A South African distributor of US-based construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar’s products, Barloworld Equipment, turns 90 years old this year – a milestone set in place in 1927 when Charles ‘Punch’ Barlow built a lasting relationship with Caterpillar.
Both companies were popularised in South Africa after Barlow won a bet with a sugar farmer that a Caterpillar tractor would outplough the farmer’s span of oxen.
The Barloworld group has been listed on the JSE for 75 years and Barloworld Equipment is currently one of the 20 South African companies in the Dow Jones Sustainability Emerging Markets Index.
Barloworld Equipment Southern Africa CEO Emmy Leeka attributes much of the company’s success to the partnership it has with Caterpillar. “Both of us are now global brands and Barloworld Equipment is very proud to be one of the world’s leading Caterpillar dealers.”
Caterpillar district manager Chris Monge says the Caterpillar brand takes pride in helping to enable the development of the physical infrastructure that builds the power of South Africa and the rest of the continent in the global economy.
Barlow transformed the potential of the company that his father, Major Ernest Barlow, had founded in 1902, when it began operating out of two small rented rooms in Durban with borrowed working capital of £1 000. The company’s contributions to developing South Africa’s industrial potential and economy were recognised by former President Nelson Mandela when he spoke at the company’s centenary celebrations in 2002. Mandela noted how the Caterpillars introduced by Barlow had become “the builders of our economy”, as they helped “create the magnificent road network that connects places and people, to build dams for fresh water and to construct harbours and airports to open up South Africa to the rest of the world”.
Leeka believes that Barloworld Equipment is distinguished by the combination of its credibility, soundly based on its long- standing heritage. This is delivered through its forward-looking mission, which seeks out innovative solutions so that the company’s staff can provide exceptional customer performance.
He believes the wealth of expertise accrued through Barloworld Equipment’s long-standing partnership with Caterpillar is passed on through several joint training projects, such as Technicians for Africa, which aims to address the continent’s shortage of technicians. Through this programme, disadvantaged would-be technicians are given the opportunity to study towards a qualification as a Caterpillar-certified technician through a free online course.
Barloworld Equipment also trains almost 1 000 people a month at its technical academy in Isando. “This is an investment in our future, our communities and our country,” Leeka says.
Further, a unique investment in Barloworld Equipment’s future is the adoption of its 40/20 strategy, which is being rolled out through various initiatives, such as the Women in Leadership Development Programme and the Graduate Development Programme. The 40/20 strategy plans to boost representation by women in Barloworld Equipment to 40% by 2020. This involves attracting young women into mainly mechanical engineering and artisanship positions, which are critical skills for anyone interested in working with complex earthmoving machines that Barloworld Equipment supplies to the mining and construction industries.
The 40/20 strategy aligns with Barloworld Equipment’s Vision 2020, which includes the company’s goal of becoming the world’s leading Caterpillar dealer.
Barloworld Equipment is the official dealer for Caterpillar earthmoving equipment in 11 Southern African countries and also operates in Europe, where the company fully owns the main Caterpillar dealership on the Iberian Peninsula, in Siberia, in Eastern Russia, under the name Vostochnaya Technika.