Booyco Engineering has recently undergone a successful strategic restructuring which has unleashed significant potential and positioned the company for an exciting move into new, as yet untapped, markets.

Booyco Engineering specialises in mobile HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) applications. Among landmark achievements in its 25 years of operation are the design and development of the environmental control system for South Africa’s Rooivalk attack helicopter, the development of the innovative Mikroklim personnel body cooling system for use in ultra-deep mines, the development of the crew cooling system for the main battle tank of a major South Pacific country and the development and supply of large volumes of systems for Armoured Personnel Carriers being used by US based customers.

The company has also delivered numerous custom-designed air conditioning systems for some of the heaviest open-pit and underground mining operations in southern Africa.

Handing over the reins to a new managing director

Former managing director, Jeremy Pougnet, has handed over the reins to Pieter de Koning who relinquishes his previous role as technical director and engineering manager to assume the new responsibility of managing all the operational aspects of business, including sales of existing products to current customers and the sale of new products to both existing and prospective customers.

“I have now been appointed chairman of the board,” explained Pougnet. He continued, “And I will be concentrating my efforts on a more strategic role, exploring new markets and taking the business in new directions, penetrating as yet unfamiliar territory.” His three new portfolios encompass business development, marketing and process improvement.

Pougnet’s previous position, handling the myriad day-to-day issues involved in managing a business, significantly restricted the time he could dedicate to strategic matters. “Even in the short period since the restructuring has taken place, we have noticed a marked difference,” he claims. “I have been able to give major impetus to initiatives to enter new markets, particularly the North American arena.”

The drive to become a player on American soil was started some years ago. “We originally founded a company there to tackle a project that required local content,” he continued. “Government policy requires that a certain minimum percentage of local content must be included, but then at the eleventh hour, that requirement was waived.” Although Booyco Engineering had already established the necessary infrastructure and resource base, the company was able to handle the project from South Africa.

“On the other hand,” he added, “We still cherished our ambition to establish a going concern in the States where we aim to have a percentage of what is, in effect, an almost unlimited market.” The overseas company was kept as a shell, and Booyco Engineering has now taken two new American customers on board and is working energetically to add a further two. “This is getting us off to a flying start,” he says with satisfaction.

Developing joint venture/mergers and acquisitions

Pougnet will also be building on experience gained with previous tentative incursions into the joint venture/mergers and acquisitions field, taking full advantage of the capacity now freed by the restructuring.

He plans to make a major input into process development, implementing ideas and plans which germinated during his years as managing director but which had to be put on hold for lack of time and capacity.

Responsibilities in this particular area have been divided between de Koning and Pougnet. “If anything is broken in terms of processes, discipline or operations, I will handle the matter,” explains de Koning. “Jeremy’s role will kick in with any innovation to systems and procedures.”

De Koning has been with Booyco for 13 years and has during that time has been exposed to every facet of business, so the move to managing director is a natural transition. “The restructuring is definitely more an evolution than a seismic shift,” he says. Both management and personnel have reacted very favourably to the changes and there is an almost palpable atmosphere of energy and anticipation in the corridors. Customers too are positive and supportive.

“We have worked in tandem for a while,” de Koning stresses. “We share the same values, we have the same goals and complement one another perfectly in wanting to take the business into new territory.”

According to de Koning, it is uncanny how swiftly and smoothly everything has fallen into place. “Some 18 months ago, we considered implementing the Six Sigma philosophy and methodology on process improvement but concluded that we were not ready for it. Now that we have embarked on our new route, we realised that everything is prepared: we have the capacity, the time and the necessary skills. This is the type of initiative that is going to take Booyco Engineering to the next level.”

Avoiding the economic effects of the recession

The economic downturn has had little, if any effect, on Booyco Engineering’s operations and profits. “We target a specialised niche,” Pougnet points out. “Due to the specialised nature of our client’s vehicles, they seldom purchase off-the-shelf products and we have the expertise to design, test and qualify products for their unique use. We get contracts to develop prototypes which may or may not result in volume production and we are working to get the mix between the two correct.”

Booyco Engineering has witnessed a major growth curve which achieved all-time highs during 2009. “We expect our auditors to confirm remarkable 12 month results within days,” Pougnet says. “Much of our success has to do with our management philosophy. We keep overheads tight, we outsource all specialised manufacturing processes but invest heavily in human capital. This gives us enormous flexibility and versatility, enabling us to ramp up to handle higher volumes as required.”

Entering a new era

Looking back over its 25 year evolution, Pougnet sees the company’s current position, poised to enter a new era, as a culmination of many initiatives requiring determination, persistence and adherence to shared values and principles. “As a result, and not without considerable blood, sweat and tears, we have the right people in the right positions, we have the right suppliers and partners and have established standards and methodologies which are respected by both our own personnel and customers and suppliers,” he points out.

“We are immensely proud of this achievement of a quarter century of service to our customers, helping the economy grow in the process,” Pougnet continues. “I think the accomplishment is particularly noteworthy when one considers statistics of business failure – very few companies make it past the five year mark.”

A focus on quality and excellence

Totally focused on quality and excellence, Booyco subscribes to the American “Three strikes and you are out” philosophy. “As a result we have strong internal and external teams and partnerships and have the confidence to launch into bigger things and become more of an international player,” Pougnet says.

He is confident that both management and staff are fired with the same ambition and vision to drive the company to new heights. “There is a deep sense of buy-in and understanding of our mission at all levels,” he claims. “We have also set our sights on becoming an employer of choice and are actively pursuing initiatives to turn that into a consistent reality. Our expertise is vested in our people’s heads, so we focus on retaining them by treating them exceptionally well. We guard our culture jealously and Pieter will now be the custodian of upholding standards.”

Adding value through restructuring

The restructuring has also seen two new appointments which bring further value to the already impressive equation. “Jeff Law becomes the new operations manager. He counts some 10 years experience in the industry and is going to make a substantial contribution with the initiative and entrepreneurial flair that slots right into our company culture of dynamism and flair,” comments Pougnet.

“Grant Miller has been Pieter’s prot…g… in the engineering department and has been specifically groomed for his appointment as engineering manager.”

Already, as a prelude to the planned growth and expansion, Booyco Engineering has completed the development of a product in a new sector. Called Klimatech, it is a range of air conditioning units with different configurations for public transport vehicles. “This will eventually become one of our standard products and has considerable growth potential,” comments de Koning. Two different prototypes have already been installed in vehicles and a third is currently in development.

“We now have the capability, the capacity, the vision and the will as well as the energy to drive the company into a new dimension of operation,” concludes Pougnet. “We are confident that within a relatively short space of time, we will be making headlines, both locally and internationally.”