On a firm footing
Keeping up to date with aesthetics and technology
THEY’RE NOT DESIGNED FOR running, board meetings or energetic walks up Table Mountain, but rigid, steel-toed boots and shoes have certainly got a place in the market, particularly from within the swelling ranks of workers who are helping SA gear up its infrastructure ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
It’s common knowledge that Govern- ment’s ambitious spending plans, which will ultimately amount to expenditure of about R400bn over the next five years, will provide a fillip for the construction and engineering sectors. So it’s not a major stretch to infer that some of that will accrue to downstream companies such as KAP International subsidiaries United Fram and Wayne Plastics, which adhere to the credo that an army of engineers marches with its feet.
Jeffrey Burland, MD of both companies, is enthusiastic about market prospects: “Our key markets, in the form of the industrial, mining and engineering sectors, are experiencing a serious growth cycle, and demand for our products is following suit. Together, United Fram and Wayne Plastics produced and sold 2,9m pairs of footwear in 2006, a 16% growth on 2005 levels. This represents by far the major market share.”
Acquired in 2002 by KAP International from then-SAB subsidiary Conshu, the companies’ product ranges extend to injection moulded leather, vulcanised rubber boots and shoes, used in a variety of diverse industries including mining, petrochemicals, engi- neering, construction, security, forestry and defence. All are produced at their Johannesburg-based, ISO 9001-accredited factories.
United Fram’s popular Egoli and Inyati brands are already used extensively in deep-level mining operations in SA, and the company is actively looking to further extend its market penetration by adding extra capacity in the form of larger premises and investment in machinery.
At Wayne Plastics, meanwhile, Burland says export orders for the PVC gumboots it produces are also climbing and now represent almost 20% of turnover. “We are having trouble keeping up with the orders. Our boots are currently shipped to 15 countries
Ultimately, the footwear should be designed to work
worldwide, with heavy duty water-, chemical- and oil-resistant safety boots sold into the mining industry, and general purpose and specialist gumboots used in applications such as food harvesting, agriculture and food processing.”
He says both companies are currently in the process of upgrading their product ranges and equipment. Planned capacity expansion at Wayne Plastics should make the company one of the largest gumboot manufacturers in the world.
However, the focus is not only on numbers, but also on keeping up to date with aesthetics and technology – providing workforces with greater comfort and protection for their feet. “Ultimately, the footwear should be designed to work with feet – not the other way around,” says Burland.
In keeping with the above, the companies’ competitive selling point is consistently about the quality of their products. Says Burland: “We’re always thinking safety.
“Whether it’s a gumboot or leather shoe, steel or plastic, our shoe is reinforced and sturdy. Our factories carry the stamp of approval of the SA Bureau of Standards and are aligned to standards laid down by the Europeans, Australians and Canadians. Ultimately, you’re only as good as your latest pair of boots.”
Enthusiastic about market prospects.