With the impending retirement of outgoing HellermannTyton South Africa Managing Director, Rod Dewing, changes have been made to ensure that the company continues to prosper. Claude Middleton has been announced as the new MD – previously Director: Sales and Marketing – and Gerhard van Rooyen – previously Director: Finance – is the new Director: Finance and Operations. “Although there are changes at the top, we are still HellermannTyton, and will continue giving customers the same quality product and the same service levels they have come to expect,” says Middleton.
With a combined 17 years at the company, Middleton and van Rooyen’s appointments are in keeping with the global HellermannTyton ethos of promoting from within. This practice reinforces continuity by promoting staff who understand how HellermannTyton operates and know the business methods and what the HellermannTyton brand stands for. “Gerhard and I have been here long enough to become entrenched in the HellermannTyton brand and we will ensure that we build on the traditions of the company,” he says.
Middleton will still be responsible for the sales and marketing function, along with product and quality management; van Rooyen meanwhile will, along with finance, IT and administration, oversee the operations side of the business, including manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, supply chain and human resources.
Despite losing a man of Dewing’s vast experience, the new management duo believes they are up to the task, and have learnt many lessons from the outgoing MD. “The business is 52 years old and Rod has been involved for half of that time, so he has been instrumental in the growth of the business along with setting up the world-class production facility we have here,” says van Rooyen. “From a culture aspect, he had a people-orientated way of leading. He always put people first and that legacy will remain with the business for quite some time.”
Middleton agrees, “Rod had an open door policy, which is rare in businesses of this size, and would not make a decision without first consulting people, yet once a decision was made, Rod was very firm and committed. He oversaw the company’s move from smaller beginnings in Johannesburg to Linbro Park where we have since doubled the facility, and he has been instrumental in growing the company to the point where we now manufacture and supply products into other parts of the world.”
When asked about Dewing’s plans for the future, Middleton laughs and responds, “Lowering his golf handicap! I think initially he will take a bit of a rest; running an operation like this, and considering the diversity of business – from supplying insulation tape which goes into the electrical industry to automotive mould tools which supply products for the S-Class Mercedes Benz – there are well over 5 000 product lines, so the job does take a lot of effort and focus.”
“In his words, he owes his family a lot of time,” notes van Rooyen, pointing out that after 26-odd years with a business you do not simply cut ties. “He will still be available for a chat, and despite the ‘changing of the guard’ becoming official on January 1st of this year, Rod is here until the end of March. When he walks away, having invested so much time in the company, he will want to know he has left a stable company in the right hands.”
The road ahead for HellermannTyton
The new management duo want to ensure that the company’s brand and products remain number one in the chosen markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, and also want to grow the product offering into renewable energy. “We see that as a key growth area, along with the engineering division we acquired three years ago,” says Middleton. Focus will be placed on the plastic injection tool design and manufacturing division of the business where custom moulding has been identified as a possible growth area. “We all know that the economy is not where it should be, so if there’s no growth you have to go and find it and diversification is key,” states van Rooyen. With this in mind, being solutions-based, as opposed to product-based is imperative.
“We want to gear the business towards providing solutions, whereby we help with the design of product, as well as the manufacture; providing a total solution for clients,” he says. Middleton notes that with times being tougher, HellermannTyton is aiming to provide a better, faster and smarter solution. “As we are part of the global HellermannTyton group, we have the strength of the group behind us, which gives us access to global design teams and software, so although we can provide a local solution, it is with the backing of a large global team.”
Challenges to overcome
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is Eskom and, apart from other obvious risks, we are a player in the electrical industry. If your only electricity supplier fails, that is a problem,” says van Rooyen. “You can try to mitigate it as far as possible,” continues Middleton, “but if there is no electricity, the electrical market will not grow. As we have mentioned, we are diversifying, however, our roots are still strongly based in the classic electrical market in South Africa – it’s our core income stream. Eskom’s failures and load shedding have an immediate and very direct impact on the company due to the fact that we are a local manufacturer.” The pair still feels positive about the future, however. “Despite Eskom and some of the political challenges the country faces, the positive is that with a small amount of effort we have a lot of turnaround potential in South Africa,” explains Middleton.
“We are rich in natural resources, we have good work ethics, we have skilled people and we have quality manufacturing in the country. It is not as if we have to build all that – it exists. With some key focuses, I think the potential for a quick turnaround is there,” Van Rooyen agrees; “The signs are that things are about to change.”
Despite the changes internally at HellermannTyton, it is clear that the new management team in charge of the company is ready to drive the company forward by leading by example. “I have always prided myself on being an enabler and being inclusive, and that style will continue in my management,” says Middleton. “Although management leads by example, you cannot do everything and need to offer an environment where people can flourish. With Gerhard and me at the helm, it is still the same HellermannTyton people have come to trust.”