Inhep Digital Security (IDS) designs, manufactures and distributes intrusion solutions and offers pre- and post-sales service and support. IDS is owned by Lereko Metier Capital Growth Fund (LMCGF), a black-owned and black-led investment house in South Africa with the credentials and intent to play a role in the transformation of the local economy and for its neighbours in Africa.
The IDS research and development (R&D) team and ISO 9001:2008 accredited manufacturing facility is based at its head office in Durban, where it has produced in excess of one million alarm panels and associated peripheral products.
IDS has remained largely unaffected by cheap Chinese alternatives because there is a significant amount of intellectual property within an alarm panel that takes years to develop and is not easily replicated. It focuses its R&D efforts on the more sophisticated IP and user interface requirements in the panels, keypads, firmware and software, where its engineers can add value and leave the commoditised items such as detectors to the Chinese. Local manufacturers will always battle to compete with commodity based items because we lack the scale required to drive down costs. Local manufacturers need support from government to manage rising costs and remain competitive.
Retaining good R&D engineers is always a challenge, however IDS prides itself on its talent management programme that has been successful in attracting and retaining skilled resources and providing the continuity needed to successfully develop innovative new products. The results of its talent management programme were evident when it launched the X64 alarm panel and subsequent integrated Duevi wireless solution, which has provided it double-digit unit growth in the 16 zone and above expandable panel segment of the market for the past 18 months.
IDS has also been on a skills drive in its manufacturing facility for the past three years. It reviewed its skill sets at the time and embarked on a rigorous improvement programme from general workers to production managers. IDS has staff on learnership programmes and dedicated mentors to ensure the success of these individuals. This has allowed it to deploy manufacturing concepts like lean manufacturing emphasising 5S and 7 wastes. It has also ensured all staff are multi skilled allowing it to adapt to changing market demands. Staff are all IPC accredited and are reviewed yearly to ensure skills are consistent with requirements allowing for improved quality, reduced scrap rates and allowing the company to be more cost competitive.
As far as alarm panels are concerned, there is a significant advantage to having a local R&D team as customers appreciate a supplier that is more agile than international competitors. Local and sub-Saharan Africa customers are IDS’s ‘entire world’ and it takes requests for customisation and enhancements very seriously and can respond quickly. Fortunately, southern Africa is not as significant for international manufacturers who service far more lucrative markets and consequently the region falls way down the pecking order when customisation and product change requests are prioritised. Its local presence has given it a competitive advantage in sub-Saharan Africa.
Another advantage of local manufacture is the ability to adjust production runs at short notice to meet changes in consumer demand, provided the required components are available. This is a costly exercise and drives the selling price up, but can be done if required. IDS has negotiated minimum stockholdings with local component suppliers so it can make changes on the fly without incurring the costs associated with holding large quantities of components.
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