Home » Another leap of faith for S&G

Another leap of faith for S&G

Durban-based Shave & Gibson is unquestionably a prime player in the packaging and security printing sectors. Now this independent owner-managed company has taken a fresh leap of faith with the purchase of additional premises and investment in a raft of new equipment. Gill Loubser tells the story.     

Since Shave & Gibson’s inception in 1981 – when Alan St Clair Gibson and Neville Shave purchased Group Printing & Packaging and renamed it Shave & Gibson (S&G) – this Durban-based company has inexorably forged its way to the top of its league. Today, S&G counts among leading independents when it comes to production of folding cartons and laminated boxes and its security printing division is second to none.    

Owned and managed by CEO, Simon Downes, abetted by fellow directors, Dave King, Jim Short and Jason Staats, the business continually scales fresh heights. So much so, that space is – once again – at a premium. And we’ve heard that story before!    


Today, the business operates from three sites. The flagship property on South Coast Road (where the company moved in 2006 having outgrown its previous location) houses the packaging and security printing operations, while further along South Coast Road a more-recently purchased building serves as warehouse space. In addition, a rented factory in nearby Swinton Road offers another 4 000m2 and is home to the company’s in-house corrugating plant and sheeting facility. Now, however, to replace the latter, a 10 000m2 property has been purchased close by in Leicester Road.    

‘We had simply run out of space!’ declares an exuberant Simon Downes. ‘We’re on the brink of yet another major expansion phase; and we’ve acquired this new site to provide extra warehouse space plus the flexibility to accommodate the corrugating and sheeting plant, and perhaps other machinery. This will bring us close to a total of 40 000m2,’ he adds.

Refurbishment of the buildings is well advanced and occupation is expected towards the end of the year.

But purchasing supplementary premises is only half the story.

Further capex is being poured into new hardware – most significantly a brand-new KBA Rapida 145 six-colour press ordered at drupa earlier this year, which, incidentally, is the first such press in the country (see sidebar on page 20).

‘These latest investments in added capacity and further premises – totalling some R80-million – will ensure we remain at the forefront of technology for our markets, and that we’ll continue to provide the highest levels of quality and service for our customers,’ Simon remarks.

Despite gloomy news on the economic and political fronts, and the intense difficulties of doing business in Durban with the city’s exorbitant rates and almost defunct service delivery, Simon and the team believe it’s time to invest, to be ready to grab any opportunities that present themselves. ‘Unlike some other converters, we’re not interested in looking north and setting up operations in other parts Africa – we believe sufficient opportunities exist right here in South Africa,’ Simon insists.

Technology enhancements

Harking back to 2006, the move to a new address in an iconic 1950s building plus investment in a new KBA Rapida 142 large-format press were among S&G’s highlights.

In 2010, the spending spree continued with the purchase of a Bobst Novacut die-cutter and a Bobst Ambition gluer; and last year, as S&G celebrated its 30th anniversary, a brand-new Roland 706 six-colour press was instated in a specially-renovated area of the press room.

So the first obvious question is why, having so recently bought the Roland 706, did S&G decide to purchase yet another press?

‘We’ve been working 24/7 in the print room for most of this year and the Roland press is pretty much chock-a-block,’ answers Dave King, GM of S&G’s packaging division. ‘We simply need more capacity in order to achieve the turnaround times and flexibility our customers expect. And, with our expansion plans formulated, drupa proved the ideal opportunity to announce our purchase of a KBA Rapida 145 through Thunderbolt Solutions. We now have an excellent balance with two Roland and two KBA presses.’

Having painted that background, let’s unpack the other investments. And the word ‘unpack’ is appropriate here … for at the time of this visit, which coincided with S&G’s 2012 Old Boys Day (see page 3), not only was the new KBA in the process of assembly by KBA technicians but various other bits of kit – including a second Meiguang laminator and a new pile turner  – were being unpacked and the foundations laid for yet another Bobst Autoplaten die-cutter, this time an SP142.

It was a real hive of activity.

The corrugated story

It was back in 1994 that former MD, Deryk Champkins, decided to invest in S&G’s first corrugator. This one-metre-wide Indian-made machine allowed S&G to produce its own E- and B-flute material. A boxmaker was also installed, enabling S&G to meet its in-house corrugated box requirements.

Following the success of that initial venture, a second corrugator was installed in 1997, this time a 1,4m-wide single-face corrugator on which South Africa’s first F-flute board was produced, again placing S&G firmly among the trailblazers.

To this day, S&G’s corrugated production is adequate for its in-house box production – for both the packaging and the security printing divisions.

But no aspect of S&G’s business stays still for long. Factory manager Martin Conway recently travelled to Taiwan to finalise the purchase of a replacement single-face corrugator to provide even greater capacity, flexibility and quality, particularly for S&G’s litho laminate customers. It will be in operation by the end of the year. Also being purchased from the same Taiwanese manufacturer is a new sheeter; and to enhance production capacity of corrugated cases for S&G’s own use, last year saw the installation of a new Solarco box maker, with the help of local agent, BOBSA.

These are bold investments at a time when many folding carton operations are battening down the hatches, even closing plants and laying off staff.

And another laser printer for security printing

Meanwhile, in the adjacent security printing operation, GM Jim Short is pleased to show off that division’s latest acquisition – a new Océ 8550 high-speed laser printer that has been teamed with the first 8550 purchased in 2009.

‘Océ printers are ideal partners for our operation and meet most of our overprinting personalisation requirements,’ Jim explains.

In addition he reveals that his division has been awarded daily turn-around cheque business from Nedbank South Africa and Nedbank Namibia. By ‘daily turn-around’ he means that orders are received five days a week at 17:00 and despatched within 24 hours. ‘We’ve been producing Nedbank’s deposit stationery for a number of years and welcome the additional cheque business which means we now produce 100% of Nedbank’s security paper products,’ says Jim.

‘We’ve also been awarded the cheque business for FNB South Africa plus FNB Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania. We now produce all the daily cheque requirements for South Africa’s four major banks and for the majority of banks in southern Africa.’

But the use of cheques, of course, is on a sharp decline, so there’s much focus in the security printing department on other products, not least government-type work for elections and census activities throughout southern Africa.

As a footnote, apart from headquarters on South Coast Road, housing both the packaging and security printing operations, S&G has a string of additional addresses: as already mentioned, at two other nearby locations, plus a packaging finished goods warehouse in Brackenfell (Western Cape) and a sales office in Boksburg (Gauteng), enhancing S&G’s nation-wide service to customers.

Without doubt this latest history will be superseded by further exciting news in the coming months, as the company sails full steam ahead. But exciting news is what we’ve come to expect from S&G!

Super User