Gathering Steam

“Bulk Handling Today” joined a select group of media at Babcock’s offices in Bedfordview for a chat to Magnus Rieger, market and communications manager for Volvo Construction Equipment and SDLG for the EMEA region, and Grant Sheppard, local brand manager for SDLG at Babcock’s equipment business.

Babcock has a long-standing reputation for sales and support of quality construction equipment underpinned by superior service in the southern African market.
In 2006, Volvo acquired over 70% of Chinese-based manufacturer SDLG to broaden their offering. As the sole regional distributor of Volvo CE in southern Africa, Babcock was tasked with getting SDLG products established and accepted in the local market. Although SDLG is No.1 in China, the company was little known internationally.

After initially overcoming some reluctance regarding the brand’s origins, sales took off amazingly well to the point that we expanded our sales team to 36 staff members in short order

Grant tells us, “Our first task was to convince local customers that Chinese does not have to equate to inferior. There are companies who are dazzled by a lower initial purchase price but this turns out to be a false saving when things go wrong. We have demonstrated to our customers that a robust, reliable product founded on well-proven technology, supported by a strong and effective dealer network with service and support on tap, is the ‘holy grail’.
Wheel loader and grader
“Not only have customers now had experience first-hand of the high standard of the SDLG units, but they also have the unquestionable strength of Babcock’s aftermarket support to back them up,” he adds.
This quality extends to refurbished units which are of an equally high standard. “In fact,” says Grant, “we have a big used division where existing customers trade-in in order to buy up.” As the second-hand market is more regulated in South Africa, with certain imports being banned, the local market for refurbished machines is trustworthy. The same does not necessarily apply over our borders.
A growing team
Grant says, “After initially overcoming some reluctance regarding the brand’s origins, sales took off amazingly well to the point that we expanded our sales team to 36 staff members in short order. It didn’t take our people long to understand that the new value-add of SDLG is a real boon to customers. Now they can walk into a client’s premises and meet their needs full-on both in the heavy and light application sense.
“By early 2015, 95% of all sales were to new customers, in part due to our 4 000 hour/2-year warranty, and partly from referrals from the early purchasers of these machines.”
Willing and able
Magnus fills us in on the international picture. “Volvo has representation on the board in China where it’s clear that SDLG is very responsive and willing to make adaptations to suit our local conditions. They sell 40 000 wheel loaders a year into their local market and their export growth has been vigorous since joining forces with Volvo.”
He adds, “I am always delighted at how sincere the Chinese are about any suggestions for improvements. They have no problem tackling improvements with gusto and speed.”
Service contracts
To ensure uptime, SDLG field service reps will go to each customer’s site, regardless of size, to check machines and advise on any repairs that are required or may come up as part of a preventative maintenance programme. Grant says there are also a number of clients who are entering fully-fledged service contracts with Babcock to transfer the responsibility of keeping their SDLG machinery in top form.
Much of this uptime is dependent on adequate operator training. Grant tells us in conclusion, “You can never have enough training. This is why we place major emphasis on comprehensive training at hand-over and conduct periodic refreshers on an ongoing basis to ensure our clients’ machines are able to operate at full steam 24/7.”
Babcock International Group, Tel (011) 230-7300, enquiries@babcock.co.za, www.babcock.co.za