service coordination for property investment portfolios, built to help extend the life expectancy of building coatings, helping to keep long-term maintenance costs under control.
“Whether residential, commercial or industrial, maintaining a building in pristine condition is critical to preserving the asset, protecting the occupants and ensuring that the resale value is the best it can be,” Cotton says. “The Kansai Plascon Quality Assurance with a 360 Partnership Pledge project not only covers the product guarantee, but also the contractor workmanship.”
"This new state-of-the-art system was introduced at our main decorative plant in Johannesburg and has become the new benchmark in paint making – this was the first installing of this technology in a decorative plant in Africa"
Kansai Plascon customers are provided further peace of mind by knowing that many of the company’s products meet and exceed the strict criteria laid down by the Green Building Council of South Africa’s Green Star rating system.
Paints which meet these requirements carry the Ecokind Low VOC logo on their packaging, just one way in which the firm is acknowledging its commitment and responsibility to protect the environment.
“That’s why we cultivate a culture dedicated to creating quality products in a progressive and sustainable way,” comments the Group Head of Marketing and Sales.
“We continually strive to find ways to decrease our impact on natural resources and follow manufacturing protocols of the highest international standards.
“We implement sustainability into our manufacturing operations through our business systems and processes, and our product lines are continuously reviewed and innovated to ensure alignment with international legislation. This enables us to always be industry leading and environmentally aware.”
Kansai Plascon is also socially aware. Not only is it a level 3 BBBEE contributor, it helps to drive local empowerment through investment in education.
Here, the company increases access to education by providing financial support to employees’ children and dependents up to a tertiary level, while in South Africa it has run a scheme where schools can apply for paint donations to transform their learning environments.
This responsible, sustainable approach to business has laid down a marker for the future, one which Cotton believes will see Kansai Plascon contribute even more economically, socially and environmentally across all the markets in which it operates.
Though recognising the current volatility in both South Africa and further afield, in no small part due to the coronavirus pandemic, he concludes in an upbeat manner.
“It is true that we find ourselves in an incredibly turbulent and volatile time, not only in South Africa but around the world. We want to continue to be a steady but driving force in the coatings segment and will continue to contribute to the growth in Southern Africa and the rest of the African continent in a sustainable way that improves people’s lives.”