Keep on trucking
Paramount Trailers have become market leaders by offering quality and customer service based on personal relationships with their clients
Writer Matt Bone
Project manager Ben Weaver
Established in 1997 and based South of Johannesburg, Paramount trailers is one of South Africa's leading manufacturers and refurbishers of commercial trailers. Their products range from Flat Deck to Bulk Feed trailers and they even offer specialised bespoke trailers for their clients. The business is family owned and operated, with founder and current CEO Fernando Marques and his son Warren, Managing Director since 2008, at the helm. Paramount have recently moved into a new 72,000 m² manufacturing facility. The company has over 200 employees and an on-site design department with engineers and designers, who are able to meet unique preferences, provide leading innovation and cost effective solutions to customers. Paulo Ribeiro, Financial Director of Paramount Trailers since 2010, has played an integral part in the success the company has seen in recent years. "I joined Paramount about 4 years ago and I have seen paramount grow from a SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) to a MLE (Medium to Large Enterprise) business over the last few years. During this same period our staff quantity has more than doubled."
A New Home
In 2011, Paramount purchased a plot of land 13km from their previous base of operations and began to lay the foundations on a R150 million manufacturing facility. Construction began in 2012, and was completed by the following August. The new custom built facility was four times as big as Paramount's original location and offered huge possibilities and potential for expansion. Ribeiro explains why this move materialised: "the need for new premises was born out of a need to consolidate our manufacturing facilities. The previous facility was managed over 2 streets in 6 separate workshops, so logistically speaking it was difficult to collate our activities and streamline production. The second reason was a simple one, with the business growing, we needed more space in order to facilitate our client's needs and ensure we met and maintained this growth. The move allowed us to stabilise and monitor our growth carefully."
The move to the new facility has indeed strengthened Paramount's customer base and has ensured they remain market leaders in the trailer manufacturing industry.
Ribeiro believes that the new facility has been a huge step in the right direction for them but has to be managed properly. "We wanted to implement processes properly and carefully when we opened our doors on the new site. We could easily have taken on 50 new projects and found ourselves snowed under with work, but we slowly built up our new projects until we found our optimum operating level. We have always maintained a core value of sustainability. Fernando Marques has always wanted the company to be sustainable and to ensure our workflow is never more than we can handle."
Cause and Effect
The South African economy has seen strong fluctuation over the last two years and industries in different sectors have all been affected. The mining industry, which is one of South Africa's biggest industries, was hit particularly hard during the financial crisis as well as industrial action and that in turn had an impact on Paramount's business as Ribeiro explains: "When the mining industry in South Africa had big problems during the recent financial troubles, it had an indirect impact on many businesses countrywide and our business too. With mining being such a huge part of the market and indeed South Africa's GDP, clients began to stop spending across a variety of markets and it is only very recently that we have seen an increase in sales from those particular clients."
Although Paramount was hit by the financial crisis, their customer base did not shrink as much as predicted due to the diversification of products being offered into new markets. the company pride themselves on having strong relationships with their customer base and even have some customers who have been trading with them since the company opened its doors in 1997. "Meeting expectations is very important to us. We create, nurture and manage all our customer and supplier relationships very carefully. It is very easy to destroy a relationship and you might not be able to get that back again. We always ensure that we stick by our word and deliver products and services on time. After all, where would we be without our customers?"
This philosophy has ensured that Paramount Trailers generate significant volumes of repeat business, retaining their position in the trailer manufacturing market.
Paramount Trailers work alongside a group of suppliers who they have forged tight knit and beneficial working relationships over the years. Ribeiro believes that a strong supply chain is one of the biggest assets to any manufacturing business. "Our suppliers are always loyal to us. we never look to import unless we cannot obtain a specialist item from one of these local suppliers. We want to ensure our partnerships and relationships with our suppliers last through the years. Some of our suppliers have been with us for 15 or more years and this shows that we are doing things right by them. They are our lifeblood and we intend to continue working with local companies as much as possible, it is good for us and good for the economy of South Africa as well."
"Maintaining our steady growth"
As new markets have become accessible and industries have grown, Paramount have expanded their trailer portfolio to include new models. The freight transportation system in Africa is growing and it is imperative that the companies within the industry can meet the demands of new transportation modes. In Africa, trucking is the most frequently used mode of transportation and continues to grow within the manufacturing and commodity sectors, despite investments in air and rail transportation. "It is imperative for us to understand the unique logistical requirements of every client and to be able to provide unmatched flexibility," states Ribeiro, making clear Paramount's unwavering customer focus.
Ribeiro is confident that Paramount can not only match, but exceed their clients' needs in every project: "We have highly trained employees and unsurpassed manufacturing experience, which allows us to always meet production schedules while allowing us flexibility of project parameters set by - and sometimes changed by- clients at the last minute. We will maintain the steady growth we have seen over the last year, but to do this we must continue to always be accessible to our clients."