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Buyer Beware When Dealing with the Far East

Get the Best Deal when Importing Manufacturing Machinery from the Far East.

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Imagine spending hundreds of thousands of US dollars to import rollforming machinery from the Far East, only to discover upon its arrival, that the machine does not work and cannot be fixed.

Many businesses, daunted by the high cost of metalforming equipment, decide to buy from the Far East. Their reasons are twofold: prices are often far lower than their American or European counterparts, and local engineers often do not have the experience for advanced machines such as high speed lines with in-line punching configurations.

Once burnt, twice shy

Greg Fuchsloch, CEO of Metalforming Technologies South Africa, has been in the metalforming industry for 18 years and has seen local entrepreneurs forced to shut their doors after buying insufficient machinery from the Far East.

“One client only realised after the machinery was installed that it couldn’t run the material he had bought at a value of R2 million,” says Fuchsloch. “The only way to rectify the problem was to either buy a new machine or buy new material.  It simply would not rollform the material that the client intended profiling.”

According to Fuchsloch, if the price seems too good to be true, there is something to be concerned about.

So, is it possible to procure good quality equipment from the Far East? Fuchsloch believes it is. “It’s possible to find well-made machinery at lower prices, but you need to know exactly what you are looking for and where to go. Take the time to do plenty of research and visit each machine builder personally, even if it means visiting upward of forty manufacturers.”

Choosing the right equipment

Fuchsloch shares five tips on what to watch out for when sourcing a good deal on imported equipment:

1) Can replacement parts be found in South Africa?

Before purchasing any machinery, look carefully at each component and ensure replacement parts can be sourced locally. Some parts and components in the machines are critical in their design, and it is not worth taking a chance with cheaper, poorly designed alternatives. Look specifically at PLCs, electric switches, electric motors, drives and hydraulic components. Ensure the product list is detailed and steer towards brand name components. They may cost a little more initially, but the machines will stay in good working order for longer.

“While you’re at it, double check that all of the components used are authentic,” says Fuchsloch. “In many cases, known brand components are not supported in theFar East.”

2) Get a service agreement and warranties

Take special care when looking at the service agreement. Some manufacturers offer a one year warranty on paper but will refuse to replace the part when it breaks, suggesting the component broke through operator error. The supplier must agree to fly out a technician within a few days and at their own expense, or work with an approved local company who is able to service or repair the equipment.

“A local company recently bought four machines at a very cheap price from the Far East,” says Fuchsloch. “Three roofing panel machines and an insulated panel machine, none of which were in working order when they arrived.

“The client thought it was a small problem and brought in an engineering company to look at the machine. They were unable to fix it and so turned to me to see if I could help. After looking at the machines I determined that they were so poorly designed that the components could not even be used separately.

“The only option was to dump the machines and start over. The client wasn’t happy with my findings and showed me the door. Unfortunately his business didn’t survive this very expensive lesson.”  Be sure to inspect the machines in theFar Eastbefore shipment.

3) What is the delivery date, and what are the repercussions for late delivery?

Have precautions in place for possible problems such as late delivery. Ensure that the company you are dealing with is proficient in English and able to communicate your requirements and any possible future problems you may experience.

“Alternatively use a local company who deals in machinery, who knows the lay of the land and has done this many times before,” says Fuchsloch. “You might pay a little more up front, but it will save you a ton of heartache, lost production time and money in the end if you buy from a reputable company.”

4) Is the supplier also the manufacturer? 

Not all Far East manufacturers have an export licence and so they use a local middle man to manufacture the machinery. It’s hard to tell which one you’re working with, especially when the massive factory floor is filled with many machines you assume are made on the premises or at least by the same company. The agent often doesn’t have the technical expertise to answer your questions or adequately understand your requirements.

Visit the factory yourself; there is no way around it. Make sure you see the factory and not just the showroom, warehouse or someone else’s factory. And take a translator with you  some bigger companies have staff who can speak English, but most of the technical staff cannot.

5) Get a technical manual in English 

Finally, Fuchsloch recommends getting a technical manual written in English. “It often happens that I get a frantic call from buyers who can’t use their machines because they haven’t been supplied with a manual and can’t figure out how to get it working,” he concludes.

Good deals are out there

Despite the obvious obstacles, Fuchsloch does believe that it is possible to find a good deal if you’re prepared to put in extra time and money to research what you are getting, or work with an established and approved company with years of experience.

Metalforming Technologies SA has offices both in South Africa and in China. For more information please visit http://www.metalformingtechsa.com/

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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Team Resolutions: 11 Tips To Uncover Passion And Potential In New Hires

If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires.

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If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires says Michelle Seko, Talent Acquisition Manger at Sage Africa & Middle East.

The importance of a good candidate experience cannot be underestimated. Research has shown that 88% of job applicants are more likely to buy from a company if they’ve had a positive experience when applying for work there. Research has also shown that candidates talk about their experiences with a company, regardless of whether they got the job. Some candidates would even refer a friend to the company and others will re-apply for a future role, if the experience was a good one.

Research also found that:

Related: Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People

Win-win

Businesses enter into a relationship with a new hire the moment they sign on the dotted line. And, as with any relationship, it will only flourish if built on trust, respect and a commitment to self-improvement.

When you set new hires up for personal success, the outcomes naturally feed into your business’ success, which means you both win.

Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your new hires:

Make them feel welcome

Introduce them to the people they’ll be working with as soon as possible so that they immediately feel part of a team. At Sage, we partner new hires with a buddy, or Sage Ambassador, who helps them settle in and meet new people, contributing to the positive on-boarding experience.

Focus on the benefits

Compelling benefits not only attract the best candidates but also boost loyalty and job satisfaction. People are motivated by different things: one person might value flexi-time while another could place more importance on growth opportunities or bonuses. Focus on the benefits that align with the individual’s values when onboarding.

Set goals early and outline a plan to achieve them

This keeps your team focused, especially if they will be rewarded for achieving their goals.

Assess performance

Monthly, at least. Adjust goals and plans where necessary, reward good performance, introduce new challenges and deal with issues promptly.

Show genuine interest

Regular catch-ups and remembering children’s names, for instance, makes people feel appreciated.

Empower them

Let your new hires apply their knowledge to business challenges and offer training opportunities outside of their comfort zones. Reward ideas that help you do things better and faster.

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

Encourage collaboration

People thrive when they can learn from others and when they can share their knowledge. Involve experienced team members in the new hire’s training. This is a great way to recognise and appreciate their loyalty and skills.

Be transparent

Do you have difficult clients? Will the new hire have to work overtime? What are the business’s goals? New hires should know what they’re getting into.

Provide solid training on everything from company culture and benefits, to opportunities for growth

The biggest cost associated with training people is the time it takes for them to become productive. But rushing through on-the-job training could lead to a host of other problems, including repeated mistakes and a lack of confidence.

Openly communicate any changes in the business

Manage your team’s expectations and be clear about yours. Allow new hires to question and understand how you do things and to point out errors – their past experience probably gave them new ideas and ways of working that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity.

Be upbeat

Your mood sets the tone for everyone else. You can have the best product in the world but unless your team is passionate and enthusiastic about that product, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

Keeping people motivated and productive is hard work

But if you provide them with the tools, knowledge and support to do their best work and to contribute their best ideas, motivation and productivity will come naturally.

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