Local manufacturer Pratley, a household name in adhesives, electrical products and other sectors, celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. “It is a remarkable and proud moment for the company, especially for a privately-owned family business. We are now well into the third generation at the helm. There are few companies worldwide that make this milestone,” comments CEO Andrew Pratley.
Working alongside his family is top of the list in terms of personal milestones for Andrew. He formally joined the company in 2005 but worked on the shopfloor in temporary jobs during school holidays. “My late father was my mentor. Previously working beside him and currently alongside my brother Charles has been the biggest privilege. We have witnessed the launch of many world-first products over the years. The launch of any new product really excites me.”
Andrew attributes the longevity of the company to its diverse and extensive product range being unlike anything else on the global market, coupled with a reputation of producing high-quality, reliable products. “I think people identify the brand as an iconic South African name. Also, with having the only South African manufactured product to have gone to the Moon, there certainly is an element of pride.”
The policies underpinning the company have stood it in good stead during tough times. Remarkably, it has no debt, a diverse product offering and is extremely self-reliant. Much of its production is undertaken in-house, including R&D, marketing, logistics, packaging design and production and even raw material production. Lastly, it maintains a 95% ex-store service level, which is measured frequently. “This kind of service level is usually only found in industries such as aerospace,” remarks Andrew.
Looking at the current business environment, Andrew notes that while the last two years following the Covid-19 pandemic stabilised somewhat for South African businesses, that stability has been halted by the prevailing global economic conditions. “The world goes through these economic ups and downs and that will always be a certainty. Things do recover eventually.”
Of concern is the current political and economic landscape in South African as seen against the backdrop of a global recession. “For things to improve domestically, we need a competent, non-corrupt and pro-business political environment. There simply is no other choice. Businesses need people to operate. Make it easy to operate a business in South Africa and more businesses will open and stay open. Open, happy, and growing businesses employ people. It is as simple as that,” says Andrew.
Pratley will see the launch of at least two new electrical products in 2023, while some exciting new additions to its adhesive range are also in the pipeline. At least one of these will be another world-first. Andrew points out that R&D is and will continue to be a cornerstone of Pratley. “We are committed to R&D, and we see our future and growth in continuing a long line of new products.” The company invests heavily in R&D, both financially and from a human resource perspective. Its recent launch of an internationally approved and highly innovative flameproof cable gland range for explosive atmospheres is a testament to that.
Another growth area is the global export market, especially in Africa. With the rest of the world facing challenges, the continent offers exciting growth opportunities for Pratley’s electrical and adhesive ranges. “For example, the latter offers innovation and reliability that many of these markets have not experienced before. Hence our adhesive range is ideally suited to emerging markets where DIY and automotive repair are common.”
As for Pratley’s 75th-anniversary celebrations this year, Andrew says the company’s highly competent and hardworking staff contingent deserves to celebrate this milestone. “Without good people, companies do not make it to 75 years. It is humbling to highlight that many employees began their careers at Pratley in their early 20s and have retired successfully. It is also a testament to our high staff retention. We are just one big Pratley family.”
Andrew adds that, after 75 years, a lot of customers remain steadfast friends of the company and its staff. “Some have been with us for more than 40 years. We thank them for their years of loyalty and for ‘sticking’ with us. We will continue our relationships into the future by providing our customers with innovative and reliable solutions to their problems – and in accordance with our policy statement, solutions that outperform all others.”
As for observing this milestone in the remarkable and ongoing history of Pratley, Andrew concludes: “We also have one or two publicity events planned which will take place in the second half of the year. These are still in the planning stage, so I do not want to let the cat out of the bag too early!”