This was the start of Abaca’s growing relationship with South Africa’s corrugated converting sector. Other purchasers soon followed, included Mondipak (today’s Mpact), and sheet plants such as Seyfert, Pride Pak and Boxlee.
Several years on, these customers confirm that their systems have been fully adopted, from administrative personnel right through to stock controllers and dispatch departments.
Recently, Graham Dickinson was back in the country and among the customers he visited was Boxlee in Johannesburg.
Boxlee started from small beginnings in the early-1990s, originally operating from premises in Midrand (Gauteng), and has since emerged to become a well-recognised corrugated business, now based in Industria.
Over the years, Boxlee’s extensive capex programme aimed at improving quality and efficiencies has ensured the company a sterling reputation as a competitive supplier in the corrugated packaging sector. For instance, investments over the last few years have included an Eterna automatic flatbed die-cutter, a TCY 6PA three-colour flexo folder gluer, a TCY 9PA four-colour flexo folder gluer and, most recently, a Dong Fang four-colour Apstar HG 1624 rotary die-cutter.
Corrugated-specific operating system
‘Introducing a corrugated-specific operating system was the next logical step,’ explains Grant Gerrits, Boxlee’s financial manager. ‘We needed to significantly update our packaging and operating infrastructure to a state-of-the-art software program and we chose Abaca.’
He goes on to explain the implementation process, that started in mid-2013, and is happy to provide a glowing endorsement of the advantages that Boxlee has gained from the Abaca system.
‘This implementation involved stripping out the old software and replacing it with Abaca. As this affected everybody involved in the manufacturing and administrative processes, external training providers were brought from the UK to assist with the conversion process,’ Grant relates.
‘Users from all departments – from the receipt of raw materials through to dispatch, as well as factory supervisors and management, accounting, administration and sales managers – had to be trained on the new software and hardware,’ he continues.
Boxlee’s management team were well aware of the time sacrifices and challenges involved in this process, but were equally aware of the ultimate benefits it would bring to internal management and reporting, and not least to upskilling staff.
As Grant remarks, difficulties centred around the fact that the entire staff contingent had to learn a totally different procedure – as he puts it, ‘almost comparable to learning a new language!’
But it wasn’t only learning to use the new software, many previously unskilled staff also had to learn to use computers, leading to a complete change in their working methods. As anticipated, such a culture change was met with some resistance initially as staff had to acquire fresh skills to perform their daily tasks. ‘But,’ Grant continues, ‘we embraced this challenge with vision, turning it into an opportunity, knowing that our staff would be challenged and educated, and that previously unskilled workers would be trained to a point where they possess highly marketable skills. Additionally, we moved into a new intelligent and paperless infrastructure – driven by the staff but managed by technology.’
Significant investments were made in computers, hand-held scanners, electronic labelling, desk scanners and shop-floor data terminals in order to utilise Abaca’s full functionality.
‘Staff are now happy to show off their new skills, daily demonstrating their ability by using the system for report writing, performance reviewing, planning and recording,’ says Grant.
Today, Abaca offers a live overview of the entire business – facilitating the management and measurement of the business with amazing accuracy and improved efficiency.
Importantly, it has also simplified business practices. Grant confirms that the accounting package is easy to understand and use, and, for instance, has resulted in huge improvements in stocktaking. ‘What used to take eight teams of five people almost 10 hours can now be achieved with a total of four people in a matter of hours,’ he remarks.
Graham Dickinson is understandably pleased with his company’s progress in South Africa: ‘It’s satisfying to see such a successful application of our system at Boxlee and now we’ve landed another contract Ironically, the company – Select-a-Box – is in the next street to Boxlee! A member of our team is on site starting the installation which should be complete in October.’
Additionally, Graham reveals, he’s expecting to start work at a sheet plant in Durban quite soon and is in talks with another integrated plant in South Africa, as well as with integrated plants in Uganda, Ghana and Kenya.
As he puts it, succinctly: ‘Busy times!’