Future is putty in their hands thanks to big R&D push

28 November 2018 | Web Article Number: ME201812900

Chemical & Allied Industries
Manufacturing
Plastics & Rubber

A concerted research and development (R&D) drive, combined with constant innovation, has paid off handsomely for South African manufacturer Pratley. The company not only plans to bolster its electrical and adhesive product ranges in 2019, but also to consolidate its growing mineral product range in a standalone division.

This is according to CEO Kim Pratley who, together with sons Andrew and Charles, celebrated the company’s 70th anniversary by replicating the memorable launch of Pratley Wondafix in 1985, standing underneath a 13-ton bulldozer suspended above their heads using a Wondafix adhesive joint.

“We are a reliable supplier of high-quality, trusted products, and we will continue to focus on that. It is what we are known for, and what our customers have come to expect from us,” Kim comments. This year saw Pratley launch a range of new products onto the market, from FrogzEggz hand-mouldable plastic, for both the arts and crafts and DIY markets, to TaperTech brass compression cable glands for all circular unarmoured cables, to Grolite expanded perlite for horticultural use.

“A lot of extensive R&D work over the years effectively came together in 2018, assisting us greatly with the most difficult economy that South Africa has seen in a very long time,” Kim added. He is particularly proud of the fact that Pratley has not had to retrench a single employee over this period, in addition to the fact that it continues to experience solid growth.

Kim attributes this mainly to Pratley’s diversification strategy, which has seen it develop a slew of products for many industries and markets. “Our fundamental strength lies in our diversity. We have been very fortunate in this respect. For example, in an economic downturn, industrial growth is curtailed. While this impacts on our electrical products, we then find that people tend to repair and fix more, so that tends to balance the business out as a whole.”

Next year will see Pratley officially unveil Phase 2 of its R&D drive, which will focus mainly on new product launches. In addition, the manufacturer plans a hi-tech automation upgrade of its factory. This follows on from its recent commissioning of a high-end electrical testing laboratory focusing on the IEC 60079 specification for hazardous environments in particular. In addition, it has also invested in state-of-the-art equipment for its adhesives R&D laboratory.

Other developments have focused on upgrading its in-house printing facilities and a new packaging line focused specifically on the export market. “In 2019, we will definitely see an aggressive push into new international markets,” Kim reveals. He points out that the extensive investment in its manufacturing and testing capabilities is aimed at making it more self-sufficient in a tough market.

“From a macroeconomic point of view, it is very difficult for management to plan ahead in such an environment, mainly due to the many socio-political uncertainties, and the associated economic impact both locally and globally. Our philosophy is to stick to our principle of manufacturing world-class products. Taken as a whole, and especially in terms of what we have achieved, 2018 was a good year for Pratley,” he said.

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