Laser technology research and development company Laser Measurement has adopted the name of its owner, level detection innovator K-TEK Corporation, after having been a subsidiary of the US corporation for a decade, and is now known as K-TEK Instruments.
The name change has come about after South African ultrasonic measurement company KAB was purchased by K-TEK Corporation. The two companies have since been placed under one name, K-TEK Instruments, and act as the South African operation of K-TEK Corporation, says K-TEK Instrument's MD James Portman.
At the time that Laser Measurement became a wholly owned subsidiary of K-TEK Corporation, the K-TEK brand was not well known in Africa. Laser Measurement therefore continued to operate under its own name, however, as the K-TEK brand became more established in Africa and with K-TEK Corporation's purchase of KAB, the K-TEK name was adopted, says Portman.
"K-TEK Corporation offered global distribution, sales and marketing systems and Laser Measurement offered its research and development into industrial laser applications in level control, a synergy of which the two companies have taken advantage," says Portman.
K-TEK Corporation has been a niche player in level applications in the oil, gas and petrochemicals industry, however, it has now begun to expand its range of products to take advantage of the growth in the demand for industrial applications of laser level control and measurement.
K-TEK Instruments, is responsible for manufacturing two product lines in South Africa and acts as the global corporation's African distributor. About 80% of what the subsidiary manufactures is exported to K-TEK Corporation branches around the world.
K-TEK Instruments' laser level control technology is derived from laser based distance measurement, upon which complex calculations are performed, says Portman.
Laser technology has been very successful in the past six or seven years. It has become a more widely accepted technology, driving product expansion in laser related markets. K-TEK Instruments is pursuing its own expansion and hopes to become a global player over the next few years, one that will offer products that cover a wider range of applications, notes Portman.
The last six months of 2008 saw K-TEK Instruments record bulk sales in the US, Europe and former Eastern Block countries, he says.
In the US and Southern European markets K-TEK Instruments focuses on the plastics and petrochemicals industry. The mining and materials handling sectors of Northern European and former Eastern Block countries have also provided contracts.
In the US, K-TEK Corporation was ranked the number one laser supplier for industrial purposes in the in 2008.
The Company's South African Market
Currently, the bulk of the subsidiary's products are single point measurement devices.
The majority of the individual electronic components used in the subsidiary's manufacturing processes are imported.
Assembly of the products takes place at the company's facility in Edenvale while some basic manufacturing is outsourced to other South African firms and the company's facility in China.
Portman enthuses that South Africa is K-TEK Instruments' key product base and the company's testing ground for new product development.
"South Africa has many industries within the primary and secondary sectors and this offers many markets within which to test K-TEK's products. The mining, plastics and petrochemicals markets within which K-TEK operates have all been tested in South Africa," says Portman.
Sub-Saharan Africa offers a harsh test environment and testing in such an environment produces complex and sophisticated products that are able to withstand difficult conditions, that require little maintenance and that are easily to install and use, says Portman.
The current economic climate has had little effect on K-TEK Instrument's business. The first quarter of 2009 will be the company's best quarter ever, reports Portman.
He attributes this growth to the extensive innovation in the company's products.
Innovation offers products with greater performance at the same cost, which maintains customer interest because customers must manage their own cash flows and save money where possible. Periods which are more money sensitive offer great opportunities to technologically innovative companies like K-TEK, explains Portman.
The company's business philosophy is to not use its potential turnover as the key driver of its performance, rather its performance is driven by its products' future potential. The more well received its new products are, the more successful the company and its future profits will be. Therefore, the company is continuously developing its product offering, says Portman.
Over the next two to three years the company will be introducing innovations in laser based control and survey technology that have not yet been defined under existing terminology, enthuses Portman.
K-TEK Instruments is developing product offerings that use lasers to measure the flow rate of bulk materials, such as a conveyor monitoring system, a two-dimensional (2D) system.
Advantages of such a laser based system are that the system does not need to come into contact with materials being monitored and can therefore be fitted to existing conveyor systems without having to shut down the facility. A system that does not use lasers, such as a weigh bridge, is more time consuming to retrofit into an existing facility.
Portman reports that the company is also investigating the use of three-dimensional (3D) scanning and image generation for performing live stock taking and stock management in large bulk material storage facilities. The system would determine the mass and volume of a stored material.
There is no current technology commercially available for measuring this environment, yet the commodity environment would benefit from such a system as it would make managing such bulk storage facilities, whose economics rely on accurate volume measurements against volatile prices, more economical, posits Portman.
He reports that demand for such 3D scanning technology, in the format of an intelligent networked array that could monitor complex shapes and piles of material in open or closed storage environments, is growing rapidly.
Therefore 2D and 3D monitoring systems will be the major products that K-TEK Instruments will make available to its existing markets.