Hands-on Approach to Safety
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
Established in 1987, Pienaar Bros has grown a significant presence in Africa beyond its initial South African venture; extending into neighbouring Southern countries via a strategic branch of four locations across Botswana, and two in Mozambique to complement its 21 domestic offices in South Africa.
Offering the latest internationally approved and most recognised brands of safety equipment and work wear in Africa, Pienaar Bros continues to uphold its quality promise while providing a product which is cost competitive and always in stock at local branches.
“We have the largest stock of 3M, Ansell, and a whole host of other international personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers that are well known in industry around the world,” explains Brian Pienaar, Company Managing Director.
This comprehensive safety product offering is backed by a team of competent staff and a customer-centric focus to drive the best industry practices and to secure the best service levels through continuous investment back into the business.
Complementing its array of brands is the Company’s own manufacturing arm and, as an owner-managed business, Pienaar works closely with its customers and distributors across the mining, pharmaceutical, food, engineering and other industries where PPE equipment is paramount to safety. In support of this for example, the Company has more than 20 on-site stores for the convenience of the local mine operators it supplies, so that there is always a seamless supply of equipment and a customer will never have to compromise the safety of its staff.
“Our focus remains on maintaining our world-class proposition and delivering our product range to wherever the customer requires using one of our 45 vehicles. This led us to expand outside the borders of South Africa so as to move with our customers - who have requested that we did move into these new markets - but also capitalise on the shift towards local buying and encouraging local content,” says Pienaar.
However, the low price of commodities has been putting pressure on the industry and its performance in recent years. Combined with the weaker mineral and metal prices, this is limiting the spend customers have available for the allocation of safety equipment. “In spite of this, Africa still represents a significant opportunity for us. We are closely monitoring this challenge and working with our customers to make sure they can continue buying the necessary PPE supplies from us,” Pienaar adds.
With emphasis being placed on local development by many African governments, Pienaar Bros is making a concerted effort to work closely with OEMs and source from their localised manufacturing facilities. “At present, there is a strong manufacturing presence in South Africa for PPE, which has helped us to become more efficient and shorten lead times for our customers. Moreover, it has helped us to focus on internal improvements such as training policies and the expansion of our business into Central Africa,” Pienaar highlights.
This expansion is also evident across its ever-growing export footprint, with much of the Company’s locally manufactured PPE equipment distributed from South Africa into the rest of the continent.
Leveraging its relationship with these OEMs, staff at Pienaar Bros have benefitted from world-class product training, along with adhering to the Company’s own policies. “The majority of the OEMs we use have dedicated trainers, and we receive certificates for our work with them. These trainers talk the local languages and also assist us in training customers, which forms a crucial element of our business strategy and continuous improvement. Some 55 sales reps have received OEM product training and have been deployed across our branches,” he further explains.
Forming a vital element of its internal improvement spending is IT training for all staff, compounded by a recent appointment of a dedicated IT assistant to ensure that the heightened reliance on complex technological systems is manageable and making the business more efficient. Pienaar confirms: “Technology plays a huge role for us, so much so we have deployed fibre in all our branches and have a good quality piece of software that provides real time updates on our stock levels and other essential details that serve to make us more efficient as a business.”
All of the above points contribute to the Company’s all-important BEE scorecard in South Africa - achieving Level 4 status in this area - by encouraging the development of local people, while maintaining the best quality goods, price and service for customers.
Given the current commodity slowdown in physical sales of PPE supplies, Pienaar Bros is looking to capitalise on the online market in order to reach both a broader range of customers and increased brand reach. “We already have one of the largest footprints in South Africa for PPE, with repeat and new business secured as a result of our solid reputation in the industry. Based on this, we are working on an online store to capitalise on the ecommerce market and further equip the business for a long-term future that is sustainable,” emphasises Pienaar.
He summarises: “Shopping online is also a growing convenience trend among our current customers, and it is important that we follow up on this trend. Making our products as accessible to customers as possible, no matter where they have operations has always been our philosophy for growth. In line with this we hope to enter new markets across the continent very soon, with a view to create a localised supply of internationally reputed brands for them in support of their operations.”
Backed by a strong and reputable set of brands and a dedicated export department in Johannesburg to organise shipping for customers on a continent-wide scale, Pienaar Bros’ holistic approach towards internal and external processes will play a vital role in not only its continuous improvement goals, but in maintaining a seamless supply of PPE supplies and an exceptional level of customer service.