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Norcros South Africa N orcros South Africa has been operational in South Africa for many years. Tile manufacturer JTSA ( Johnson Tile South Africa) was originally established in the 1950s. Tile adhesive manufacturer TAL appeared in 1968 as a joint venture; Norcros bought out its partner in 1996 and eight years later acquired Tile Africa Ltd ( Taf), its main distributor. Norcros now employs just over 1,000 people in the country. Just over half its staff work for TAF, which operates a network of 36 showrooms in South Africa and one in Namibia. Five franchisee organisations operate in South Africa and a further franchise company is established in Mozambique. The stores are focused on ceramic floor tiles, which represent 60 per cent of sales; ancillary products, including adhesives, tools, sanitary ware and bathroom accessories, make up the remainder. " Norcros is an integrated organisation, but the three companies operate as separate business units," says Hamish McKee, the company's sales and marketing executive. " In terms of supply chain issues, we consolidate the three divisions into one, which enables us to achieve better costs in materials, freight and stockholding. The stock issue is particularly important. Lead time for Tile Africa is three months from order to Durban delivery for all imported products. When the order is placed, we make certain sales ratio assumptions. If we can gain an extra month within the cycle, planning becomes more efficient. We can eliminate double handling and redistribution costs if we send supplies from the warehouse to precisely where they're needed, rather than where we think they may be wanted and then have to rebalance." Norcros's main market is in South Africa, but it also exports to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Australia. Johnson Tile ( which was formerly known as Pilkington) sells its products to merchants, who retail to builders, both large and small. " Johnson manufactures both ceramic and porcelain tiles and is the largest manufacturer of tile adhesive in the country," says McKee. The company's production capabilities have been built both through organic investment and by acquisition. The strategy has helped Norcros to become one of the leading businesses in its sector in the whole of Southern Africa. Its approach to current economic and market challenges is to focus on controlling costs, strengthening customer focus and developing new products. " On the tile maintenance side, we are launching an aerosol-based water- repellent grout sealant," McKee says. " A number of people have paint- on products, but we are strongly behind the aerosol. One of its characteristics is that it helps to retain the colour of the tiles, which tends to change as they are washed." June 09 www. bus- ex. com 71 Hamish McKee describes to Ruari McCallion the ways that Norcros South Africa and its companies are raising standards in ceramic tiles and fl ooring Floorlevel