Leading truck and trailer building company Serco has seen the first part of 2019 face tough economic challenges and now with the elections out of the way, business trends are improving and this improvement will continue to the end of the year.
This is according to Serco’s managing director Clinton Holcroft, who says among key issues for the impressive performance are the heightened focus on in-house quality checks and training to improve processes and discipline in the workforce. Added to this, Serco had invested substantially in machinery and equipment to keep the company abreast with new trends and to meet – and sometimes beat – global standards.
“I also attribute a large part of our success to the company’s innovative Protec Steel refrigerated trailers,” said Holcroft. “People in the industry continue to be impressed with the finish of the coated steel panels and they also like the rice grain aluminium floor. Other features include fully welded aluminium scuffs which create a durable, waterproof and high strength structure, and new door seals made of an extended rubber material, providing an excellent thermal bridge preventing the leakage of cold air.’
He cautioned that trading conditions remained challenging but felt optimism was growing as a result of improvements in the political arena which were helping economic growth.
Among the biggest challenges currently was that due to the stagnant market there was a high level of competition making it more difficult to reach targets.
Holcroft said the volatility of the rand and the slow economy had impacted on business. “Serco does source some components from overseas and the volatile rand makes it challenging to control costs. However, we continue to look for ways to improve cost savings ensuring our customer always get great value.
“Vital to profitable manufacturing right now are training and process discipline to improve product quality and reduce waste. We strive to ensure the job is done correctly the first time ensuring minimal wastage.”
Turing specifically to the refrigerated vehicles sector, Holcroft said there was a growing demand for more durable products, reducing lifecycle costs and improving thermal performance to raise cold chain standards.
“A key issue is that customers are keen to improve the thermal performance of their refrigerated trucks and trailers. Our revolutionary foam technique for the manufacture of vehicle panels has resulted in a more than 20% improvement in thermal performance against our previous products.
“Added to this we offer state-of-the-art temperature monitoring solutions in our vehicles, making it possible for different products to be transported in the same vehicles at different temperatures using moveable partitions to separate the zones. Having a web-based temperature monitoring system allows customers to monitor multiple temperatures in a vehicle via the internet and be in a position to take instant action should temperatures vary from what is required.”
In the area of doing business in neighbouring African countries, Holcroft said it was the company’s
long term objective to grow that sector but unfortunately the economy in Africa was being hampered by slow growth and volatility. “We increase awareness and exposure by participating in Expos which attract representatives from foreign countries. In September we will participate in the Automechanika and Futuroad shows to boost exposure.
“We are certainly keen to grow at a faster pace in neighbouring African countries but finding suitable skilled staff in the trade and the high cost to transport kits cross border are challenges we are working on to grow our business there.
“However, our cross border business is increasing. We recently fitted insulated bodies on Tata chassis for Golden Lay Ltd in Zambia which distributes table eggs throughout the region.”
Holcroft said being up to speed with cutting-edge technology and being innovative were vital to ensure customers were being offered the very best available.
“Innovation helps solve challenges for clients and contributes to improved performance. The three- piece sliding curtain to control cold air escaping in our refrigerated trucks and the aluminium light weight refrigerated trailer which helps increase payloads significantly, are some examples offered.”
Serco managing director Clinton Holcroft