Imperial Cargo auto electrician Benjamin Engelbrecht, who recently took top honours in Imperial Logistics’ Innovation Fund initiative, credits his childhood and early career with his recent success in winning the R50 000 first prize in this prestigious programme.

“I think my creativity began when I was a young boy. I always made toys from odd electrical components at home,” he states. Years later, Benjamin helped his boss’s son with a school project, and created a bedside lamp using just a Perspex pipe, a light bulb and an old truck oil filter. His brilliant Imperial Innovation Fund idea was for a new and improved female trailer plug that will prevent the electric loom from falling out. He calls it the “Perma-plug”.

Benjamin explains the concept: “The electric loom supplies power from the truck to the trailer. The current design of the female plug on the trailer features a locking mechanism that can sometimes pull out as the wires stretch. My innovation has a highly effective clamp mechanism that is completely different, to hold the plug in place more efficiently.” In addition, Benjamin incorporated LED lights into the design, so that the plug can serve as an emergency beacon during vehicle breakdowns.

His extensive experience, gained over the 27 years in the trucking industry, has helped him to solve many industry related problems, Benjamin says, and adds that his ingenious new trailer female plug is no exception. “My goal with this solution was to improve the durability of this essential component. The design is not in production yet. I have spent the last couple of months doing research, with the aim of expanding the idea into the public motor vehicle industry.”

“Innovation to me means seeking to improve on an old idea and looking at new ways to solve old problems in a more effective, cost efficient manner. I would like to thank Imperial Logistics for the great opportunity afforded to me by the Imperial Innovation Fund, which is a wonderful platform for individuals to express their innovativeness. As for the prize money, I reinvested some of it in the Perma-plug, using it to for research and to redesign the plug with the LED lights,” Benjamin reveals. “The rest of the money I have put in a trust to enable my children to gain a tertiary education.”

Benjamin works at Imperial Cargo, in Paarl, in the Western Cape. He and his wife of 17 years have three children. “My family inspires me every day and gives me the courage to deliver my best,” he says.

The Imperial Innovation Fund is an Imperial Logistics programme that enables creative employees to submit ideas that can contribute to the business’s continued success. The winning submissions receive funding that can help their creators to develop and commercialise their designs. Submissions are judged according to criteria that include whether the idea, method or product is new; whether it can provide a competitive advantage in business; whether it creates value for which customers will pay; and whether the idea satisfies a specific need. Entrants must also submit a business case, with costs that will result in financial gain through their innovation.

“There is nothing like Benjamin’s ‘Perma-plug’ on the market, and he must be commended on an outstanding idea that has the potential to enhance safety in the transport industry,” comments Imperial Logistics technical executive Francois Ehlers.