From the day the company was born in 1996, GRW Engineering, the Worcester-based tanker and trailer manufacturer for the bulk transport market, has never thought ‘˜small’. This came through once again when ‘˜herds’ of people from the trucking industry were invited to celebrate the opening of GRW’s new R90-million facility in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng writes Patrick O’Leary.
After the official opening and ribbon cutting ceremony, CEO Gerhard van der Merwe took to the podium and although his speech was well structured covering all the salient points, he was wrong on one of the statements he made. He described the new facility as ‘˜world-class’. It is not! It is ‘˜world leading’.
FleetWatch guarantees that if you bring any of the German tanker manufacturers to South Africa and show them around this new facility, their response is going to be: “Vat ees dish? Vee don’t haf anyting like dish in Shermany.’ Bring out the Americans and they will start whoop-whooping; the French will cry with emotion; the Chinese will make drawings to copy it and the Japanese will respectfully bow in honour of its magnificence.
On GRW’s website it states: “Today, they (GRW) pride themselves in always exceeding the expectations of even the most demanding customer on the journey to becoming the number one road tanker manufacturer in the world.’ Note, not in South or southern Africa but ‘˜in the world’. And it is certainly heading that way.
Certainly the celebration was fitting for the occasion. Held in a huge tent with speeches, videos, music, a dance floor, great food and lots of orange juice and other types of ‘˜fruit juices’ squeezed from various grapes, the mood was set when Van der Merwe warned the guests that “we are not known for going to bed early.’ And no-one did. It was a fitting celebration for what is GRW’s single biggest investment made to date.
When the music was blaring and Gavin Wilson from Barloworld Logistics was showing his prowess as a hip-hop dancer, I slipped out to view the work bays. Each one had a tanker in it, either in the process of being repaired or just on display. Some of those on display were sitting high in the air on hydraulic lifts capable of lifting vehicle combinations up to 1.8m in the air for quick turnaround service work.
I never counted the number of bays but there are at least twelve or thirteen, each one fenced off and equipped with all the necessary modern equipment to carry our repairs to the highest safety standards. Although the other facilities were not visible , it night-time you see – here is a list:
* Versatile wash bays with high volume pressure testing capabilities both hydraulic and pneumatic.
* SANAS approved dual fuel tanker test bays with product loading and offloading verification.
* New spray booths with heating.
* A safe bay to work on live flammable tankers. This bay has been constructed in accordance with the UK regulations for Petroleum Workshops.
* Full rig brake roller tester and suspension tester
* Ample parking space for new, used and service-related trailers.
* A parts store to stock a wide variety of spares.
* A show room that accommodates three trailers, a sales office and entertainment area , but of course – to ensure a pleasant experience for customers.
In describing this new facility as the first step in an aggressive five year growth plan, Van der Merwe let out the fact that GRW will be enlarging its product range in the future to tackle other sectors.
“We’re aiming to become the supplier of choice in sectors we haven’t dealt in before and new products for the general freight, waste and construction sectors will be launched in the near future. Development work is well underway and if all goes according to plan, we will be introducing these products early 2014,’ he revealed.
Another tactic not embarked on before is for GRW to form close alliances with all the major truck OEM’s to create a one-stop service for truck and trailers.
“We want to be the preferred supplier of bodies and develop a unique dealer network across southern Africa by accrediting OEM workshops to perform service work on GRW products. We believe that a truck and trailer is like a battery and torch – the one can’t do without the other and each should not be seen in isolation.’
On this latter point, GRW has the ideal man to lead this drive into the OEM dealer sector in the person of Johan Richards who has taken up the position of Group Commercial Executive for the company.
Many readers will know Richards from his days at UD Trucks where he spent 31 years ending up as the managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa. His experience of the OEM market , and of dealers , will stand the company in good stead as it embarks on its new set of growth strategies.
I have known Johan Richards for many years and can attest to his sincere passion for the trucking industry as well as for his customers. He also has a passion for road safety and this came out during his speech at the opening when he urged the industry to embrace road safety as a core focus in the future.
FleetWatch welcomes the fact that GRW is going to be driving the process of the truck and trailer being looked on in an holistic manner as one unit. It was some years ago that our technical correspondent, Dave Scott, described the South Africa trailer fleet as the least maintained in the country. And he was right. Unfortunately this still applies and we have more than enough evidence of this from our many Brake & Tyre Watch projects where we inspect trucks taken off the road.
All too often the trailer is left in the depot yard while the truck tractor goes in for a service. Or, on a bodied vehicle, the truck gets serviced while the body just hangs around on the back looking tired and worn-out. If GRW can change this, all muscle to them. It will go a long way towards improving safety on our roads.
When GRW opened is manufacturing facility in Worcester, I described them in FleetWatch at the time as the ‘˜New Kids on the Block’. Eiessh! As Van der Merwe stated in his speech: “It is 17 years from the time four of us decided to start building tankers. Never did I envisage that we would have a need for an infrastructure such as this.’
Nor did I Gerhard. Nor did anyone!