Hello, I bid you all a very warm welcome and thank you for taking time to interact with us in our very first edition of our Quarterly update! It is difficult to believe that we are already at the end of the first quarter of 2021. We are indeed living through historical times and adjusting to the many changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last year we have been forced out of our comfort zone, rapidly mastering a learning curve on how to best continue our personal and working lives in as normal a way as possible within an environment of health risks, uncertainties and new realities; unchartered territory for us all.
It is against this backdrop that I would like to keep in touch with you over the next few months and share some of our strategies that we have lined up for the year ahead. The Coronavirus, with all its accompanying and necessary health and safety protocols, has presented individuals and businesses with unprecedented challenges and although 2020 was without any doubt a grueling year, great teamwork and wonderful support from various sources helped us to weather the storm. While our second quarter was down compared to previous years we were able to bounce back very well in the last two quarters of 2020 with our Service Division in particular doing very well.
Like most other industries, we were affected by the full level 5 lockdown rules announced by the South African Government that came into effect at midnight on 26th March 2020 whereby everyone, with the exception of first responders, medical personnel and essential service providers, had to remain at home. To ensure continuity of our business, we had to implement plans very quickly. The fact that working remotely has always been possible for a large percentage of our team, gave us a distinct advantage. But we had to gear our office staff to work from home to ensure that they had the necessary connectivity and access to relevant data. Thanks to our flexibility and ability to adapt very quickly, the process was pretty seamless.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easily we adopted new processes, started to do things differently and continued to find ways to remain productive, even during times when it was not possible to conduct normal sales and service business. We found this to be a great time to develop employees through training and subsequently our team rolled out comprehensive training programs which proved to be extremely successful.
In order to support our essential services customers during level 5, we ensured that we too were registered as an essential services provider. We also increased stock levels as required, since freight to South Africa became very limited and extremely expensive. But as we were only allowed to support essential services customers during this time, our sales and services were understandably negatively affected.
Although we made full use of virtual meetings and worked remotely, these are not my preferred methods because I am a firm believer in personal interaction and the value it adds. However, I do see the benefits and we proved that we are able to maintain a high level of efficiency so we will continue with some of these methods post-Covid. Virtual meetings can, under certain circumstances, definitely be more productive; money and time can be saved by eliminating the need for on-site follow up visits every time something needs to be discussed, subsequently speeding up the buying cycle.
Looking at the bigger picture, I strongly believe that South Africa’s economic growth will be determined by how the country handles this pandemic as well as other policies going forward. There is huge potential for growth, but investor confidence is not very high, which could have a serious impact on our economic growth for 2021. Economic growth will also have an impact on regional development. We see the need for development as well as the opportunities to do so, but in order for this to happen, investment must come from somewhere and if it is not forthcoming, development will naturally suffer.
I believe certain policies will have to be reviewed in order to swing investor confidence in our favour. How this is dealt with will also have an impact on Compressor Technique’s performance and growth over the next few months. We always set ourselves ambitious growth targets, and there is no reason for this year to be any different. We see a lot of opportunities to grow our market share and this is where our focus will be during 2021.
At the moment we are finding that customers are extremely hesitant in committing to large capital investments. It is understandably difficult to continue with any upgrade or expansion project if you are not sure where your company will be in six months from now. This stems largely from the many uncertainties about the country’s future centred on a number of pressing issues such as the possibility of a third Covid wave necessitating stricter lockdowns and the unreliability of the country’s energy supply.
In times like these it is even more critical than ever before for customers to increase production and maximise efficiencies while reducing operational costs wherever possible. We remain committed to supporting our customers through these difficult times, always aiming to be First in Mind, First in Choice. At Atlas Copco we pride ourselves in being a total solutions provider when it comes to compressed air and associated products and services. Through continuous R&D and product and technology innovations, Compressor Technique is able to add value in these times of uncertainty by offering a sustainable solution in the form of energy efficient products. Our range of remote monitoring packages will assist customers in driving up efficiencies by identifying any potential problems. We also have a range of controllers that can manage their equipment and ensure optimum usage and save on maintenance cost.
In many ways 2021 will be seen as a ‘rebuilding’ phase in our market segments. Going into 2021 with an exceptional team and the many lessons learnt, I believe it will be a very lucrative year for Compressor Technique. So let’s work together, support each other and make 2021 an unequivocal success!