There is much to be said for brand loyalty. When a company or product name has been firmly planted into the public’s conscience after years of service, it can prove the gateway to business prosperity.
Such is the case for Acrow, a South African name that has become a byword for quality and reliability for thousands of customers. Indeed, the company name stretches across the world, but domestically, is one of South Africa’s largest storage and construction equipment manufacturers and has been a pioneering business since 1946.
Acrow is one of the leading companies of its kind that has been supplying racking and shelving to the retail, wholesale, distribution, commercial & domestic sectors locally and exporting throughout Africa.
The company manufactures an enormous array of reliable and efficient storage, materials handling and construction solutions. Today the company is a market-leader in racking and shelving and scaffolding and formwork products for a variety of industries.
Sandra Moya, Financial Member, has been with the company over the past 20 years and takes up the story:
“We have been operating since 1946 and the business grew steadily over the years, before hitting a bad patch in the early 1990s. At one point the company was publicly listed but a takeover in 1998 resulted in the business becoming a sole company.
“We kept the Acrow name, specifications, quality and remodelled the business and our operations in South Africa continue to grow in leaps and bounds.”
Moya says that much of the remodelling was down to replacing machinery and technology and it took roughly 5 years to turn around the fortunes of this Johannesburg-based business.
Today Acrow continues to flourish, with three sites in Durban, Cape Town and the Johannesburg facility, where manufacturing takes place. In addition, the company has an established warehouse in the UK and last year opened a new facility in Italy.
“We are looking to increase our footprint in Europe and North Africa and we had the land and property so we decided to start in Italy last year. We have the infrastructure and man power in place,” affirms Moya.
Closer to home, business in South Africa continues to thrive, with the company having just completed a 1.2 million Euro distribution centre for MAN Truck and Bus.
Moya indicates that the automotive market represents a big customer sector for Acrow, with clients including BWM and Honda; while retail clients include Walmart, the SPAR Group and Cashbuild.
“The recent boom in retail has certainly aided our growth,” Moya states. “Over the last few years we have seen the emergence of a large number of shopping malls which has provided opportunity for Acrow’s services.”
The majority of manufacturing takes place at the company’s recently expanded Gauteng facility. The increase in size from 30,000 to 46,000 square metres is of course indicative of the continued demand for the company’s products.
The product range is “too many to count” according to Moya, but provides a comprehensive range of standard shapes and sizes, with the company able to manufacture bespoke items to order.
According to Moya, the secret to the company’s success has been its focus on customer service:
“Our customers are very loyal to us and as they grow we have recognised the need to grow also, which is why we increased capacity in Johannesburg. Because we have been around for so long, we tend to have loyal customers who trust our brand – but that has also carried over to our staff. We have many staff who have been with the company for over 20 years and I believe that customers relate to people.
“We also don’t let our customers down so they come back to us again and again.”
In total, the company employs around 300 people, with approximately 250 based at Johannesburg. The expansion saw Acrow spend in the region of R60 million on the factory, new machinery and an extra 50 employees.
Whilst Acrow is able to rely on a relatively stable, experienced workforce, Moya feels that one of the big operational challenges is finding appropriately skilled technical engineers as the company get bigger, the remedy she says, has been to invest in in-house training.
Those skills are essential when it comes to the latest in innovation. Acrow is the first Racking and Shelving Company in South Africa to manufacture Pallet Live Storage, Carton Live Storage, Roller Push Back and Specialized Gravity Conveyors, all under one roof.
Integration of the company’s Racking and Live Storage systems are engineered by a team of highly experienced design office staff – again putting emphasis on skills.
The company suggests that the decision to manufacture Live Storage was based on problems within the market place that had caused many large Distribution Centres down time with their storage equipment – often as a result of not being able to replace damaged components for a period of up to 12 weeks because suppliers have to order their products from overseas.
With the Johannesburg factory fully modernised, Acrow has been able to take advantage of this gap in the market, manufacturing all components within South Africa, to ISO 9001:2008 standards. The result is much shorter turnaround times.
It is thinking like this that has maintained Acrow’s good name for well over 6 decades and is now helping to build an exciting, sustainable future.
Another initiative to have captured the imagination of the local market is the Acrow Live Carton Storage first-in first-out system (FIFO).
This special design of Carton Live Storage is the first of its kind and came to fruition when Acrow found that most problems they encountered were the result of too many different types of trays, none of which were modular. With many trays coming from different parts of the world, replacement parts were hard to source – so Acrow designed an adjustable tray.
Commenting on the invention, the company stated: “There are many advantages to our type of tray as we can offer lower costs, short delivery period, installer costs come down, project management fees and all manufactured in South Africa. Acrow wheel tracks and full length guides can be easily adjusted to suit any size carton, box or crates.”
Further proof, that the original manufacturers of shelving and racking and scaffolding and formwork solutions, remains a pioneering business at heart.