MD Marcus Schouten of Metabo South Africa, a division of the Metabo group of companies, says that the company has experienced significant growth in the sales of impact drills, hammers, and angle grinders over the past two years. Although he sees the worldwide demand for steel products as tapering off, he expects that the current demand for the commodity in South Africa will drive the com-pany’s sales to beyond 2014.
Metabo South Africa national sales manager Dietmar Bothner notes that, despite industry growth, the company still faces a number of challenges.
“The main challenge that we face is user training. Workers within the industry tend to overload the tools when using them. “The result of this is that the tools are not performing according to their maximum ratings, they do not last as long as they should, and worker safety is at stake when working with tools without the proper training,” says Bothner. Metabo South Africa has, however, put steps in place to overcome this challenge.
In 2004, the company began offering on-site operator training to clients in an effort to overcome the challenge of unskilled workers operating power tools. Bothner reports that the training is a one-day programme that covers issues such as operator safety and proper work procedures. At the end of the programme, operators are presented with certificates. In addition, clients are supplied with training DVDs. Companies are further supplied with operator manuals that encourage good practice when operating the power tools.
Bothner says that high staff turnover in the industry remains a challenge. While the company management tends to remain stable, the workers who will be operating the machines change frequently, resulting in an increased need for operator training.
Another challenge that Metabo South Africa has experienced is that of the weather. “Countries in Africa have a higher ambient temperature than in Europe, where the tools are made. Tools requiring an air system to cool down are tested to work in European conditions where the ambient temperature reaches between twenty- two degrees Celsius and twenty-five degrees Celsius during summer. These are then used in Africa where the temperatures during the summer months reach between twenty-six degrees Celsius and thrity-two degrees Celsius. “These machines are also used in the Middle East where the ambient temperature is even higher,” says Bothner. He adds that Metabo’s best-selling products, angle grinders, are tested in South Africa to assess their suitability to African conditions.
Schouten reports that the Metabo range of angle grinders is the company’s most popular range of tools in South Africa as well as internationally. “The angle grinders are our most popular product. This is mainly attributed to the fact that there will always be a need to cut steel, and the best way to cut steel is with an angle grinder. I think the fact that the angle grinders are tested to suit African conditions also makes our grinders popular,” says Schouten. Bothner adds that Metabo South Africa has spent a considerable amount of money developing a mechanical deadman switch that will be available on all Metabo angle grinders from October 2007. “Other companies have released angle grinders with a modified electrical dead switch. These switches put pressure on the brushers of the grinder as they reverse the electrical current. “These switches are effective but still leave the grinder running for at least five seconds when stopped. “The mechanical deadman switches on the Metabo angle grinders have been tested to three seconds, and are guaranteed for between 2 000 and 3 000 stops.”
Schouten is optimistic about achieving the future goals of Metabo South Africa, which involve maintaining and growing the company over the next two to four years. “This year’s growth has been as good as the previous two or three years’, and, hopefully, we will continue this,” says Schouten. He adds that the company also hopes to sustain its growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bothner concludes that Metabo South Africa is also hoping to make an impact in the higher ‘do-it-yourself’ tool market where Chinese products hold a significant market share.