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CONLOG

Conlogs ‘Smart’ Solution

Conlog is the world’s largest base for Smart meters and prepaid solutions and has been specialising in it for 20 years. How have they achieved this and how did their brand name successfully translate from associated with being an electronics design company to now?


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Conlog

Conlogs ‘Smart’ Solution Kien Ingate

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Conlog is the world’s largest base for Smart meters and prepaid solutions and has been specialising in it for 20 years. How have they achieved this and how did their brand name successfully translate from associated with being an electronics design company to now?


Conlog

Skosana, Commercial Director of Conlog had provided an exclusive interview with Industry Africa to discuss Conlog’s past, present and the productive future including a glimpse of what makes them the top industry within their field. Innovation. Change. These two words in normality are not synonymous to each other but can be often related depending on the context. For business, these two words are so close to one another in successful companies that it is often used synonymously. The feedback in business if there is no innovation, their business would stagnate as they cannot adapt to the change. If there is no change in an aspect of the business, there is no room for innovation. At the forefront, almost championing this defining loop is Conlog. Conlog was first established in 1965 as an electronics design company but has since diversified and consolidated on its current iteration. Throughout the many years it has existed, the entrepreneur spirit it was founded on maintained their market relevancy to this day. Detailing this incredible change, Sibusiso Skosana, Commercial Director of Conlog explains what happened during those years; “So the company exists for near around 54 years. So that is to be expected and it really evolved a number of times and that you can set up actually a company that mainly manufactures electronics space. So some of the companies or customers around motor manufactories industries such as Toyota would usually purchase from us car alarms and couple of other small car manufacturing. Over time, we levelled up in distinctive catering or skill in electronic gadgetry that provides a competitive edge within three days where we are able to go into contract manufacturing for customers that are outside. For manufacturing, as long as they need some sort of electronic manufacturing done, we are able to do it through our operating system.” Since the inception of Conlog, before the divergence into smart meters and prepaid solutions, their main focus has been to maintain and provide with their best of their abilities no matter the situation. Whilst the fundamentals have been established, what led them to this point? “Where it (Conlog) comes from where it involved a lot of

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Sibusiso

Conlog (Pty) Ltd is Africa’s leading manufacturer of Luminaires and Glass Fibre Reinforced polyester (GRP) Poles.

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Conlog

hands that basically exchanged the business such as Schneider electric and now has recently bought over by a group called CIG group, Consolidated Infrastructure Group. A group that specialises in infrastructure projects in mainly public areas. In that space they are a revenue protection and service provider.” Says Sibusiso Skosana. For Conlog, what is their core business in the modern incarnation of 2018? Sibusiso Skosana explains “Basically from a strategy perspective, we allow our customers to make connections. So we are connecting our customers to resources. So whenever these resources is water or electricity, our future is going to be theirs and any information of course in interest. So basically, we value ourselves as their link between our customers and their resources that they need. Today our top businesses are mainly around pre-paid metering or what you call revenue protection.” Their manufacturing past has helped them far into the present and the foreseeable future. Whilst the skills of manufacturing car parts and gadgets are now part of their history, the set of skills acquired from that industry has led them the ability to be self-reliant on their abilities and setting according to their own high standards. “We rely on almost on our meters. Our solutions have been developed and designed by ourselves through our electronic engineers with our own resources of course. So we actually designed this gadget, we manufacture them, we of course sell them and we also do installations. In fact if I were to take you through the whole process, we would also manage them from a business perspective” says Sibusiso Skosana, providing a picture of their process. Conlog extremely cares for their brand name and product to a high point; “Sometimes we have a service level argument with the customer where we are able to, as technology evolves, we are able to come back to upgrade it and base their existing technology within the new technology. So we do that if the product is in a terrible state or service against it.” To maintain their integrity and truly care for their customers, Conlog is prepared to beneficially update their equipment even if it may become a hassle for themselves. That is the key point for Conlog that separates them from their 4 | www.industryafrica.net

We provide full scope solutions to enhance people’s lives on a daily basis in terms of safety and well-being in the most sustainable way.


Conlog

competitors by a wide margin which is their utter enlightened belief in assisting their customers to achieve their goals as well rather than just selling and providing a basic service; “Well apart from the fact that we have existed in such a long time, we have managed to become a trusted advisor to our customer. So a couple of them are buying from us mainly because they are attracted to a brand. Yes, the brand equity is good and is high but it’s more that we are now a trusted advisor not only in terms of revenue protection space but also in terms of the money flow. In our assistance, we deal a lot of cash. What do I mean by cash? Once induced in a van and vended, a lot of that cash that we handled would have to go into different spaces so we are getting to a point where we are a trusted advisor to be in that space. When we provide services and solutions, we then get to get the opportunity to advise our customers which is one of our distinctive difference between ourselves and other competitors.” This ability to provide an insight to boost every other business that they

cater to is not a requirement but utterly beneficial to those around them which drives customers to Conlog. It is also their fundamental understanding of what Africa is, which is expressed in the reliability of their equipment “that technology have withstood the African condition. Remember, most of our competitors are bringing most of their products from a number of areas of geography around the world. Sometimes we have to put a product in Uganda where the average temperature is about 25-40 degrees Celsius in winter. You can imagine what it’s like in summer and the device has to go into an enclosure. We have thousands, if not millions of products that are already in indoors geography and have withstood those indoor geographies and all the other geographies over 10-16 years sometimes. So from a technology perspective we’ve managed to really come up with a technology that not only talks to the African customer but can also stand the African conditions. And that is also the reason we stand out from the competition. Apart from the sector that turns around

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in terms of time and services, these type of things are which we are striving every day to sort of separate us from our competitors to satisfy our customers.” Sibusiso Skosana expressed passionately. Due to their reliable technology that can withstand African weather conditions, Conlog has a considerable market in Africa. Other areas of the world have also displayed interest due to their remarkable reliability in its designs. “A big chunk of the produce is still within Africa. About 90% of it is still within Africa. The other 10% is mainly around countries in South America; Chile, Argentina and a couple of middle Eastern countries. But what we foresee happening is that we’re going to cede or formulate partnerships with some customer, well we call them customers, partners in Europe and China where we are actually growing out to take our mechanical engineering.” The manufacturing reliability and advanced technology are sometimes even used as the basis of other businesses as well indicating an immense influence on the technology

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Conlog

market “By the way, SGF Technology is our technology. So if it is been used in anywhere else in the world, it has always needed to come here. So in terms of the technology ourselves, it is exported. But if it is in terms of product, we see a lot of tractions in these countries. If I can give you an idea, in South Africa and Africa as a whole, we hold quite a healthy market share particularly in countries like Uganda, Nigeria. We are now going into Ghana and Ethiopia. So we tend to see a lot of growth going into these economies at the moment.” The whole world especially in Africa is becoming educated in ethical and ‘green’ business practices that would reduce and minimise impaction of the geographical areas that are being developed on. To match the new demands from the world and to create a safer, healthier impact on both the economy and environment, Conlog rise to the challenges through a plethora of methods: “In our manufacturing process, we deal a lot with lead. We deal a lot of soldering into kitchens boards. Often we have to show how we are trying to recuse the amount of lead we use in our manufacturing process but what do we do with products that comeback that reached the end of their life. We’ve just recently about a year or two ago, launched a project where we actually go through our manufacturing process through the lead and we look at areas that we can actually try and reduce lead to make sure we contribute positively to the environment. That’s just one project. But we also get a number of other initiatives in our manufacturing process. Also, we have to comply with the ISO standard and they become more important as time goes. Today we have ISO:9001 positively impacting the environment project. Another main economic 6 | www.industryafrica.net

new tool. We are allowing ‘N’ users to use less electricity to have more visibility on their electricity usage. This also contributes positively into the green economy because the less they use, the less we have to produce”. These bonus initiatives are proofs of commitment including following the guidance of ISO:9001. In support of the ‘Green’ movement, Conlog aims to be an influencer of Africa as an ecological educator to the continent “our technology not only has to work in South Africa but in general African conditions. If you’ve been to Nigeria, people use more fuel like diesel and petrol than they actually use electricity for that matter. They burn it through generators and a lot of those types of engines including big tractors and cars. We are well ahead of it but in part of our green initiative, we are assisting these types of countries to be more cognisant and pay bit more attention to the green side of things.” As discussed earlier before, innovation and change is embodied by Conlog. So how do they maintain fresh thoughts and directions within their company? “One of the things we identified as a business and it’s not unique to ourselves and its normal in other companies that we have to continue marketing. Innovation can sometimes just lead to areas that we are not familiar with. Take for instance; we have always been electrical or electronics when we were manufacturing for gadgets. Now we have been looking at developing apps and web apps and basically software based solutions. Now this is outside of our capabilities as an electronics company if you know what I mean.” Sibusiso Skosana explains further “In our deep processes, we have to make sure all the time that new fresh eyes and brains come into our space

so that we don’t keep on using our existing development processes where we start lagging behind or becoming irrelevant. To give you an example, if you continue to keep using the Ethernet cable as a primary form of communication protocol and we are moving into complete different PHT or different communication, you become completely irrelevant as you can’t be integrated into the bigger schemes of things. So we continuously have a look through our human capability compartment, turning the right excuse that talks to what we are trying to address in the market.” Maintaining this type of high skilled operations also requires high skilled employees directly within their company. But yes, skills, where we come from as a country, you also understand that we got a lot to catch up compared to our colleagues in Europe and China.” Despite this challenge of meeting the high standards of an already preestablished population of skilled workers, Conlog also shines a beacon that assuages any concerns about this matter for the company “For us to go into that space, we’ve identified that skill is a very big problem. In fact, what we’ve done is we started partnering with innovation centres. Here in Johannesburg, there’s a centre with a few partners who call it the best initiatives. We partnered with a technology partners with the innovation half because we want to tap into their tool of resources to be able to assist us in acquiring a specific skill set around trimming around blocking technologies we are afraid and that we are exposed to. Skill is quite a big thing and a big problem for us but we are mitigating and trying to partner with external companies to get around this (problem).” Understanding and


Conlog

attempting collaborative solutions again highlights Conlog’s view on boosting other businesses worth thereby helping the African economy. It is also another sign of humility and honesty of their problems that they address with solutions already in mind “We are really doing our best. Is it where we would like it to be? No. Are we achieving the trajectory? Yes.” At the present moment of 2018, the total staff amount is of approximate 350 people. For the future of Conlog and the industry itself, there is a significant quantity of room to grow and expand further. “Part of our systems operates in a number of countries around the world. This includes South Africa, Europe, the Middle East and of course in some islands like Mauritius or others. So what we foresee happening is that particularly in South Africa, in market, our engineers or our customers are starting to want much more than just a pre-paid meter in their house or a vending system in their infrastructure. They will actually require more information

for them to be able to make decisions around how they consume electricity or gas or water. So we might be slightly behind in the consumption for smart metering compared to our colleagues in Europe or maybe in the United States. But we are seeing the trends where the engineers want direct peer to peer time specificity on consumption and their control of whatever resources that they are trying to manage” Since Conlogs manufactures and designs their own smart meter systems, this trend towards smart meters shows a market potential that Conlag is poised and ready to meet the demand. Unsurprisingly, a business as remarkable as Conlog would have ambitious targets to reach; “Our target aim is to be over 2 billion Rands turnover in about 5 years. In terms of today, we are heading towards a 1 billion Rand point.” Whilst Conlog understands the difficulty of imposing such a challenging target, this does not deter them but in fact, think ways of how to achieve these goals “It is quite hectic but we already have a

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lot of activities that basically talks to these aspirations. Including, we are developing skills around data management, around services and when I mean services, I don’t mean installations; I mean in terms of long term contracts around vending system around 3rd party application. So we actually are lining our whole strategy around to be able to go into these spaces and that definitely will be allowing us to reach our aspiration in about 5 years or so.” Conlog as a company is a poof of validation that brand integrity through assistance is the way forward. Their drive to improve both within their staff and their equipment/ technology is as admirable as it is profitable. Even at the face of change and hardships, their method of maintaining innovation and implementing it is nothing short of stellar. At the heart of it all, it is Conlog’s ability to do all their own changes, grow, expand and yet still able to bolster others that truly makes them a “link between our customers and their resources that they need.”

“We invest in technology and best practice to continuously improve the products and services we offer.”

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Conlog March 2019  

Conlog March 2019