Leading South African truck and trailer building company Serco aims to achieve moderate growth in 2020 after increasing its market share during the past year.

This is according to CEO Clinton Holcroft who says Serco will continue to prioritise initiatives to minimise its impact on the environment – an area growing in importance in the transport industry in South Africa and one in which the company performs exceptionally well, an example being the recent installation of 1,029 solar panels on the roof of its Durban factory.

“We began 2019 with a strong order book which was a carry over from a good previous 12 months,’’ said Holcroft. “The positive start stalled somewhat as business confidence waned and customers started putting on the brakes in the area of new vehicle purchases.

“Business improved in the later part of the year, with the festive season demand resulting in retailers needing more vehicles to handle growing volumes, but we expect a slow start to the first quarter of next year.”

Holcroft said his company was up for the challenge of helping grow the local economy. “As a proudly South African manufacturer we have boosted employment over the past four years through increasing market share and keeping global imports down with a stringent cost focus and efficiency improvements.

“We intend to continue offering great value and innovations to customers, such as our captive load securing solution recently introduced on SPAR and Shoprite trucks which has the potential to assist in significantly reducing losses suffered through product damage during transit,” he said.

A definite highlight of 2019 was being the KwaZulu-Natal regional winner in the Corporate Sector of the 2019 Productivity Awards competition which aims to inspire a competitive and productive South Africa, promote productivity across all the country’s industries, and raise awareness about the role of productivity in growing and strengthening the economy.

“The win confirmed Serco has made great strides in terms of our manufacturing process and productivity improvements,” said Holcroft.

“Another highlight was the gold certificate we won in the Innovation Awards competition held during the Automechanika Trade Fair in Johannesburg which we viewed as a reward for our determination to give customers the edge by continually raising the standard of the thermal performance of our refrigerated bodies as well as being the first trailer manufacturer to achieve the new SABS standards based on international benchmarks.”

A further positive indicator, he said, was that the market had seen good value in Serco’s Frostliner Protec Steel refrigerated vehicles. The product is clearly giving customers the advantage of reduced maintenance and improved durability and as a result the company is on track to match last year’s sales in a vehicle market which has been stagnant.

“The coated steel panels used in building the vehicles are manufactured using a state-of-the-art panel injection process. The technology is in line with leaders in Europe and provides tangible benefits in costs and quality for our clients.

“Our national manufacturing infrastructure – we have factories in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – makes it possible for our customers to have vehicle bodies built and serviced in the regions they operate in which is obviously a big advantage for them.”

Turning to the bigger picture, Holcroft said there had been general disappointment that the South African economy had not performed as hoped for following all the positive changes in government last year.  “We soon realised that the expected turn-around was not going to happen quickly and it now looks like there might be a year or two of headwinds before things improve.

“However, I do believe the next five years will be better than the last five, so it is a case of us continuing to do what we do now but doing it better and smarter and ensuring we offer excellent value for our customers.

 “It seems government is serious about attracting investment and creating employment and for that there needs to be significant changes as opposed to a situation where, I believe, it was hoped that just a few tweaks here and there would be sufficient.

 “Fortunately, the global economy – in my view – is not in the doldrums; rather it has been experiencing positive growth. So there is potentially a lot of money in the developed economies and as growth slows in those regions investors will start looking at emerging markets where there are good prospects for better growth and it is hoped South Africa will be seen as an attractive country to invest in.”

Holcroft added there was a need to create a more business friendly environment in South Africa that would increase growth and reduce unemployment.

 “To quote Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi after his team won the World Cup earlier this year: ‘We can achieve anything if we work together’.

“South Africa has huge potential and if we work together – and get our act together – we can emulate the Springboks and lift South Africa to new heights for the benefit of all.”