their functions and responsibilities to the business. Du Plessis says this successful intervention is to be repeated during the course of this year. He believes teamwork and understanding responsibilities significantly enhance operational effectiveness.
With regards to client focus, Du Plessis explained that the resolution of issues to smooth the road ahead are is vital.
“Our business needs the right tone and approach to its customers. A cornerstone of MAN has always been its understanding of customers, their needs, their issues and through this, effecting the necessary solutions. If we can address poor communication, we can become a more effective team and collectively focus on our customers.”
As far as the parts section of MAN’s business is concerned the opening of a new parts distribution centre (PDC) in Isando has been a particular highlight for the company. The state-of-the-art logistics centre is already proving itself.
“Although implementation had its own challenges, record sales in January this year indicate we are back on track. We trust that this PDC will demonstrate our commitment to customers in the region and nationally,” states du Plessis. “Private dealers, who have invested in our network, support our belief that strategic relationships are vital to development.”
According to Du Plessis, the Top-Used division has proved to be an ideal platform for market penetration and a solid foundation has been achieved. “Our used business side is run from our dedicated facility in Centurion. We have increased our national presence with the addition of sales points in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Pinetown and Nelspruit – providing us with a strong market presence.”
Bus sales are showing a steady performance overall. With the infrastructure and service delivery topics in South Africa, MAN is proud to be able to provide buses to people and communities in need of transport, thanks to our relationships with local municipalities and bus operators. Buses will remain a key focus area for MAN, along with Bus Rapid Transport and Integrated Rapid Transport, which includes bus-, taxi and train transportation.
MAN Truck and Bus South Africa, were particularly well represented at the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show, thanks to teamwork and applying key elements of the new MAN structure. With this success in mind, the company looks to tackling existing and new challenges in 2014/15. According to Du Plessis, there is no doubt that the company’s South African side will be able to deal with the weakening of the Rand in the new financial year. He believes the weak local currency’s performance against all major currencies, recent interest rate and fuel hikes, are all going to present an interesting and challenging period.
He is adamant that as an organisation, MAN Truck and Bus South Africa needs to further improve its technical aspects and support its customers during the predicted tough times ahead. “If we stay close to our loyal customers and ensure that communication is efficient and effective, we will ensure the company’s success in 2014 and beyond.”
Looking back on 2013, CEO Bruce Dickson highlights MAN Truck & Bus South Africa’s strategic objectives. When asked to describe 2013 Dickson replies
“Interesting. We celebrated our 50th year in South Africa. Coincidently, I was appointed CEO of MAN Truck and Bus South Africa and also turned 50 in the same year. We made our largest sale in the history of the company in SA – so 2013 has certainly been a special year.”
Dickson, who is also closely involved with the company’s new parts local distribution strategy, believes the transport industry is all about long standing relationships.
“These relationships provide executive management with insight into customer performance, ensuring that our teams can respond effectively.” Dickson is acutely aware of 2014’s challenges as a result of difficult market conditions.
Geoff du Plessis, Executive Chairman, MAN Truck & Bus South Africa
In his free time, Du Plessis reads biographies or get his hands dirty in his workshop doing metal and woodwork. “I have a passion for working with my hands,” he explains. This, he says, provides him with a functional diversion which frees his mind. He describes it as fulfilling whenever he looks at one of his completed projects. “Moving forward motivates me,” says Du Plessis.
“Conquering challenges that seem difficult to overcome and getting the project delivered is what drives him. I’m especially pleased when changes are made and positive progress is experienced in the business.”
He describes his most memorable motoring experience as being a passenger in an Audi R8 around the Nürburgring race track. However, he says the best things to happen in his life are marrying his wife and being blessed with a wonderful family.
“Many of our customers managed to survive 2013 ensuring they got the basics right. MAN adopted a similar approach with the focus on working closely with our customers in order to continue to meet their needs. Our range of ‘efficiency’ products and processes also assisted in providing substantial operational cost savings,” adds Dickson.
Larger sales volumes are essential to maintain MAN’s market position. The 140 trucks sold to the Reinhardt Transport Group in 2013 will be augmented with another large order from Barloworld. The shift in sales perspective, from small to large scale orders, has borne fruit and is based on what Dickson describes as his attention philosophy: “Where you focus, you get results.”
Importantly, smaller business will not suffer as a result of this approach as our local company maintains a balanced strategy to all its operations. Smaller firms make up a high percentage of the retail market and will continue to receive the same exceptional quality service they have come to expect from MAN. “If we stay balanced in our approach, it will allow us to weather difficult periods with greater ease, while improving our market share over time. The improved customer relationship management system is in place and will help build even stronger and lasting business relationships.
“We need to be prepared for another tough period, but it will be a period filled with opportunities and challenges that will lead the local company on a path of continued growth.
“I have always believed that we are a 200 truck-a-month company and with the right dedication, communication and focus as a team, I know we can do it. Our message for 2014 is actually quite straightforward. Communicate, stay positive and maintain focus in all business areas. All we need to do is stick to the plan,” says Dickson. “MAN has also always recognised the importance of a proprietary used-vehicle division as a value driver in the sale of its new trucks and buses,” states du Plessis.
Bruce Dickson, CEO, MAN Truck & Bus South Africa
When asked what inspires him, Dickson responds, “Being part of a team motivates me. I get up in the mornings and automatically feel energised to perform all aspects of my job. I live by the four E’s: energy (high levels of passion and focus), energising (passing on positive energy and views to promote action), edge (making decisions that inspire growth) and executing (following a vision to completion). The most rewarding part of my job is definitely serving my customers and building long-term business relationships.”
Dickson is also a music and movie buff. As a teenager he earned extra money by working part-time at a cinema. Since then he has maintained an appreciation for good movies.
“As such, MAN TopUsed is an integral part of our value-chain. In a market where cost-predictability is becoming increasingly important for transport operators, having a buy-back agreement signed with the supplier at the point of sale gives the customer peace of mind, and the supplier, a distinct competitive edge.”
According to Emir Solapgir, head of MAN TopUsed in South Africa, “the role of the used truck and bus dealership is to buy and sell vehicles, as opposed to simply moving used product. This can present us with inventory obstacles, especially in South Africa where just 10 percent of stock is through buy-back, the rest coming from trade-ins. In Germany, it’s exactly the opposite with TopUsed dealers acquiring 90% of their stock via buy-back agreements with MAN.”
Solapgir moved to South Africa from Germany in January 2013 to give the South African TopUsed operation the strategic leadership that will enable both market expansion and reporting efficiency at MAN AG executive board level.
Having headed up Germany’s most successful TopUsed dealership in Hamburg for two years prior to arriving in South Africa, Solapgir is set to change the fortunes of MAN TopUsed in this country. “Our dealer network is expanding rapidly and by the end of 2013 will number six dealerships across six provinces. My South African team is really professional and passionate about our growth strategy,” adds Solapgir.
The fact that Solapgir’s Hamburg TopUsed dealership was one of the most profitable MAN used-vehicle operations in Germany speaks volumes about his skill as a turnaround specialist, adept at striking the right pricing balance between MAN’s new vehicle sales operations and TopUsed.
Driving economically and protecting the environment
The most effective accident prevention system is behind the steering wheel – the driver. It is important for the driver to drive with foresight, remain calm and confident in critical situations and stay in control of the vehicle. For this reason, MAN offers practical training courses for truck and bus drivers. The company has, as a result of this, been in agreement with its customers by presenting a range of much needed training seminars. In Germany, between 3 000 and 4 000 drivers are currently taking part in these seminars every year. The seminars are by professionals for professionals. The objective is to achieve a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 10% and promote gentler vehicle handling on the road.
Parts logistics just in time
To keep downtimes as short as possible in the event of damage, an average of over 8 000 genuine parts are in stock in MAN service centres – also for older models and special vehicles. Optimum logistics processes mean clients profit from improved order acceptance and delivery times, as well as shorter workshop workshops.
Steering the Way Ahead
Geoff du Plessis, Executive Chairman of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa and Bruce Dickson, CEO, share their insights on the company’s South African strategy for the short-to medium-term.
Following several years abroad in Germany and the United Kingdom, Du Plessis is delighted to be leading the South African team once again. Singling out one aspect of MAN he would like to address, he explains that he would like to change the way the company communicates, interacts and understands operational problems.
“I believe this is the single biggest opportunity to improve performance. We need to be a customer focussed company, efficient in execution of processes.”
An Info Fair held in October 2013, represented the core focus of communication practice at MAN. Internal departments used the opportunity to share information on their respective processes, structures and priorities thus providing a better understanding of