38% annual average growth for the last seven years is an impressive number. It belongs to accredited lifting machinery entity Park Lifting and Mining, situated in Mpumalanga. 

Double digit growth, mining and South Africa aren’t words you hear too often in the same sentence. Park Lifting is proof that there is more than a little hope for the industry and the South African economy as a whole. Owner and MD, PJ Nel, and operations manager, Frans van der Berg, welcomed “Bulk Handling Today” to their Kinross premises to give us a view of their business and the reasons for their success.

“We have grown on average 38% each year for the last seven years,” says PJ. He puts this down to diversity of product as the company has its own fleet of trucks, and is a distributor/agent for over ten brands; location “we are very centralised to our clients;” and skills.

Pinpointing success is a tricky thing. Rarely is there one factor that is the sole contributor, making it difficult to identify which of several factors really matter. Ask Frans the reasons for the success of the business and he comments, “All the factors together make for success.”

Our conversation reveals more. The company is focused on providing a wide range of customers with quality services and products, places enormous emphasis on skills, and works together as a team.

A customer is a customer

Frans points out that all customers, no matter the size of their business or contract, receive the same level of service.

“We believe in face to face, value to value,” he adds. “Personal relationships which are built over time are important to us. We don’t just work over emails and telephones. Our people are out in the field and if there is a shortage of hands for a job, management will go and help. We get into our overalls, go to the site and do the work.”

Both PJ and Frans comment that they don’t like criticism. Criticism means the relationship with the client hasn’t been as good as it should be. Behind closed doors, they’ll quickly fix what went wrong. “Like a Jack Russell if we hear anything negative, we go for it. You shouldn’t leave a gap so companies can criticise you,” Frans remarks.

A step ahead

One example of their customer focus is evidenced by the products they have added in the last few years.

“We have a large variety of products because our customers have their own needs and we are intent on providing customers with what they want. Anything within reason that will support the customer, we’ll do,” Frans comments.

“For example, we saw a gap whereby customers needed to build scaffolding, which can be a time-consuming task. By purchasing our own cherry picker, the job can be accomplished much cheaper than scaffolding. In addition, you’ve got no standing time and you can start the job immediately,” PJ explains.

“We always try to be one step ahead and see if there is a gap for our customers and how we can fill it. The trick is to make his or her job easier,” Frans says.

No egos allowed

You can only deliver exceptional customer service and meet your client’s needs if you work as a team. Frans emphasises that the team is central to the business and its success.

“There is no person bigger than the company. If there is a concern on site, we arrive as a team and sort the problem out. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for the teams in the field who are available 24/7. This Saturday, for instance, we are going to Kuruman to sort out some issues and we’ll be back home the next day.”

One of the main reasons behind the good team dynamics is the focus on training and growing staff in the company.

From within

“We like to use our own people and promote them through the ranks,” Frans shares. “Many of our current technicians were previously assistants who were given a leg up when they proved themselves. It’s always better to use your own people, who you know and trust. Myself and some of the other managers started as assistants or technicians and have been rewarded with opportunities over the years.”

Frans has been in the industry since 2000. In his own words he was “born to be on a crane,” as he worked his way up from technician to manager. He is a registered Lifting Machinery Inspector.

PJ adds that it’s not just in-house skills that the company focuses on, customers too are kept in the loop. “We train on skills inside and outside the workshop,” he comments. Park Lifting is a SETA accredited specialised lifting trainer.

Quality and safety

There are two other critical success factors. Quality and safety which are taken care of by ISO certifications and a safety department.

ISO certification has two benefits: it demonstrates commitment to safety and quality, and builds stronger relationships with clients. PJ advises, “When prospective customers see you are ISO certified, they know you are committed to the highest international standards and are quicker to become clients.”

Park Lifting is ISO 9001 certified and is in the process of acquiring ISO 15 000 and 18 000 certifications in order to merge the three certifications into one.

When it comes to safety, Frans stresses that every issue, no matter how insignificant it appears, is investigated. “We are very particular about addressing even the smallest red flag immediately.”

Never looked back

What’s next for Park Lifting? Frans points to the open ground behind their Kinross workshop, ready and waiting for the company to expand its workshop.

Life wasn’t always this good at the company. Frans speaks about 2008 and how tough times were, so much so that questions were being asked about the longevity of the business. They stuck to their beliefs and backed their products and services, and have never looked back.

Park Lifting is a distributor/agent of Gunnebo Lifting, Spiderwebb Fall Arresst Systems, Recocell Training, ACT Training, Tiele Lifting Equipment, Van Bees Lifting Equipment, Tiger Lifting Equipment, Raytoko (Demag), Kiloton Hydraulic Repairs, Enerpac Hydraulic Tools, Jonnesway Tools and Dymot winches.

Park Lifting, Frans van der Berg,

Tel: (017) 687-0236, Email: info@parklift.co.za

Park Lifting: www.parklift.co.za