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NORTH AMERICAN NEWS


important factor in business success. The recession that most of the world felt in 2008 also struck


South Africa. “It has been a tough market. By the end of 2010 we were in recovery, but not back to what we had in 2007.” Inside calls dominate sales - UPL currently has no reps on the road. Simes finds low employee turnover: “Most of the UPL staff have been here longer than I have.” Computerization is limited in the South African market in


terms of online purchasing. Simes knows of only a few of his distributor customers using barcoding. Development of UPL Group goes back to 1929 when Gordon Webster founded Gordon Webster & Company (PTY) Ltd - a distributorship for various fixtures and fittings. Unbrako bought the Webster


company in 1966 and changed its name to Unbrako (Pty) Ltd. In 1985 some university-based owners from the U.S. protested the Unbrako ownership of an African company during apartheid. In 1986 Edward Simes bought the


company from Unbrako and changed the name to UPL. Simes’ father had been with National Bolts and was


commissioned to open National Socket Screws as its socket screw division. He was then offered the position of managing director at Unbrako South Africa. The market was dominated by National Socket Screws and Unbrako, the only two companies allowed by the government to import fasteners. “Those were the good days,” Simes recalled. Now many distributors can import directly through clearing agents creating more competition for master distributors. In 1987, Edward Simes opened Minox to import and supply


stainless steel and in 1999 he opened Socketex with sole distribution rights of the Taiwanese produced YFS product. In 2010 all the companies were merged into the UPL Group with branches in Durbin, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The second-generation brothers each started in warehouse


jobs and since their father retired in 2009 they now share management duties at the headquarters in a business/industrial park in suburban Johannesburg. UPL imports 100% of its fasteners – primarily from the Far


East, including India and Malaysia. UPL represents Unbrako for some applications such as heavy machinery where “life and death” is an issue, Simes explained. Otherwise U.S. and European fasteners are generally too expensive for the African market. Simes and his father attended Fastener Fair Stuttgart in 2007 and anticipates going to Fastener Fair India 2013. “We are getting very good fasteners and prices from India,” Simes explained. The Simes brothers attended a fastener show in China this year.


Distributor: Recession ups price pressure “The competition has become more price intense since the


recession,” Daneel Herselman observed of the current South African fastener industry. Herselman, general manager of the Boltfast seven-branch distributorship based in Cape Town, finds more competition with smaller, new distributors opening. “It has a quick impact on the market with their low operating cost,”


Herselman said in an interview with GlobalFastenerNews.com at the Cape Town headquarters. “But they can’t always maintain those lower prices.” Boltfast seeks to “provide solutions, not just a quick buck,”


Herselman added. A key to Boltfast’s success has been “expertise and focus on services. We have stock available with one stop shipping.” Many South African distributors – known locally as ‘stockists’ – “fear keeping too much stock,” Herselman finds. Boltfast’s fasteners


primarily come from Taiwan or China. There are a limited amount from Europe and the United States. Today two-thirds of Boltfast sales are to end users, including


manufacturing, mining, boating and marine OEMs. Boltfast’s specialties include stainless steel fasteners. Boltfast was acquired by a publicly held agriculture-based


company, Overberg Agri Ltd., in 2007. Herselman came to Boltfast from Overberg. He started as Boltfast’s finance manager in 2007 and last year became general manager. The South African native’s background is accounting – including working for Deloitte & Touche – rather than fasteners. Now Herselman says he likes the fastener industry. “You can’t live without a fastener,” he explained his realization of why he has grown interested in the industry.


• South Africa has imposed anti-dumping duties on bolts, nuts and set screws, Herselman noted.


• Boltfast is accredited by the South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS). “Unfortunately, there is not a government body for quality,” Herselman said. There is a Consumer Product Act, but it involves OEM customers more than fastener suppliers.


Though Boltfast is looking into options to provide barcoding,


“there is no barcoding yet,” in the country’s fastener industry, Herselman said. Operations manager Shawn Duncan noted the purchasing and accounting departments have full control systems. “We are going green,” Duncan said of new invoices with


barcoding. Herselman noted most sales are by faxes or emails. Boltfast has outside sales reps and two “well-qualified quality


technicians” who also provide technical assistance and training. More than 75% of Boltfast’s 250+ employees have been with the distributor more than 25 years. Herselman said Boltfast hires primarily through HR agencies, “though with low turnover we don’t have many vacancies.” When there are openings, Duncan noted Boltfast prefers to promote current employees to “grow within.” Boltfast contributes to a compulsory pension fund, medical insurance and the required unemployment insurance fund. Across the street in the warehouse neighborhood is Boltfast’s


internal plating facility. Boltfast provides galvanizing, yellow zinc plating and black oxidizing primarily for its own fasteners. Boltfast stocks 24,000 items including stainless steel, brass, high tensile, mid steel, socket head fasteners and roofing & fastening systems.


30 Fastener + Fixing Magazine • Issue 71 September 2011


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