The South African market continues to have unique applications for stainless steel band, buckle systems, preformed clamps, and cable tie products from Band-It, which means it continues to be an important growth area for the international OEM.
Visiting local Band-It distributor, Banding & Identification Solutions Africa at its Johannesburg head office recently, European Sales Manager Paul Clark paid tribute to the resourcefulness of the local company, which has successfully championed the Ultra-Lok® clamps as a perfect solution to the perennial problem of cable theft in South Africa.
Local sales representative Matthew Campbell explains that the beauty of Ultra-Lok® is that it streamlines the process of cable bundling, which are secured onto cable racks/trays with tamper-proof clamps that are difficult to remove. “The product gives our customers peace of mind that cable theft is no longer a viable proposition, due to how securely Ultra-Lok® clamps the cables.”
Clark says this is a perfect example of the customer-centric, innovative approach that drives Band-Its global response to the unique requirements of its diverse markets and broad customer specifications and applications.
“This cable security product represents a truly unique application for us. However, we took the decision to make a significant investment to resolve this specific requirement in the South African marketplace, and it has worked out really well for us,” Clark comments.
He adds that the product development team at the Band-It head office in Denver, Colorado in the US increasingly adopts a global approach. “Rather than developing a product for the US market, and then cascading it down through all of our territories, we now obtain feedback from the markets about their product-development needs. Band-It as a company is now far more integrated globally.”
Clark stresses it is critical for Band-It to obtain market intelligence from its global markets. “We engage actively with our distributors, such as Banding & Identification Solutions Africa. We then build a business case for the particular innovation in question, which includes investigating its applicability in diverse markets such as China. In this manner, we remain much more in tune with our customers throughout the world.”
Band-It prides itself on being able to design and manufacture a product for any clamping application. “We are able to achieve this level of customisation because we consult with the end user, as opposed to simply supplying a product from a catalogue. This makes us far more of an engineering solutions provider than a traditional OEM,” Campbell stresses.
Looking at the current state of the market for Band-It globally, Campbell says it has been affected due to the downturn in the oil & gas and petrochemical sectors, which account for the lion’s share of its revenue internationally. However, this is balanced out by growth in other sectors such as the automotive industry.
“We focus quite closely on three-to-five-year market forecasting, which takes into account cyclical trends. This allows us not only to put contingency measures in place, but also to keep tabs on our costing from a raw-material sourcing point of view which, in turn, impacts on our stockholding. Hence if the oil & gas sector, for example, experiences a downturn, we can focus our stockholding on other burgeoning sectors,” Clark highlights.
“This is why our well-established relationships with our global distributors are so important to us. We remain forward-thinking, positive, and are also on hand to offer our expertise and experience to all of our distributors. Being a global company, we can share our ideas and applications from all over the world, which helps the company grow on a global basis.
“For example, applications may differ quite considerably in the South African and US markets, but there are synergies that can be tapped into. From a global platform, that is ideal. I can also bring experts to South Africa from anywhere where we operate,” Clark stresses. Band-It has a major manufacturing presence in the UK that supplies Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Russia. “We also manufacture for our parent company in the US, and vice versa.”
Commenting on the latest international trends, Clark says that markets like Europe are looking increasingly to automation due to the high cost of labour. “We have an extensive range of automatic installation tools, which obviously represents a significant capital outlay, but the payback time is reduced vastly due to the increased productivity.”
For example, for a fencing project in Belgium, Band-It was able to supply tools that cut seven days from the total construction timeframe. Looking at major issues affecting the South African market, Clark cautions that inferior products from predominantly Asian countries are still flooding the local market.
“It is important that customers bear in mind that Band-It is a premium product that is well respected globally. Dealing with us, they can rest assured of the best customer service and technical back-up and support.” Clark adds that a distributor such as Banding & Identification Solutions Africa is well-versed in recommending the best products for the correct applications. “All of our distributors are offered the latest training and product information.”
Clark concludes that customers prefer to standardise on Band-It, as its products are manufactured in accordance with all of the relevant international specifications, which not only means the best quality possible, but also strict adherence to health and safety regulations.