Several international brands at the higher end of the cosmetics, lotions and sun-care sectors are arriving in South Africa in finished format – severely affecting the local packaging industry. We need to realise that productivity in many foreign packaging companies and their emphasis on quality is far greater than we generally achieve in South Africa.
Nonetheless, this can change! In high-end cosmetics, fragrance and personal care categories the accent is on detail – only the best is good enough. With these and mass-market FMCG-type products we need to create and highlight the value we can offer in South Africa. We have the aptitude, facilities and equipment to do thias.
Second best is not good enough
Right now there’s a mindset that second best is good enough. Well it’s not. International enterprises are creating centres of excellence (for particular products). We can do that too … and we can be competitive if we can get our productivity levels up and our costs down.
Labour issues are just one reason for slow progress. There’s a need to create jobs but, in many instances, productivity is very low. If you have an ethos to do the right thing you need to create the desire among workers and raise the company profile. Make them proud to be a part of something special.
For the immediate future, the principle should be to have a combination of international and local workmanship. Let’s start with a product produced in another country, yet packaged in South Africa. In time we can be in a position to produce and package locally and present a proudly South African product.
Let me reiterate: we have the capabilities, so why are there so many imported products still on our shelves?
Also, what about exports? There should be more locally-conceived brands on foreign shelves, not the other way around.
Ten years ago, Brazil couldn’t manufacture one plastic bottle. Today, the country is totally self-sufficient in terms of quality and productivity. Maybe we should take a leaf out of Brazil’s book? Perhaps we can create exchange programmes with a close community of experts who will drive South Africa’s long-term efforts to create a packaging success story?
It’s time to take action and realise our full potential. If the South African packaging community has the will … then there’s a way.
Ed’s note: What’s your company doing to improve South Africa’s manufacturing reputation and international credibility? We’d like to hear the challenges you’ve overcome to achieve success.