Tracing its roots back to 1869, Ammann is one of the world’s most respected OEMs, leading on all continents with innovative solutions for the construction industry. IMIESA talks to Rocco Lehman, managing director of Ammann South Africa, about local developments.

Is customer engagement a contributing factor in Ammann’s success to date?

RL  This is definitely the case. At Ammann, we have a total solutions philosophy that goes well beyond simply machine sale. A great example of this was the Customer Day held in Benoni during November last year, which was co-hosted with ELB Equipment, our Southern African dealer.The function was held at Instant Tar’s facility, and also served as an opportunity to showcase the new 90 tonne per hour Apollo Counter Flow 90 continuous mixing plant, commissioned by Ammann towards the end of 2017.

The feedback was generally excellent. Customers had the opportunity to hear presentations from leading Ammann experts, based at our factories in Europe and India.

The Customer Day coincided with a Training Campus for our Ammann staff and dealer personnel, again led by experts from across the Ammann Group. We now plan to run another training session in South Africa during Q3 2018. We will also be sending a technical and sales team to the upcoming Ammann Group Africa Middle East workshop in 2018.

Every Ammann member is required to be totally proficient in their field, and this translates into exceptional customer service. The same applies to ELB Equipment personnel. ELB, founded in 1913, is a highly respected company and an ideal fit for Ammann.

What is the Ammann Group’s strategic vision for South Africa?

Effective from January 2018, Ammann South Africa became part of the Africa Middle East hub. This provides South Africa with a strong support system, which will drive Ammann’s regional expansion plans in Southern Africa, as well as further afield on the continent. South Africa and Africa have been identified as key growth markets for the group.

The Ammann Group has evolved into a sales-focused business, with a dedicated Direct Sales Division, which is the frontline for dealer and customer interfaces. While we predominately operate worldwide through a dealer network, we also provide a factory-to-customer service for package deals.

Locally, Ammann South Africa has direct responsibility for asphalt and cement plants, while sales and after-sales for the Ammann machine range are handled exclusively by ELB Equipment.

What is the market uptake for asphalt plants?

We’re pleased with the progress made to date. In April 2018, we sold a ValuTec 140 batch plant to a black-empowerment company based in Polokwane, along with two paving trains, comprising AV70X, AP240 and ARX26 compactors, and two AFW 350 pavers. This is our first ValueTec 140 sale in South Africa and thus represents a major milestone for us. The ValueTec 140 is the flagship in the range, which is manufactured in India for worldwide export.

Another significant aspect of this sale is that the deal was concluded via the Industrial Development Corporation. We expect this to become more common going forward as financial institutions increasingly invest in the future of SME contractor development. Another recent sale was concluded with Tzoneva at its facility in Rustenburg. This is a Prime 140 plant, which has been specified with high-tech features to meet exceptionally high recycled asphalt requirements. Produced by Ammann in Brazil with approximately 40% local content.

All of the accessories fitted to Tzoneva’s unit were sourced from South African manufacturers, representing approximately half of the plant’s value. This is in line with Ammann’s commitment to supporting local content fabrication. However, the final quality meets our exacting OEM standards.

This is now the sixth Prime 140 unit sold in South Africa. One of its advantages is that the plant is semi-mobile, so it does not require a foundation. These plants are designed to be broken down, shipped in sections and then reassembled on another site when required.

There are also a number of unique features. These include the hot storage and drag slat set-up. The drag slat transfers the asphalt from the drum up to the hot storage bin. Based on customer feedback, we’ve remodelled the drag slat life significantly to accommodate wear parts such as buckets and chains. On the latest unit, we are anticipating up to 250 000 t of wear life on components.

How is your sales strategy evolving?

Our research indicates that there is strong demand for rent-to-buy options when it comes to asphalt plant acquisitions, and this applies to both top-tier, as well as medium-sized and emerging contactors.

So we’ve taken the decision to launch this offering and will be fielding a new CounterFlow 120 as the starting point. We are now working on a project to make this plant road legal by fixing the unit onto a compliant trailer configuration. This will be a must for rental requirements. We are also considering pure rental on selected paving units.

What motivated your decision to move to new offices?

We’d outgrown our previous facility, plus we also needed to centralise our parts warehousing and workshop operations under one roof. This led to the decision to relocate to our new head office in Benoni towards the end of 2017.

We have plant parts available on site for all model of plants at our new, integrated warehouse, which underscores our after-sales commitment. In addition, we have five dedicated asphalt plant technicians trained to provide comprehensive advice and in-field maintenance.

Ammann recently unveiled its new factory in India. What’s the significance?

Back in 2013, Ammann entered the Indian market following a joint venture with Apollo, the country’s foremost brand for asphalt plants and machines.

Ammann has now taken this a step further by investing €85 million (R1.25 billion) in a major remodeling and upgrade of Apollo’s Ahmedabad fabrication centre, situated in western India.

During April, we took a South African customer group to Ahmedabad for a Techno Day during its official opening.

This is a very exciting development and we will be introducing new premium products locally from Ahmedabad during Q3 and Q4 2018. This includes the ARS122 single-drum 10 t soil compactor.

These Ammann-branded products from India will be competitively priced while meeting the exacting global manufacturing standards of the group.

What does the future hold?

We’ve taken the Ammann brand in South Africa (with regards to specific products) from 2% to a market share of around 13% in three years. In some cases, we dominate. For example, we have a significant market share for walk-behind rollers in our specific class. So we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

The emerging contractor market is one of our niche focus areas since this is a government priority for future procurement spending. We’re here to support their growth with the best plant and machine match, backed by our technical expertise and training programmes. In Q2, we plan
to run a customer workshop on asphalt plants, led by factory trainers.

Going forward, our success will continue to be built on the strength of our exceptional Ammann and ELB Equipment team.