Celebrating 21 years
This article was originally published in the August 2017 Edition of the Supply Chain Today Magazine
When Barpro Storage opened for business in Cape Town on 26th September 1996, South Africa was still very much “in transition”. Cold storage’s, as of 2017, still continuing super cycle would not start for another four years. Export markets were still depressed by South Africa’s prior pariah status. The Rand/Pound exchange rate continued to slide the wrong way for imported goods, even then down to over 20 to 1 as world opinion betted against a bright future. Sitting in the first-floor offices at the corner of Section and Shropshire streets in Paarden Eiland, with only a store-man for company, I missed my previous cold store manager’s job and spacious office at Auckland Cold Store just down the street.
With 34 Storax systems installed, mainly in Cape Town, my biggest fear was that the mobile racking market was already saturated. As the phone wasn’t exactly ringing itself off the hook, the future looked somewhat bleak and I suspected there might be more money in selling dried milk powder, a product inherited from Storax UK’s previous agent.
Fast forward to twenty-one years later. Barpro now occupies a 1200 square meter factory in Montague Gardens and has 30 employees including a branch office in Johannesburg. There are over 250 Storax systems in Southern Africa as well as a few on Mauritius and one in Melbourne, Australia.
While Barpro Storage hasn’t exactly blown the lights out, it has more than survived, which gives me a measure of wary confidence amidst the current uncertainties. There are many who deserve our appreciation. From Gert Wolfson, WW2 Mosquito pilot and Storax agent who originally saw the potential for Storax mobiles, to Peter Spears, with the exactitude of the UK automotive industry behind him, who had a hard time transforming me from a cold store to a business manager. As well as sympathetic bank managers, before they all seemed to disappear, there are the learning opportunities afforded by customers, ever helpful suppliers and competitors who will never, I trust, allow complacency to creep in.
Our business model is simple. We like to help. That means we not only enjoy designing Storax systems, but also like to look after them long after they have been installed. While most are for palletized products, we have one to store motorcars and others for wood, steels and other metal extrusions. So far, our oldest system operated for 23 years until the freezer store closed. Though it may sound corny, we see a contract as the start of an ongoing relationship, which may have its ups and downs, rather than a one night stand.
Initially our workshop was there to make spares. Accidents happen, but warehouses cannot afford to stop for six weeks until a new mobile wheel unit arrives from Europe. In emergencies no mechanical spare must take more than 48 hours to dispatch. Generally, we do better than this. Trouble was, although we needed the facility, there weren’t enough break downs to make it profitable, so we decided to make smaller Storax systems under license from our principal, Storax, which is based in the UK.
Barpro is now training CPUT technical students who are working on sites and wiring control panels. Mike Vermeulen, Barpro’s Technical Director, has, with his team, designed a new safety PE (photo electric) safety trip bar which has been approved by Storax and is assembled on the premises. Practical training is a critical requirement for South Africa. Barpro believes that anything made in Europe can, with the correct training, be made to the same standard here.
Globalization is all very well, but we cannot afford to be fundamental about it when unemployment rates are heading north of 40%. Industry has got to supply not just jobs but challenges which give confidence to South Africa’s youth.
I just wish that our Government would stop dictating how we must do business through endless BEE requirements. Far more would be achieved if they tended the playing field and let us get on with playing the game. My other gripe concerns some of South Africa’s larger conglomerates. Barpro lost a project even though we are, within all the constraints, employing and training local staff. It was made clear that the customer had no interest in such “philanthropy.” “Your European competitor was cheaper and that’s all that matters.” This is ironic as most of our staff frequent their stores. Yet there has been no interest on their part in seeing for themselves what Barpro has accomplished. This sort of attitude has got to change if South Africa wants to employ the youth it is spending so much to train and who, after all, are the future of this country.
Barpro Storage SA (Pty) Ltd was established in 1996 to market, install and maintain Storax mobile racking. Mobile racking can almost double the useable storage capacity of a warehouse or cold store while maintaining immediate access to every storage location.
Mobile racking consists of special rails which are laid into the cold store floor. The Storax mobile bases run on these rails and support the racking superstructure. These bases, which when loaded, can weigh over 300 tons, are electrically driven by energy efficient geared motors.
Barpro Storage now markets the Storax Ranger, the new and improved Shuttle system as well as other complimentary products to de-ice and repair freezer room floors. Barpro Storage is the African agent for the UK based Delf range of Freezer Wear.
For more details contact us on 021 552 9190 or 011 450 1075