Efficient Solutions in a Challenging Market
Atlas Copco has differentiated itself in a saturated market in Zambia through its ability to maintain an entrepreneurial flair and establishing efficient solutions amid sector slowdowns
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
Atlas Copco is an internationally-renowned industrial and mining equipment producer, but is staying true to its Group ethos of acting in a locally sustainable and responsible manner.
Having been active in Zambia for more than 60 years, offering its vast range of drilling consumables, mining & rock excavation equipment, compressors and related after market support & services to an array of long-standing customers, the company’s influence in the country is a deep-rooted one.
However, with economic, industry and regional challenges always a consideration, the need to remain entrepreneurial and quick to react is as pivotal as ever, as Atlas Copco Zambia’s Regional General Manager (GM), Daniel Banister explains: “Back in 2014 we had to address our internal inefficiencies to adapt to the current levels of business in the region.
“There was a significant drop over the past two years in Zambia in regards to customers purchasing equipment, but a strong focus on the aftermarket services side. We therefore looked at our organisation and how it needed to adapt to fit this level of business.”
By the end of 2014, Banister and his team had achieved this diversification, and the same flexible emphasis is now being placed on further business progression in 2015.
“There are similar challenges in 2015 to those we saw last year, but we are continuing to strive to be a more efficient organisation and to build on an existing strong company culture within the Group as a whole,” Banister continues. “We are very much results driven and committed to that culture, making sure we not only tackle our own inefficiencies but work with our customers; providing them with solutions to make the whole supply chain more cost effective in times like this.”
This collaborative effort between service provider and customer is one that has been significant to Atlas Copco’s development in Zambia over the years, ensuring that the company’s core value of interaction, commitment & innovation serves the diverse needs of its customers to come up with new and improved solutions on a continual basis.
The need to find these differentiators is even more prominent given the saturation of the market in a copper-reliant country like Zambia.
“To differentiate ourselves, we have put a strong emphasis over the past four years into our service organisation, while we have also recently upgraded our facilities here in Chingola to provide a better training centre,” says Banister.
This training centre incorporates specific simulators for underground drilling while new component testing equipment has also been introduced at the start of 2015. Again, all of these investments are made with the end customer in mind.
“Atlas Copco strives as a company to provide environmentally safe and reliable equipment to our customers,” Banister adds. “For example, our new SmartROC D65 addition to our drilling fleet has been trialled with one of our customers at their mining site, using a higher level of automation to enable safer and more cost efficient operations, and this has been extremely well received.”
Health and safety
Health and safety is a core facet of Atlas Copco’s continuous improvement strategy being embedded in all new initiatives and products, with it consequently being a major selling point in attaining new business.
Similar to its SmartROC D65 surface drill, all of the company’s equipment is designed and manufactured with the highest levels of safety in mind, and this philosophy begins within the production process itself and engrained in its workforce.
“For our customers it’s about highlighting the safety points and potential hazard areas to minimise the risks, but these safety talks occur internally too which are key to embedding a ‘safety aware’ culture,” Banister comments.
Daily reviews of previous incidents and accidents culminate in action plans being drawn up to improve the working conditions moving forward, again epitomising the vigilance of the business when it comes to maintaining best practices across the board; including the same commitment to areas of corporate responsibility.
Banister continues: “We aim to offer a very safe and healthy working en here in Zambia. That goes throughout Atlas Copco where we measure the number of incidents and accidents as a Group and actively seek to ensure that these numbers are reduced over time.
“In order to improve the health of our employees we have a number of initiatives like our SWHAP (Swedish Workplace HIV/AIDS Programme) which contributes to the response of the two diseases. We also offer employees training in safety and first aid practices locally.”
All efforts in this area are compounded by a series of integrated ISO quality management systems put in place to signify and confirm the business as a reputable and reliable business partner across the country.
From an internal perspective, Atlas Copco Zambia has struck a healthy balance between instilling a local emphasis into its workforce, while leveraging a supply chain of international repute.
Throughout it all though, the business maintains its typically Atlas Copco-like entrepreneurialism; most recently restructuring its workforce to redistribute personnel who would be better suited within its supply chain rather than directly working for the company itself. Not only has this strategy kept important personnel in employment but it has also spread the Atlas Copco ethos directly into the value chain.
“We’re fortunate with the skills available to us here in Zambia,” notes Banister. “We are a comparatively small organisation compared to some of our neighbouring countries but we have a good pool of people and it’s important to build a diverse mix within the company to bring different aspects of expertise to our customer base.
“With that also brings different skills and knowledge that can be passed on to future local employees too.”
Moving forward, Banister would like to see a continuation of the steady, significant progress that has been made in line with market demands over the past 12 months, while still following the wider centralised Atlas Copco Group blueprint.
The GM concludes: “If we can retain a reliable supply chain and continue offering our customers sustainable solutions in volatile times, then that’s the most important thing. Stability in these times is definitely key.
“We have to be an agile organisation and have the ability to adapt in times of market downturns with a long term plan to be adaptable to upturns in the market as well.
“Atlas Copco is a Group committed to our customers’ businesses. Lasting relationships are what we strongly believe in, with the belief that there are better ways of doing things; not only internally but in providing more efficient solutions for our customers.”