Elevating Business in South Africa
Nu-Line says each elevator is different, and by offering a tailored design service in-country, they can guarantee customers receive a quality South African product, made by local people
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager James Smith
Nu-Line has had a presence in South Africa since 1990, where they have been manufacturing and installing elevator products across the country. As a local manufacturer based in South Africa’s largest city, Cape Town, the company offers a wide range of custom-made products, specifically designed to match client needs and specifications. Company Manager Allen Behr says that it is this local element which makes Nu-Line stand out from the crowd: “Most other elevator companies import complete elevator products and are therefore less flexible with regard to offering custom specifications and shorter delivery times on these specialist designs.” What’s more is that the company also offer to upgrade existing elevators whilst retaining some of the old equipment in order to pass a cost saving onto clients, but without compromising the lift’s efficiency.
From humble beginnings, a workshop was created to start the manufacture of small hoists and dumbwaiters to meet the identified market demand. Since then, further company growth and product development allowed for the design and creation of a home elevator and a commercial passenger elevator. As a result of this success, a further product was introduced to their product base, namely; the funicular which is used in steep terrain. “Company growth has been constant year on year with the average increase per year being 20%,” Behr claims. Moreover, 2014 saw Nu-Line reach their total sales budget in just six months, testament to their strong management systems and well trained personnel. “Our growth has also called for production expansion which has called for larger premises and equipment. As such, our focus has been to ensure that our expansion is sustainable,” he adds.
Intense Training Programme
The elevator industry is one that struggles with a continuous supply of qualified labour, in particular elevator technicians. Therefore, Behr says that undertaking in-house training is vital to maintaining high standards in all they do: “We undertook an intensive training programme with all members of Junior Management in order to equip our own staff with the skills needed to advance to supervisory positions and to accept accountability for department goals and targets. As a result, older management positions have been fulfilled with a young dynamic and goal-orientated management team.” Furthermore, ongoing health and safety training is in place to educate company staff on key regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and to ensure that work is performed safely in order to prevent injury to employees or damage to equipment. Additionally, Nu-Line provides opportunities to the previously disadvantaged so that they may benefit from staff training and the option to progress internally.
Also, Nu-Line is a supporter of Learn to Earn. This is a NGO that assists training unemployed people in various life skills. They have two training centres – one in Khayelitsha Cape Town and one in Hermanus – and Nu-Line have assisted them by providing the labour to install lifts in both facilities at no cost. “In addition, we also supply donations to assist with the day to day operations of the NGO. This is our contribution to try and assist people to develop skills which will in turn decrease the unemployment ratio in South Africa,” Behr proudly states.
Originally in South Africa, both the building regulations and SANS regulations were not very thorough for the design and requirements for the manufacturing of elevator products. Over time, and with a direct linked to safety concerns, all of these laws have been amended so that South African National Standards (SANS) are in line with the EN81 international standard.
As per the updated SANS regulation, all elevator products need to be manufactured and installed in line with the requirements listed in the regulations. Once the installation is complete, certification has to be issued by a government approved lift inspector before the product is put into public use. “This sets the safety and quality standard for each completed installation. The safety factors are therefore inspected in-house by our team and then externally by the lift inspectors. As each installation site is unique, a separate safety file is also issued per project where the various hazards are identified and precautionary measures are included. Site appointments are made for safety officers and first aiders,” explains Behr.
“Export is key to increasing workflow”
Currently, Nu-Line have 107 projects in progress across South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and an export project to Kenya. With an aim to increase workflow and productivity in a sustainable manner, the company have begun implementing some marketing initiatives. “To this end, we will definitely need to expand our factory and even our premises in the near future. Extra factory space would allow us to better accommodate the export market,” Behr continues: “Short term growth in this sector would entail building relationships with elevator companies across Africa. This is vital as most contracts depend on the supplier having presence and a service infrastructure in the area. If we are able to enter into a beneficial relationship with these companies, then we can offer to manufacture at very competitive rates, the local company can then attend all meetings with the project teams, install our products and take over the service agreements. The relationship will thus benefit both parties.”
Contrary to popular belief that aggressive marketing in the modern age will result in more business, the key to this growth so far has been Nu-Line’s constant increase in sales and market share due to the continual return of a good quality product, resulting in repeat business from professional teams that they have worked with on previous projects; such as architects, building contractors, consulting engineers and clients. “We guarantee that our products are manufactured from the best quality material with emphasis on workmanship and safety. We will continue to enforce this along with a continued appreciation of our staff efforts,” concludes Behr.