February 2022 marks the tenth anniversary of Rand Air’s Northern Cape Kathu Depot. This is also a celebration of the dedicated and passionate Kathu team and the Depot’s exponential growth over the past five years. The can-do attitude of Sales Representative, Denise Olivier, and skilled technicians Joseph Masiga, Lekunutu Tlhasedi, Nicholaas de Koker, Reuben Nkosi and Trevor Mpikwane has seen the Depot reaching several milestones. The customer base has grown ten-fold and in 2017, turnover increased by 85% and the ‘Depot of the Year’ title was clinched. The success story of this remarkable team continues with Denise achieving the 2018 ‘Sales Rep of the Year’ award and in 2021 the Depot recorded its best revenue year.
When Denise was tasked to help out at the Rand Air Kathu Depot for six months in 2016, she noted the Depot’s tremendous potential, igniting her passion for the region, its people and the business. With the Kathu assignment concluded, Denise was asked to lend assistance at Rand Air’s CTN and DBN Depots. “When I got the call to then help out at our Johannesburg head office, I asked Rand Air General Manager, Kim Coetzee, for an opportunity to grow the business in Kathu,” says Denise. Kim agreed to an initial three months trial period which was short-lived when Denise, during her first month, landed a massive order with one of the Northern Cape’s leading iron ore mines.
“Securing new market sectors and keeping existing customers satisfied can be particularly challenging in this territory,” notes Denise. “Alongside the remote locations of most of the plants, tight mine security makes customer visits very difficult. I was initially given a customers’ list but I did my own research and drove around trying to spot dust-clouds because then I knew that it was a mining operation and a potential customer.” Denise also made sure that she brushed up on her product knowledge.
With the aim of expanding the initial lighting plant rental fleet serving the region’s open cast mines, Denise enquired from customers what other equipment they use on a rental basis. To meet customer demand, it was not long before the Kathu Depot’s rental fleet expanded by some 600% comprising a variety of Atlas Copco mobile generators and air compressors. Pumps were added in 2021 and the lighting plants fleet will soon be boosted with Atlas Copco’s latest LED light towers.
Mining and solar form the lion share of the Kathu Depot’s business. “We support exploration drilling, a key sector of our long-term business, with high-pressure 25bar Atlas Copco compressors,” says Denise who was responsible for adding solar plants to the Depot’s customer base. She explains that this is a fluctuating business as the solar plants rent mobile oil-free electric compressors during commissioning and testing phases. Denise and her team also supply short-term machine rentals to contractors during on-site work.
Denise attributes the Depot’s success to the fact that she does not sell machines but rather a complete solution. “As downtime is simply not an option for our customers, we couple our next-level after-market service package to our quality, robust and efficient Atlas Copco rental products. But I would not be able to achieve any of this without my professional team who ensures that our customers’ machines are maintained regularly. They are always on stand-by, ready to go that extra mile to minimise our customers’ downtime for ultimate peace-of-mind. I take great pride in what I do and regard the Depot as my own business.” The availability of spare parts, which is fundamental to rapid turnarounds and customer uptime, can sometimes be challenging and demands careful management by Denise and her team.
Looking to the future, Denise affirms that her goal is to grow this business even further. “My focus, first and foremost, is to continue looking after our existing customer base, and secondly, to finding new business. There are still countless mines that I can call on. I have learnt through my numerous international training courses to keep knocking on doors and build solid customer relationships.” Denise believes strongly in face-to-face selling because facial expressions and body language provide vital visual clues. However, during the strict lockdowns in 2020, phone calls were her only route to customers. The fact that the Kathu Depot reached its highest turnover in 2021 is proof that Denise’s phone calls paid dividends. Denise reveals that the Kathu Depot’s footprint was recently expanded into Namibia. “I have already started doing my research and my team and I are extremely excited to forge new rental customers in this country and to take the Kathu Depot to even greater heights in setting the rental benchmark!”