Tailored safety innovations
MSA Africa spend countless hours developing, testing and evaluating their products rigorously, to ensure they meet a very high standard
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Tom Cullum
MSA are an organisation fully committed to protecting the health and safety of their customers. The company spend countless hours developing, testing and evaluating their products rigorously, to ensure they meet a very high standard. Founded in 1914, MSA has grown from humble beginnings to become an internationally recognised brand, with more than 5,300 employees across the world, protecting workers in more than 140 countries through their expansive product range of over 15,000 products. "We've never forgotten who we are, or who we work for: our customers. Their satisfaction and safety are our top goals every day," says Colin Oliver, Managing Director of MSA Africa. The company took root in Africa in 1940, making these operations the impressive age of 74 this year. "We have stood the test of time and retained our market position where others may have struggled. This year we are looking at 600 million rand revenue," cites Oliver. The MSA Africa footprint covers the majority of the African continent through either branches or partners, strategically placed across the continent for the ease of access to their services and products. Zooming in on the African operations, MSA have a reputation as the premier technology safety equipment provider in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company sell over 5000 products to the African market, 20 percent of which are manufactured in South Africa. This includes gas detection devices, head protection and a wide variety of respiratory equipment from full face masks to disposable ones. New mineral and resource discoveries have meant the company have seen great success from geographically positioning themselves within the local vicinity, in order to secure new business.
"Our products and services are of an extremely high quality and we implement high standards through all of our practices. Focussing on the technology aspect of our products means we are able to produce top of the range hi-tech equipment for the mining and petroleum and gas sectors," explains Oliver. Furthermore, the company cover all major industries in Africa including construction, military, law enforcement and many other sectors. MSA's biggest market however, is the mining and petroleum industry which provides 70 percent of their business in Africa.
"We are in a growth sector"
The mining industry is booming, and this is coupled with a greater emphasis on safety becoming ever-more paramount to both the wellbeing of staff and reducing operating costs to improve efficiency. "We are in a growth sector for these well-known reasons, one of which is because Africa has many underground resources still untapped. However, there will always be cost pressures because of the nature of the industry. Over the last 18 months, market softness has led to challenges such as wage issues and industrial actions, but whilst we cannot directly address this we can make working conditions safer which is half the battle," highlights Oliver. MSA's products for the mining industry are focussed on reducing operating costs for a more efficient mining operation.
The company tailor their innovations by investing heavily in R&D specific to a customer's needs, to help them meet their individual needs and objectives whilst also meeting their own. "It is a win-win situation and we will continue to focus on this. We need to stay abreast of what the customer's needs are and incorporate those needs into new product innovations to come out on top," he adds.
Dynamic Customer Expectations
Oliver explained two key challenges for MSA Africa in his interview: "Firstly, Africa has a very dynamic and fluctuating set of customer expectations, where requirements and demands change very rapidly. Therefore, we have to package our product solutions in a way that we can ensure the successful delivery of customer requirements." Secondly is the well-known issue of counterfeit products circulating in Africa. "MSA is a reputable global brand. We do not want to dilute the brand that we have fought very hard to create in Africa. As such, we have no quibble with recalling a product if there is a problem; we are a company all about maintaining integrity. We spent millions making sure that our customers are safe, so it is important that we have a trusting relationship with our customer, no matter where they are in Africa or even the world," Oliver emphasised.
MSA have adopted a somewhat unique process when delivering on their products. They send qualified members of staff to provide product training to the end users, tailoring their service to the individual. This is particularly effective in the gas and petroleum sector in the western Gulf of Africa, where the company often send staff for weeks at a time to provide technical support and services. Even with this exemplary level of service, Colin Oliver still strives to improve MSA's customer-end-user experience: "This is a global project, but we have tailored our solutions for specific geographical areas in Africa and we have taken measures to ensure that we drive our customer improvement strategy."
"We would rather walk away from a deal than compromise on integrity and ethics"
Oliver states that first and foremost, MSA are a business that thrives on their quality of both the product ranges and the level of customer service the company provide: "We have been very successful in coming up with innovative new products and bringing them to market. Furthermore, we will continue to remain close to our end users to understand their changing needs and adjust our services and product market accordingly." MSA Africa have just received an award for best local content development OEM partner award in Nigeria from Secretary General – Nigeria Local Content Board, Mr Ernst Mwapa. The award solidifies all the hard work amidst the challenges MSA Africa face, empowering the company and their development of local content as a local business.
From a global perspective, MSA have proven over their many decades of operation that they are excellent at developing innovative products and launching them on a continual basis. MSA Africa are clearly well positioned to face the challenges in the safety industry, providing for the workers as well as the sector as a whole. "Africa remains a growth potential area on a global basis. MSA Africa is a business that has stood the test of time, customers can depend on the MSA brand for support in all their safety products and service needs," concludes Oliver.