Global strength, local craft

Issue 8 2023 Editor's Choice

Impro Technologies is a resounding success story. Started in South Africa, the company remains true to its roots and still designs and manufactures its access control systems and solutions in the country. The company built a global business from the southern tip of Africa, which ASSA ABLOY eventually acquired.

Despite the new parent company, Impro is still running its own business, with access to a larger market and vast technical resources. It still sells its solutions globally and has established its brand name in many countries.

SMART Security Solutions asked Impro’s Bruce Pardy about the company’s commitment to local design and manufacturing; could it not find cheaper manufacturing locations, especially using its holding company’s economies of scale?

Pardy explains that local works for the company because Impro has fostered a close-knit relationship between its engineering and factory teams, leading to expedited and more efficient ‘New Product Introduction’ (NPI) processes. “This approach allows us to steer our priorities independently.”

Furthermore, the integration of research and development (R&D) and engineering within the same site positions Impro to provide tailored solutions for customers. This co-location facilitates seamless collaboration and enables the swift turnaround of manufacturing processes. The synergy between R&D; and engineering enhances its ability to customise solutions efficiently, meeting customers’ needs with speed and precision.

Pardy continues, “A recent analysis, known as the ‘make or buy study’, revealed that outsourcing our manufacturing to another country does not yield discernible cost benefits. Consequently, we are currently in the process of merging our manufacturing entity with another company within the ASSA ABLOY group. This strategic move aims to harness a wealth of knowledge, experience, skills, and technology to establish a world-class manufacturing facility. This facility will serve as a showcase for the manufacturing capabilities that South Africa has to offer.”

There are other reasons why ‘local is lekker’ for Impro. Pardy says the company takes pride in cultivating strong relationships with its customers, who benefit from the convenience of proximity to its facilities. This geographical closeness ensures customers have easy access to Impro, fostering a responsive and agile interaction.

The skills question

South African businesses in many verticals often complain about the difficulty they experience in acquiring the skills required for developing technology, software and hardware. How has Impro managed to overcome the skills challenge?

“Impro has successfully retained its engineers, boasting an exceptionally low staff turnover,” says Pardy. “This stability has culminated in the formation of a highly skilled design team. The team’s experienced members dedicate time to mentoring and sharing their knowledge with younger staff, fostering a culture of continuous learning and skill development.”

Yet, it is not only skills that make products stand the test of time. In today’s global market, standards are a critical element to get your foot in the door, as many potential customers demand an assurance of quality and performance before spending money.

High-quality standards are of paramount importance for Impro, according to Pardy. “Our commitment to quality is reflected in our adherence to ISO 9001 standards during manufacturing. Additionally, our manufacturing facility holds multiple accreditations, and our products are certified, reinforcing our dedication to maintaining elevated manufacturing standards. These rigorous quality measures underscore our commitment to delivering products of the highest quality to our customers.”

Looking ahead

Regarding the future, things look bright for Impro, especially considering the new “world-class manufacturing facility” mentioned above. Moreover, Pardy says the company’s access to a global technology repository, courtesy of ASSA ABLOY, empowers its roadmap.

“This strategic positioning allows us to tap into a wealth of global technological advancements. Our product management and design teams are at the forefront of innovation, tirelessly creating and refining products incorporating the latest technologies to offer cutting-edge solutions. This commitment ensures that our offerings remain at the forefront of technological advancements, providing our customers with state-of-the-art solutions.”


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