Editor's Choice

Festo celebrates 50 years in the African market

April 2023 Editor's Choice News

Festo Holdings Group is a worldwide automation giant which was founded in 1925. Although it had been operating in South Africa through a distributor before 1973, Dr Wilfried Stoll (General Manager of the Festo Holdings Group GmbH) identified significant opportunities for automation development during a visit to the country. In March 1973, Festo South Africa was established as the Group’s 16th international subsidiary. The business quickly gained traction due to its premium quality products and competent professional sales team. With its headquarters in Johannesburg, the company expanded its local footprint by progressively opening seven additional branches covering Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Free State provinces.

Mr Kurt Auf der Heyde was the organisation’s first Managing Director, and after leading the charge for twenty-five years, he passed the baton to Mr Richard Teagle in 1998. With Mr Auf der Heyde’s legacy in mind, Mr Teagle ushered the entity into a new era of growth. In 2014, Mr Brett Wallace, a visionary with a passion for innovation and a drive to take Festo to new heights, was announced as the new Managing Director. Under his leadership, this pioneering corporation has confidently played a pivotal role in shaping the industrial landscape and driving economic growth within industry.

“Today, we have established ourselves as leaders throughout the continent, directly and indirectly, with the aid of our vast distributor presence, thereby making modern automation technology easily accessible in Africa. The

Group has expanded to 61 countries with over 20 700 employees globally. At Festo South Africa, we collaborated with Festo France, Spain, and Portugal to form a collective cluster referred to as Southwest Europe Africa (SWEA). This partnership has extended the team’s capabilities to provide sales and technical support to our patrons in various languages, thus better serving Africa’s diverse operational landscape and enabling Festo clients to accelerate their performance”, shares Mr Wallace.

An ever-evolving product portfolio to meet the market’s needs

Festo’s continual innovation in research and development ensures that its Business Units (Process, Electric, Pneumatic Automation and Didactic training) offer the latest technological solutions. Its range spans from basic fittings and tubing to sophisticated systems, including linear drives, actuators, valve terminals, servo and stepper motors, sensors, customised control panels and training to name a few. These offerings boast an extensive array of automation solutions tailored to meet the distinct demands of the African market and its diverse industries, including automotive, food and beverage, packaging, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, petrochemicals, oil and gas, water and wastewater, and mining. From concept to completion, it is a one-stop shop for all automation needs.

Staying at the forefront of technological innovation, Festo continuously merges its extensive knowledge of industrial applications with the latest digital enhancements. An excellent illustration of this alignment can be seen in the way it incorporated digital apps into smart valve terminals – a first globally. These apps are popular for enhancing productivity and reducing system complexities. To outpace the rapid technological developments in the digital space, Festo acquired an IT enterprise specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This acquisition empowers its consumers to benefit from years of its subsidiary’s experience in this AI field and allows them to obtain and maximise the advantages of machine learning. Also making an impressive mark in the industry is its latest digital project, the Automation Experience (AX). This platform uses AI to help businesses monitor and proactively detect deviations within standard operating environments and uses findings as leading indicators of production efficiencies, cost savings and maintenance requirements. Its product innovation department continues to evolve as the industry embraces changes in the world of digital technology.

A customer-centric omnichannel experience

At the forefront of digital transformation, the corporation leads the way by operating an online shop featuring a vast inventory of more than 30 000 products. Mr Wallace adds, “We launched our Online shop in 2009 with the aim that this platform would offer buyers an exceptional shopping experience and showcase our unwavering dedication to providing top-notch service. To keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of e-commerce, we frequently integrate the latest functional updates into our website, which allows clients to compare products, download CAD models, select appropriate accessories and optimise product configurations.

We founded our Customer Interaction Centre (CIC) in 2010, which is the first point of telephonic contact for clientele seeking quality service, seamless purchasing, and expert guidance. This was established to streamline our purchasers’ order process and promptly assist with technical queries. We continuously monitor all the CIC’s transactions and customer experiences to achieve this efficiency. This information is used to benchmark against global standards and incorporate improvements to our performance and service delivery to our customers”.

As automation pioneers, this entity is proud to have a competent, technically knowledgeable and qualified team that carries its vision of helping its consumers reach their highest productivity levels. Festo introduced a vast distributor network of 115 resellers and 43 Official Partners supplying products and technical support solutions across Africa.

Collectively, this omnichannel approach helps businesses find the perfect solution through a process of their choosing.

Technical training and learning systems

Festo’s commitment goes beyond just automation solutions; it has significantly contributed to educational institutions over the years. Tying into its contributions to development, Festo has established itself as a leader in technical competence training. This division offers a range of training equipment, curricular and technical courses designed to equip users with the competence needed in their respective industries. Festo’s commitment to education and training has nurtured a strong talent pool in South Africa, contributing to both employability and productivity.

Their state-of-the-art learning systems are supplied to vocational institutions and industrial training centres across Africa. Its comprehensive training equipment ranges from individual learning systems to complete workstations, training packages and training factories to software, e-learning as well as teachware. Although designed and adapted for training, the components are authentic industrial parts designed for users to acquire practical competence through hands-on learning and actively working with the equipment.

Festo’s ethos to cultivate critical engineering skills aids students in developing their technical competence, which in turn is ultimately transferred back into industry, driving efficiency gains and industrialisation.

Mr Wallace, Managing Director of Festo South Africa, concludes, “All of us at Festo South Africa are incredibly proud of our history and our impact on the African continent thus far. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we look towards the future with optimism. We aim to continue to build a presence that is dependable, sustainable and focused on achieving growth not only for our clients but for the economy in general”. The company’s commitment to innovation, and customer-centric solutions, coupled with its adoption of robust omnichannel strategies and training programs, positions them for infinite growth and success in the market.

For more info on Festo products, visit www.festo.co.za or contact their marketing team at 08600 FESTO (33786) or email [email protected]


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