Since then the business has just kept growing, transforming from a largely Cape-based operation, supplying mainly packaging consumables, to one with a footprint in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and now offering a one-stop-shop with a wide range of packaging machines and consumables (PPM May 10, p30).
‘We have a significant customer base in the agricultural prepack sector, which demands exceptional customer service and flexibility; and we extend these behaviours to the rest of our customers who include a mix of blue chip companies and many small- to medium-size businesses,’ Hugh explains.
From China to Johannesburg
Two years ago, with the Cape Town operation well established, Packit’s strategy was to open a Johannesburg branch and focus its efforts on the sale of small machines for the SME market.
This strategy was reinforced at a trade show in Wenzhou, China, where Hugh met a representative from Hongzhan Packaging Machinery – a manufacturer of heat-sealers, vacuum packers, strapping machines, pallet wrapping machines, shrink tunnels, bag-stitching machines, flow-wrappers and filling machines.
With this South African/Chinese collaboration, Barry Boonzaier, Packit’s national sales manager, moved to Johannesburg to focus Packit’s efforts in that region. This branch now boasts a warehouse that has doubled in size since its launch, as well as a workshop and in-house technician.
‘Hongzhan manufactures a significant array of packaging machines suitable for start-up companies and SMEs,’ Barry explains. ‘We’re now able to assist customers grow their businesses and transform their operations from manual to automated packaging,’ he adds.
‘Service is the name of the game,’ Hugh maintains. ‘Our quality has vastly improved during the last seven years and we offer excellent response times to queries,’ he adds. With a combination of in-house and freelance technicians, Packit has also invested in extensive spares inventories.
In 2007, Packit acquired the South African distributorship for Gruppo Fabbri’s sophisticated line of automatic tray wrappers and flow wrappers suitable especially for the FMCG and agricultural packaging sectors.
‘With our key agencies, we can offer an extensive assortment of machines at various specification levels and price points,’ Hugh explains. ‘Many models in our principals’ portfolios are suitable for startup businesses, or those planning to become more automated,’ he reiterates.
From a marketing point of view, Gruppo Fabbri’s marketing manager, Davide Pizzacaro, believes there are endless opportunities in southern Africa for their machines. Gruppo Fabbri marketing managers have, over the years, spent time in Cape Town and Johannesburg to ascertain local market requirements. ‘We receive considerable technical support and training from Gruppo Fabbri, even to the point where they have assisted us in refurbishing older machines,’ Hugh notes.
Automatic tray wrapping
Packit has enjoyed great success with the Automac overwrappers at lettuce farms in KZN, among them Glen King Farms outside Kokstad, Fowler Farming Trust near Howick, and Do Vale Farm near Camperdown. ‘The A33 is ideal for overwrapping spherical products such as lettuces,’ Hugh explains. ‘All the installations went smoothly and, since commissioning, interventions have been absolutely minimal,’ he happily adds.
Another ‘big seller’ from Gruppo Fabbri is the Automac A55 automatic tray wrapper that wraps one tray/second and has two reel holders for easy film changing. These reel holders are positioned perpendicular to the product flow to allow for quick changes. This also means tray lengths can be altered by simply selecting one of 99 programmes.
The A55 is 30% shorter than competitive machines, doesn’t require compressed air and has excellent accessibility for maintenance and cleaning.
More than 2 000 Automac A55s are installed worldwide.
‘Although these machines are highly suitable for a range of industry sectors such as meat and poultry packers, fish, cheese and deli’s, fresh produce is our current focus when it comes to overwrapping,’ Hugh maintains. ‘We have a dedicated sales person in Johannesburg, Abul Nonyane, to market overwrappers, flow wrappers and top sealers while Barry Boonzaier and Graham Clarke take care of customers in the rest of the country.’
A dedicated team
But machinery is only part of the story. Consumables bought locally and sourced from abroad remain an integral component of Packit’s activities.
‘We hold stock and deliver weekly to our customers to ensure we add real value to their businesses,’ Hugh stresses.
From a staffing point of view, Packit proudly boasts a number of long-service personnel, testament to a happy workforce and the company’s commitment to staff development.
Staff celebrating long-service achievements as Packit marks its 40th anniversary are Janice Linaker, financial manager, who joined in 2001; Barry Boonzaier, national sales manager, and Sylvia Sebonka, telesales, who both joined in 2004; and Efraim Willemse, warehouse supervisor (2005).
Sales training is an important aspect of Packit’s success. ‘We’ve experienced fantastic results from our bi-monthly training programme, which has seen an office administrator, Nomsa Ndwasho, develop her skills and move to a full-time sales position,’ remarks Hugh delightedly.
Packit employs around 30 staff and, with representation in South Africa’s three main centres, agencies in Namibia, Upington, George and Port Elizabeth, as well as supplying a number of other packaging distributors throughout South Africa, Packit is undoubtedly poised for ongoing success and expansion.
Packit Packaging Solutions
T +27 021 5118780