Yet it’s not these developments alone that guarantee long-term success. According to Pro-Print CEO, Barry Roberts, having a cohesive, highly-skilled and dependable team to get the job done right first time is critical. And he should know! Together with his daughter, and MD, Yvette Roberts, he’s successfully steering this award-winning family-owned pharmaceutical and cosmetics packaging company into its 51st year.
‘Looking around our plant today, it’s difficult to visualise our humble beginnings five decades ago when my parents, Ernest and Doreen Roberts, bought the print division from the then Allen & Hanburys (now GSK) with just 12 staff and modest equipment,’ he remarks.
‘Today, we’re a family of 187, and still growing, yet our philosophy remains constant – ensuring service excellence and world-class quality. Employing the right people with top-class skills has ensured our consistent reputation in the highly-competitive and specialised pharmaceutical and cosmetics packaging sector. It’s all about understanding brand owners’ needs and working together, internally and with our suppliers, to deliver beyond expectations,’ Barry insists.
Besides Barry, several staff members have been with the company for 30 years plus, playing a vital role in mentoring and inspiring newer employees to constantly raise the bar. ‘In short, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our top-class “team behind the scenes”,’ he remarks.
Last year, Pro-Print’s Durban head office underwent an impressive upgrade, driven and coordinated by Yvette, creating spacious offices and meeting rooms upstairs, plus much-needed extra production space downstairs for advanced printing and finishing equipment.
Instead of the original back-street entrance, visitors now access the building directly from Sydney Road through the stylish, open-plan reception where they’re warmly greeted by long-standing ‘front-of-house manager’ Yasmin Ishak, and kitchen manager, Sindi Fafaza. ‘Everyone likes to be welcomed with a friendly smile,’ says Yasmin. ‘Creating a positive first impression makes people feel comfortable and relaxed. We’re a great team and proud to invite visitors to our impressive home.’
Pride and purpose
Pro-Print’s famous team spirit abounds in the busy production division, with its 71 printing units – including 11 Komoris, four Heidelbergs and two KBAs – plus advanced diecutting and finishing equipment, and state-of-the-art prepress and workflow systems. For every production machine there’s a duplicate,
so if maintenance or repair is required backup’s available.
Each lithographic press, from a two-colour system to the latest-generation six-colour sheetfed Komori LS29, installed last year, is operated by a qualified, experienced machine minder who understands the requirement for premium-quality print performance.
Joey Pillay is now in his 35th year with Pro-Print. After earning his stripes in the gluing department, he was assigned to the printing department. Now working on one of the two colour perfecting machines, he was present when the first two-colour press and advanced four-colour presses were introduced. ‘When I joined Pro-Print back in 1980 I was a young man looking to earn enough each month to provide for my family,’ comments Joey. ‘Like his father before him, Barry taught me how to complete every job with perfection and pride and, thanks to him and the support of rest of the team, I’ve enjoyed a prosperous career that has allowed me to educate my children and give them a good start in life,’ he smiles.
With ten years under his belt, Tyrone Muldoon, who handles the newest Komori six-colour sheetfed press, is still considered a ‘new’ staff member! Having learnt his trade at another local printing firm, he was originally astonished at Barry and Yvette’s exacting quality and cleanliness standards. ‘In previous roles I’d never been required to ensure my station was spotless before, during and after each print run, he relates. ‘However, at Pro-Print it’s expected, so I’m kept on my toes. These strict disciplines enable us to be ready for any printing challenge and it’s a pleasure to work on the most advanced printing presses and be a part of such a dynamic team.’
Another staff member who’s relishing new challenges is Thabani Shezi. Since joining Pro-Print in 2003 as a manual labourer in the stripping department he has gained a wealth of practical experience and proven his potential. He’s currently working as the gluing supervisor, yet the ambitions don’t stop there. ‘I’ve been given the chance to experience various roles and I’d really like to continue developing my skills, perhaps in graphic design and repro this time,’ he remarks.
Passing on proficiency
Someone who knows all about skills development is warehouse manager, Phineas Ntuli. Now 58, he joined Pro-Print at 17. After mastering his first job in the bindery, he was promoted to despatch and packaging where, among other duties, he ensured that finished orders were sent to Durban station ready for delivery nationwide. ‘I would pray that customers received their orders on time, and in one piece!’ recalls Phineas with a chuckle. ‘Thankfully, courier trucks are much more reliable these days!’
As warehouse manager, he’s currently responsible for handling incoming raw materials plus finished goods, spending much time on Pro-Print’s stock control system. To get up to speed with the web-based application, he undertook comprehensive computer training. With his knowledge and expertise, he’s now tasked with training junior staff. ‘During my many years at Pro-Print, I’ve been given the chance to improve my skills. Now, I’m making a positive difference by helping the youngsters to build a proper career,’ he comments.
His sentiments are echoed by quality controller and supervisor, Ronnie Moonilall. Also boasting a sterling 40-year work history, he was once responsible for training a young Phineas in the packing department. ‘Since Pro-Print’s launch, the focus has been on working together as a team,’ states Ronnie. ‘I’ll be retiring soon, so it’s vitally important to pass on my expertise to the younger employees so that they can uphold the high standards we’re famous for,’ he adds. ‘Barry has always been a great motivator. He cares about his staff and ensures we’re looked after. For this reason, we’re proud, motivated and happy to be part of the “family”.’
Perhaps one of the most enterprising Pro-Print employees is handyman Andy Moonsamy. Earning his ten-year certificate this year, he’s responsible for general maintenance. ‘When Andy joined us he was scared of electricity!’ Barry exclaims. ‘However, he took the initiative to shadow our qualified engineers and acquire their skills. He has never stopped learning and is prepared for any challenge.’
Focused on the future
There are even second-generation employees at Pro-Print. Kevin Reddy, who serves as customer liaison manager, has literally ‘grown up’ at the factory where his father, now retired, enjoyed a 20-year career. ‘My dad was very proud to say he worked for Pro-Print, and I am too,’ states Kevin. ‘Before joining the sales department I worked in production for
12 years, including carton gluing and folding. This gave me a great grounding and the experience has helped enormously in my current job role, especially when customers ask specific production-related questions. Overall, there’s a great team spirit and one day I’d really like to be part of Yvette’s management team.’
As is evident with the wealth of ongoing skills development, Kevin’s wish may become a reality soon.
For now though, Pro-Print is steered by Barry and Yvette, plus administration and procurement director, Brian Lardant, and relative newcomers, financial manager, Eddiline Mposa, and human resources manager, Kathleen Cleator, who bring their own unique strengths to the team.
Like many at Pro-Print, Eddiline has grasped the opportunity to excel and make a difference. After completing her BCom Honours in Management Accounting in 2011, she landed the role of debtor’s clerk, reporting to Barry. During her first year she commenced her MBA, selecting Pro-Print as the subject for her dissertation. Quickly realising her talent and dedication, Barry soon offered her the role of financial manager. And, she hasn’t looked back.
‘Barry has been like a father. We’re one big family and he just wants everyone to be the best they can be. Likewise, Yvette is dedicated to building on Pro-Print’s success and leading us into a new era. It’s an exciting period and we’re in it together.’
Indeed, maintaining a quality skills pool is critical to Pro-Print’s future and human resources manager, Kathleen Cleator, drives several initiatives designed to keep staff focused and motivated.
‘Each employee has a stake in the business and, if performance and profit levels are achieved, benefits yearly from our Share of Profit Scheme,’ states Kathleen. ‘Individuals are also incentivised to improve on-the-job skills and offered the opportunity to study further if required. Furthermore, we’ve recently revitalised our in-house SETA-based three-year apprenticeship programme, providing youngsters at matric level with practical tools and tuition to qualify as lithography professionals. This is also going to ensure the sustainability of our long-term business goals.’
Leading from the front
Brian Lardant and Barry have been firm friends since primary school and maintain a tight, brotherly bond to this day.
Joining the team in 1984, Brian was instrumental in establishing an efficient costing, estimating and procurement process. ‘The days of writing work tickets on the back of an envelope had to come to an end at some stage!’ he chuckles. For a business supplying international pharmaceutical giants such as GSK, MSD, Sanofi and Adcock Ingram, there’s got to be an enduring business structure and value system, and Brian believes this has always been the secret to Pro-Print’s success. ‘It’s well known that Barry is a hard task master, but he’s a fair one, and he always has the staff’s best interests at heart. Dedication, loyalty and respect are core values and, like her father, Yvette has the right nose for business and sterling principles to take the organisation to the next level.
‘I’m extremely proud to be a part of our family business,’ Yvette remarks. ‘And I’ve had the amazing opportunity to learn first-hand from Barry. He has exceptional business acumen and is at his happiest when sharing his knowledge, with an “open door policy” for all employees.’
Since joining Pro-Print in 1998, Yvette has learnt the complexities of print, from production to proficient customer service and top-quality finished packaging. ‘Knowing that I’m heading this amazing “team behind the scenes” leaves me overwhelmed sometimes,’ she comments. ‘With his dedication, hard work and empathy, Barry has always led by example. Big shoes to fill indeed! However, I’m confident that each staff member will support me in reaching our dream to become the printer to rely on for quality, service and innovation.’