South African amenities manufacturing company The Bespoke Amenities Company (TBAC) is striving to be an example of what is possible, if local companies are willing to invest in local manufacturing capabilities, states TBAC MD Bruce Turner.
The company was registered in 2012 and started trading in mid-2013. Prior to this, Turner had been working at a retail company which supplied imported hospitality and cosmetic products.
It was during his time at that company that he discovered that there was a “clear gap” between the type of products that were being imported from Europe and Asia and what was being produced locally.
“I felt that we could produce these kinds of [products] locally in a globally cost-competitive fashion and at the same or even a higher quality standard,” he tells Engineering News.
In addition to this, Turner wanted to ensure that he could create as many jobs as possible, which is one of the main reasons that TBAC’s factory in Kya Sands, in Johannesburg, uses labour-intensive processes, with automated applications kept to a minimum. He highlights that, despite this, the company has been able to keep its production costs per unit low.
The company currently has 110 employees, which will be increased to about 150 by the end of 2018. In general, the people that come to work at the company’s factory are unskilled and receive training to operate equipment or perform particular tasks.
“We believe that it is very important to provide people with skills and training, as it is very empowering for people to learn new skills, which will stand them in good stead for their future career development,” Turner elaborates.
Moreover, he says, contrary to some perceptions, he has found that South African factory workers have high levels of productivity. Turner surmises that a possible reason for this is that the legacy issues that workers and employees have in other sectors, such as mining, steel and construction, are not as stark, which assists in building genuine partnerships between management and labour for the good of the business.
Turner remarks that the manufacturing sector offers great potential to create jobs and address South Africa’s 27.7% unemployment rate. “I do not see another way in which South Africa can create jobs,” he says.
Turner believes that the biggest barrier to people manufacturing locally is their reluctance to try, with many having already conceded that it is just not possible, owing to operating challenges, such as high input costs, a lack of skills and labour instability.
He says his hope is that, through TBAC’s continued success, it will be able to disprove the sceptics and thereby showcase that there are “substantial opportunities” for the local manufacturing sector.
Further, Turner points out that there is also a perception that South Africa lacks skilled engineering service providers to cater to the needs of manufacturers. “This is also blatantly false.” He notes that, if a piece of equipment needs to be repaired or new parts are required, inevitably there is a company within a few kilometres of the factory that can provide cost-effective, high - quality assistance.
Moreover, Turner comments that, when the company first started manufacturing soap, all the moulds it used were manufactured in China. Currently, though, TBAC’s moulds are made by a local company, at less than the price for the imported ones and delivered in less than half the time, he highlights.
“There are pockets of real excellence in engineering and manufacturing throughout South Africa and it is just a case of getting it all together to ensure we unlock the country’s full potential in the sector,” he states.
TBAC is currently undergoing ISO 9001 accreditation for quality and ISO 22716 accreditation for the production, control, storage and shipment of cosmetic products. The company’s first final audit for these accreditations is scheduled for November.
The company has an internal quality assurance department, with the formulation development being outsourced to formulation specialists who have all helped in the development of about 100 product line variations, which include shampoo, soap, body lotion, bath salts, room sprays and insect repellent.
“We manufacture all our liquid products from raw materials, using locally sourced materials wherever possible,” Turner states. He says that this is true of all its product lines, as it is continually striving to use locally sourced materials for its products and has even successfully worked with a number of companies to develop these materials locally to reduce the need to import items and thereby also provide support for local upstream industries.
In addition to the range of guest amenities TBAC produces, the company also manufactures slippers, shower caps and shoe mitts.
The business offers off-the-shelf product lines and bespoke individually branded ranges as well. “Typically, we provide our customers with small products averaging 30 mℓ to 40 mℓ in size, which comprises about 40% of our sales,” says Turner.