Scania’s ‘customer first’ philosophy in East Africa is facilitating a seamless expansion across the region as it looks to replicate its global reputation for quality transport manufacturing
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
A renowned global manufacturer of transport vehicles throughout the decades, Scania’s international reputation is topped only by its local dedication, as it is evidencing across its East African operations.
Serving Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia as well as its core Kenyan and Tanzanian operations, the Company’s significance in the region has been driven by both industry innovation and social enrichment; and the ultimate culmination makes Scania one of the pioneering operators across the manufacturing/transport/supply chain intersection.
“Today, Scania’s business includes selling trucks - both new and used - as well as buses and gensets. We also have an extensive network of service centres to support our customers throughout the region,” introduces Chief Executive Officer, Per Holmstrom. “Additionally, we also offer service contracts for servicing and maintenance of vehicles, an in-house fleet management service, driver services including coaching and driver training, and 24-seven roadside assistance.”
The former fleet management facet is especially indicative of the differentiation and value-add approach that Scania has established in East Africa; allowing owners of vehicles to track the usage and performance of their vehicles while on the road, in real time.
“To complement the high quality products that we sell, we also have a network of workshops across Kenya and Tanzania where customers can bring in their vehicles for servicing, repair and maintenance,” Holmstrom continues. “Our after- sales support then ensures our customers have maximum uptime while optimising the use of their vehicles.”
While certain regulatory or consumer nuances inevitably exist in each portion of Scania’s East Africa portfolio, the primary goal is to make its services as standardised and streamlined as possible in order to retain the identifiable quality and consistency expected of the business.
Thus encouraging customer confidence and repeat business, it also facilitates more seamless transitions into new countries as is currently being seen in its newer markets of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. No matter where Scania’s journey takes the business though, the ethos remains the same.
Sales Director, Tom Leakey states: “We have continuously kept our focus on after-market support by bringing our services closer to the customer in our service network expansion.
“Our commitment to the ‘customer first’ philosophy has given reassurance to our customers that we are partners to the future.”
Scania’s evolution in East Africa can be traced back to 1973 in affirming its long-term presence in the region; initiating when Scania CV AB delivered 200 tipper trucks to the Chinese authorities to enable the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway line, as well as a further 100 trucks to the Tanzania Cotton Authority.
More branches, fleet increases, service diversification and international expansion then occurred over the following decades until 2013 when Scania CV AB incorporated as a wholly-owned subsidiary to serve the burgeoning Eastern African region.
“This brought together the Kenyan and Tanzanian operations forming what is now Scania East Africa Limited,” Holmstrom recalls. “Since then and over the years the technology we have has evolved and become more intelligent, and this in turn has offered our customers a better insight into how their vehicles are operating over time.
“In particular, this is the case for our fleet management service which now collects even more data for customers and helps them make more informed decisions on how to operate their vehicles.”
The overall focus in more recent times has subsequently blossomed into establishing a supporting framework for customers - as part of its customer first ethos - and running long-term contracts with key multinationals to compound these capabilities.
Leakey adds: “There is also extended collaboration with our customers’ customers and the buyers of transport solutions where we establish a win-win solution where the transporter and the buyer of the transport solution both benefit from reduced operating costs.”
Scania’s aforementioned fleet management system epitomises the growth that the Company has enjoyed in recent years; highlighting an adherence to the most modern of customer requirements, and a willingness to get ahead of the industry curve from a technological and capital investment perspective.
Having won an award in Germany for its best-in-class tachograph system, this commitment to fleet management has been acknowledged as simple and advanced in equal measure and sets the tone aptly for the business’ general approach to service improvement and overall growth.
“As of this year we opened up a workshop in Nakuru and Eldoret which are two major towns that sit along the northern corridor. The northern corridor is a trade route that links the landlocked countries of Eastern Africa to the port of Mombasa which is a major port of entry into the region. The workshops are very strategic for us as they are along the long haul route that serves Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia where our clients operate,” Holmstrom explains. “The workshops are fully equipped with trained staff so customers are assured of the same good quality of service that they would get from any of our other branches. We are also planning to open a new workshop in Mombasa and a new headquarters and high-tech workshop in Nairobi.”
Logistics enterprises generally have to operate on slim margins, making investments into technologies and heightened efficiencies both challenging and vital. As showcased by the fleet management side though, Scania has more than risen to the challenge and has introduced a plethora of functions that address vehicle position, fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, speed control, braking behaviour and a host of additional parameters through its system.
Such innovations are synonymous with the Scania brand on a global scale, but where the Company goes on to differentiate itself further is through its localisation strategies; ingratiating itself into each respective region according to the values and trends seen there.
From an employment perspective this has made Scania an employer of choice; and an “equal opportunity employer” at that.
“We constantly strive to ensure we are wholly inclusive and our long-term goal is to provide a harmonious and enabling environment for all of our staff,” Leakey affirms. “For the most part, our staff are local and - with our roots seated in research & development - it is part of our global culture to constantly develop individuals through training.
“We have in-house and external training which we encourage all staff to take based on their individual needs and goals. Employees are thus nurtured and coached to realise their full potential and are encouraged to bring out innovative ideas.”
Leakey goes on to emphasise the role that wider enrichment and sustainability plays within the overall Scania proposition; the Company proactively ensuring an improved landscape for future generations.
He continues: “Just like in every sector, transportation of goods and services should be conducted with a focus on reducing harm to the environment. This is where Scania provides the solutions by producing low emission engines, optimising on fuel consumption and extending service intervals to reduce the amount of waste oil disposal.
“This to us is key and we are looking at working closely with partners who share the same principles.”
A more sustainable way
The global shift towards sustainability - both inside and outside of the factory - requires equally global players such as Scania to be a pioneer and to set an example.
“This not only touches on production and our supply chain but also our staff as they are the driving force of the company,” Holmstrom says. “We ensure continuous development to our staff through training and coaching to keep our standards high and ahead of the pack.”
The recent launch of a gas-powered engine is a prevalent example and step in the right direction for transport solutions; while locally, processes like oil drainage in workshops have been adopted to avoid seepage into the ground which would harm soil quality.
“We also separate our rubbish so we do our bit in making sure the right waste is disposed of correctly,” the CEO adds. “In the coming year, we plan on initiating more initiatives towards sustainability and to be an industry leader in this area.”
Despite being a leader, this isn’t to say that improvement is a solo pursuit. In fact, Scania makes a point of engaging concertedly with clients and clients’ clients in order to hone and perfect each service and each process enhancement.
This constant collaboration before, during and after sale consequently remains a foremost differentiator for the business across its flagship remit.
Holmstrom concludes: “We work hand-in-hand with clients to help them reduce their cost of operations. We have service contracts and with our fleet management system, we are also able to have discussions with our customers on how best to improve vehicle performance, and to maximise uptime. To complement all this, we also offer driver training and coaching for all our customers, where drivers are trained on how to be safe drivers, how to pick up on warning systems, and how to optimise a vehicle’s performance on the road.”
Leakey adds: “In the future, we certainly hope that we will have achieved our main objective which will include but is not limited to having Scania products as a household name in the East African Region. We also hope to have an impact on encouraging a more sustainable way of doing business in the transport sector.”