Within the world of automation and industrial technologies, international industry leader, Festo, has garnered a loyal following among South African consumers. Since its launch in South Africa over 43 years ago, Festo has committed itself to remaining at the forefront of technological advancements, providing services that simplify processes and add value to its customers. Festo’s unique role in the technological sector has ensured that global tools and expertise find their way into South Africa’s developing technological market.
In response to the overwhelming demand from the technology industry for increased technical application awareness, Festo has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing customer interaction, by investing over R5 million in customer-facing sales resources, this year. This move has allowed for a massive 20% growth of their national sales force. Additionally, customers are now able to access products through a wider distribution network. This expanded distribution network provides Festo customers with more choice and significantly increased convenience when accessing the latest product applications and technical solutions.
According to Brett Wallace, Managing Director for Festo South Africa, South Africa’s technology sector is troubled by a lack of technical product knowledge and application awareness:
“South Africa’s technology sector is an integral component of South Africa’s economic future but we have a highly reactive product market. Customers find it difficult to keep abreast of the latest technologies, energy and cost-saving-technologies and innovations. This often means that those working on the shop floor are insufficiently aware of whether or not there are superior, more cost-effective-alternatives available and tend to replace like with like. This tendency, born through technological ignorance, can at times greatly increase company overheads and delay growth within industry. We believe that by spending more time with our customers, we can empower them to make informed, independent and value contributing decisions.”
Festo’s investment initiative brings a much needed boost of confidence to South Africa’s manufacturing sector, contributing 13% of GDP. Despite being the second largest economy on the continent, and the most mature, South Africa only ranked ninth in September’s Nielsen African Prospect Index. While other international companies have hedged their investment in the economy, many taking a-wait-and-see-approach, Festo has committed itself to supporting Africa’s economic and technological future. Wallace see’s the strength of the technological future to be found in an increasing shift in the adaptability of customers:
“When you have a company like Festo that focusses on dynamically evolving market needs, coupled with the prioritisation of customer learning, it injects confidence into the market, enabling a propensity toward increased productivity. For our company and our customers, change is not the event, it is the process, which means that technologically aware customers evolve with us and with the market.”
While South Africa has one of the most advanced technological infrastructures on the continent, vast disparities continue to exist within the country itself, often leading to a mismanagement and lack of awareness of technological resources, tools and opportunities. In light of this, Festo has not only financially committed to the sector but has also ensured the advancement of work-place competence and skills awareness through sector-wide industrial training and education programmes.
“From a training-needs perspective, we are the only company in the industry to offer long-term training that specifically targets the needs of industry and more importantly, our customers. Through our Festo Didactic Learning Systems and Training Centres, we continue to address the crucial gap in tertiary education so that artisans, technicians and engineers are confident, skilled and capable of fully utilising current automation technology.”
For Wallace, the crucial role of the technology sector cannot be overstated.
“Without a combination of new industrial technologies and importantly, skilled users, the technology sector is at risk of falling even further behind global developments. As such, we have committed ourselves to supporting South Africa’s economy the best way we know how; through not only the supply of superior technological products, but through creating the landscape to ensure people know how to use them. We live in a globally competitive market, dominated by innovation and technology; unless we ensure we meet international standards, our economy will never reach its true potential.”