As customer expectations have become more sophisticated, the need for quality, safe and reliable products has increased. That has been great news for Frost International, the family-run business which has grown to become the leader in entrance solutions for Southern Africa.
Today the company provides a wide range of high quality, practical, efficient and aesthetically pleasing products suitable for any entrance and security requirement and aims to be the leading supplier of Automatic Entrance & Security Solutions, incorporating the Boon Edam range of revolving and security turnstiles, the FROST AUTOMATIC sliding door operators, as well as supplying the high end HUFCOR acoustic operable wall system as their main lines. These quality products backed up by the company’s ethos of “Have an attitude of excellence” and “Be responsible” are in place to ensure each and every client receives top quality products backed up by a superior service.
Mike Frost has been at the helm of the business since it merged with his father’s older company in 1999 and today serves as Managing Director; he takes up the story of how the two businesses became one:
“My father started a company Jack Frost Cape Town Pty Ltd back in 1970 and this business provided the first suspended ceiling and partition products in South Africa as well as flooring solutions.
“Then in 1992 the company got involved with automatic revolving doors for the first time, working with a company called Boon Edam out of the Netherlands. They manufactured the doors and we installed them for Old Mutual’s head office in Cape Town, where the prevailing Cape summer wind constantly caused a problem for their front doors. So in 1992 we came to install the first large diameter automatic revolving doors in South Africa.
“I worked for my father for 6 years but moved out of Cape Town and relocated to Johannesburg in 1996 to start Frost International. An entrepreneur at heart, I needed to find my own way in the business world, learn from my own failings and grow as a businessman. Frost International started off as a small ceiling and partition contractor but was also involved with the Boon Edam revolving door range. As we progressed, we became more of an internal refurbishment project management company involved with total internal fit-outs for commercial spaces. It was a 2 “man” business with my wife taking on various admin duties too and assisting to get us up and running.
“Both companies were involved in the construction industry and in 1999 we decided to merge the two companies and formed Frost International. Jack retired, we closed down the ceiling and partition division and became a specialist contractor, specialising in automatic revolving and sliding doors, and HUFCOR acoustic operable walls.”
Frost says that back in 1999 the competition in South Africa was virtually non-existent – but that is now changing:
“We introduced large automatic revolving doors to the South African market thanks to our partnership with Boon Edam and the two companies are family-run and share similar philosophies. However when we first started, the market was so small that we only sold one door in the first year and gradually built the business up over a period of years. We got out of the ceiling and partition business because lots of other companies entered that market and it became very cut throat, with smaller margins.”
The company is headquartered in Cape Town and also operates a manufacturing facility which produces a range of sliding doors under the Frost Automatic brand.
“The Frost Automatic is the only operator on the market that is designed and manufactured in South Africa by a South African company and we are very proud of that,” says Frost.
The Frost Automatic, Boon Edam and Hufcor products have been supplied to a number of high profile national clients including: Total, Tsogo Sun, Southern Sun, Vodacom, MTN, Pick ‘N Pay, Woolworths and Makro.
The automatic revolving doors are manufactured in the Netherlands and shipped to South Africa, where the company arranges for installation, through its network of installers across the southern Africa region.
Whilst Frost International has a presence in countries including Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, Frost suggests that there is still lots of opportunity but recent events have put expansion on hold temporarily;
“We have distributors in Zimbabwe but in general finding the right distributors across Africa is a big challenge. This was meant to be the year that we increased our footprint across the Continent, but we have become so busy in South Africa that we feel understaffed to expand into Africa. However that remains a goal that we need to attain.”
One of the exciting domestic developments has been the contract that Frost International won to supply the city of Cape Town with the Frost Automatic sliding doors to the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system called MyCiti. With similar high volume bus services deployed around the world, this is the start of what Frost hopes will be an exciting venture:
“We had to work closely with the bus manufacturers on the one side, the contractor for the stations on the other, but also had to take the needs of the City into account when supplying our solution. We supply a complete BRT solution which we call a Station Interface System (SIS). This is a solution that links the station doors, the busses and a Central Control Room. It provides integration and reporting to the BRT system, enabling more efficient control and management by the operating companies.”
However Frost underlines that most of Frost International’s customers are contractors, architects, engineers and quantity surveyors:
“We are 95 per cent of the time sub-contracted to the main contractors, while on the Frost Automatic sliding door side we work with aluminium contractors.
“Additionally we act as authorised distributors for Hufcor’s range of acoustic operable wall systems, manufactured under licence by Ifuba Products, which are typically used at banquet halls and conference centres as a series of sliding walls which can be moved and stacked away or provide sound-proofed partitions.”
Maintenance is a critical element of operations and Frost says that nobody wants electronic doors unless there is somebody available to service them:
“We are very involved in maintenance and after sales work and electro mechanical doors need to be maintained. The after sales side is paramount – and without representation in a region we cannot proceed with actively marketing our range in the region.”
Frost International has come a long way since it started out with 3 employees in 1999; today the company has 45 workers and is enjoying a terrific period of growth.
“I try to keep a handle on our growth though,” states Frost. “In 2010 the World Cup helped to boost business but the subsequent downturn in late in 2010 & 2011 affected businesses badly. However we managed to survive thanks to our strong management team, dedicated and enthusiastic sales force backed up by the product range we can offer.
“The last 2 and a half years have seen enormous growth for the company, and it is coming off 2 consecutive record years, boosted by the spend in South Africa on infrastructure, which resulted in us winning the BRT project in Cape Town. We have just won a second BRT contract to supply products for the system in Tshwane, while the second phase of the Cape Town project is now underway.
“In 2015 we hope to present a paper on BRT systems at the International Transport Conference and that could open up a range of new opportunities. But more immediately we plan to enter more African markets and become established in countries like Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, while there are also tremendous opportunities in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria,” he reflects