Category Archives: The Da Vinci Institute

South Africa’s Minimum Wage Bill: Is it good for employment?

Late in 2018 the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, signed the minimum wage bill effective 1st of January 2019. The bill stipulates that the minimum wage for employees in South Africa will be R3500 per month. There have been conflicting sentiments in reaction to the signing of the minimum wage bill some grateful and others claiming that the minimum wage is too low (Lindeque, 2018). However, the inevitable question is: Is this a progressive bill for the economy as a whole? In this regard researchers (Herr, Kazandziska, & Mahnkopf-Praprotnik, 2009) argue that changes in minimum wages may theoretically open up the opportunity for amongst other poverty reduction, but this may not necessarily materialise in relation to income distribution and price level.  In this paper, the researcher intends to focus on the potential effect of the minimum wage bill on employment in South Africa. In particular, this view will be informed by what can be referred to as the well-known Keynesian framework (Keynes, 2018). The researcher wishes to pronounce that it is by no means clear what the real long term effect of the minimum wage bill will be on employment – this is just a brief theoretical analysis. 

Nguyen (2012:2) indicates “minimum wages are the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that a government requires employers to pay to employees.” For the author, it seems the rationale of countries to increase minim wages for employees, is motivated by the intent to reduce poverty and consequently to improve workers’ living conditions. While this may be a noble course, will this do South Africa well as a country?

Diagram 1 Employment Effects of Minimum Wages in the Keynesian Paradigm (Herr et al., 2009)

The diagram shows the employment effects of minimum wages within a Keynesian model (Herr, Kazandziska, & Mahnkopf-Praprotnik, 2009).

The Keynesian model analysis would assume that the increase in the minimum wage to low-income households will lead to higher consumption especially on necessity goods, thus increasing the Aggregate Demand in the economy in the short term. This will automatically lead to an increase in production and supply which could have a positive turn of events for any economic context in the long term. In the absence of technological innovation, minimum wages could impact positively on employment (though this might involve informal/casual workers), in order to meet the production demands. Other positive spin-offs could include single households to being elevated above the poverty line and therefore impacting the economy positively.

Another possibility of minimum wage implementation is the increase of wages for low-income groups (assuming they employed in the production of goods), the price of those affected production lines will increase accordingly. However, one of the unintended consequences would be an increase in inflation rates.

Research asserts empirical evidence of many countries, over long periods of time, have not been able to show any clear relationship between minimum wage implementation and the rate of unemployment:

  • Card (1992:22) in evaluating minimum wage effects implemented between 1987 and 1989 in the United States of America, found that there insignificant correlation between minimum wage implementation and employment
  • Stewart (2004) studied datasets stemming from UK’s April 1999 minimum wage introduction and found no significant effects on employment
  • Dickens and Draca (2005) found no significant correlation between minimum wage implementation and employment when the UK implemented minimum wages in 2003

In conclusion, South Africans, in agreeing to the implementation of the minimum wage bill, have embarked on a journey which may alleviate poverty of low-income workers, whilst not necessarily impacting employment levels (either positive or negative).  However, in reference to the latter,  employers may opt to lay off of employees, intending to minimise costs, instead of inflating the cost through to consumers – the employers are likely to apply for the exemption that is allowed by the minimum wage bill (for employers who are unable to meet the minimum wages as stipulated).

For small businesses owners and entrepreneurs alike, the option to employ casual workers will be a more feasible option, both from a cost point of view as well as from an operations point of view (administration involved in following due processes regarding the exemption requirements). It must also be noted that the implementation of the minimum wage bill could, in the long run, result in increases in price levels.  As such South Africans will also need to entrust the Reserve Bank to continue with their inflation-target policy.

Written by Tshepho Langa

References

Card, D. (1992). Using Regional Variation in Wages to Measure the Effects of the Federal Minimum Wage. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 46, 22.

Dickens, R., & Draca, M. (2005). The Employment Effects of the October 2003 Increase in the National Minimum Wage. Discussion Paper no. 693, Centre for Economic Performance.

Draca, M., Machin, S., & Van Reenen, J. (2011). Minimum Wages and Firm Profitability. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3, 129–151.

Herr, H., Kazandziska, M., & Mahnkopf-Praprotnik, S. (2009, February). The theoretical debate about minimum wages.

Keynes, J. M. (2018, December). The general theory of employment, interest, and money. Cambridge: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from https://cas2.umkc.edu/economics/people/facultypages/kregel/courses/econ645/winter2011/generaltheory.pdf

Lindeque, M. (2018, May 30). www.ewn.co.za. Retrieved from Eye Witness News: https://ewn.co.za/2018/05/30/mixed-reaction-from-unions-workers-on-passing-of-minimum-wage-bill

Nguyen, C. (2012, February 18). Do Minimum Wage Increases Cause Inflation? Evidence from Vietnam.

Stewart, M. B. (2002). The Impact of the Introduction of the UK Minimum Wage on the Employment Probabilities of Low Wage Workers. Journal of the European Economic Association, 2, 67-97.

Towards a Rational Response to Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the term that is used to describe the use of someone else’s ideas or texts as one’s own without acknowledging the originator or source of the ideas. Simply, it is copying (and pasting) or using someone else’s work without acknowledging the fact. Generally, plagiarism is a ‘criminal’ act and viewed seriously and as is the case with all criminal acts, ignorance is no excuse.

At the Da Vinci School of Business Leadership, we have taken a rational and developmental approach to ‘copying and pasting or incorrect referencing’’ and refer to the Similarity Index which emanates from reports using plagiarism tools such as Turnitin, rather than plagiarism.

The Turnitin report will produce an overall Similarity Index which is normally expressed as a percentage (for example 25%), which indicates how much of the document submitted by a student is similar to material which was previously published. The Report further indicates a breakdown of the overall similarity index to specific sources such as books (5%), journal articles (7%), dissertations (10%), internet sources (2%) where the materials appeared previously as well as paragraphs of the similar material which is highlighted. 

In order to reduce the Similarity Index to acceptable thresholds, the student needs to rephrase the text and reload the document so that a new report can be produced. Below is an example of how the text could be rephrased:  

This paper examines how students perceived e-learning versus traditional learning mechanisms; how e-learning mechanisms have affected their learning behaviour and why certain e-learning mechanisms offered in the course were more appealing than others.

  • The above statement has no reference and the writer may have copied this verbatim, without realizing that the Similarity Index will be very high since it is a mere “copy and paste’’ exercise.

The above statement can be paraphrased using any one of the following options.

Option 1:

“This paper examines how students perceived e-learning versus traditional learning mechanisms; how e-learning mechanisms have affected their learning behaviour; and why certain e-learning mechanisms offered in the course were more appealing than others” (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27).

Option 2:

In this study, the perceptions of students regarding e-learning were examined. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27).

Option 3:

Somewhat similar to Mitchell & Forer (2010:27), in this study, the perceptions of students regarding e-learning were examined. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored.

Option 4:

In line with previous research (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27), this study, examined the perceptions of students regarding e-learning. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others, were explored.

Option 5:

Mitchell and Forer (2010:27), studied the perceptions of students regarding e-learning. In addition, the aforementioned researchers examined the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour and, the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored (Mitchell & Forer 2010)

Da Vinci @ Work: How Lenard finally found his voice

Meeting him today, it’s difficult to believe that an articulate, friendly person like Lenard Strydom was once shy and introverted and something of a loner within his working career. It’s true, he insists. “A couple of years ago, I was very insecure and scared to interact with people. I had a huge lack of self-confidence.”
 
Lenard compares his transformation from timid to self-assured to a homeless dog (Thor) that is adopted into a happy family. In fact, that was the analogy he used at his oral defence in February 2018, when he explained to a Da Vinci Institute panel what his BCom Operational Risk Management studies had done for him.
 
“That dog represented me: skinny, scared and without a voice. Then, through four specific modules and the mentoring I received, I found my voice.”
 
The four modules that changed Lenard’s life within business were Business Management, Professional Writing Skills, Systems Management and Innovation Management. “Those four modules were new to me, and they taught me a lot,” says Lenard.
 
Aiding his transformation was the mentoring he received from Da Vinci and his executive manager at his employer, Macsteel. “I never thought I’d be capable of studying for a BCom degree, but those four modules and the mentoring from Nival Porun and Da Vinci were a recipe for success.”
 
As he grew in confidence, new career horizons opened up for Lenard, who had started his working life as an operator at a steel mill and is now National Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager at Macsteel Service Centre SA.
 
Lenard received the news on 8 February this year that he had successfully completed his work-based challenge and completed his BCom degree.
 
“Three years later, I’ve finished! This degree gave me skills and knowledge and so much more, and I’ll never stop studying now. But it was the toughest challenge in my entire life, trying to balance work, home, family – a new baby – and my studies.”
 
When the going got tough, what kept Lenard motivated were his wife, Liechen, and his baby son Ulrich. “My wife would talk sense into me and I would see my son; they are my support structure. I want my wife to be proud of me as a husband and my son to look up to me as a father. That pushed me to complete, and I am so happy that I did,” he says.
 

“To achieve greatness, you need to believe in yourself, be consistent and disciplined day after day, month after month, and year after year. Never give up; never.”

Left: Lenard Strydom, BCom student, Right: Mark Fuller, Da Vinci Lecturer

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Jason Potgieter

No time to waste when productivity is at stake

If there’s one thing that irks BCom graduate Jason Potgieter, it’s time spent unproductively. “That’s my pet peeve; I can’t stand it. There are a multitude of deadlines here and if you don’t make the most of your time, it annoys me. The issue of productivity stood out for me straight away,” he says, referring to the *topic of the work-based challenge he completed as part of his BCom degree in business management, specialising in supply chain management.

True to his nature, Jason wasted no time in assessing the state of productivity at the Durban branch of international courier company Seabourne Express, where he is a branch manager.

Measuring productivity

“I explained to everyone at the branch that we were going to measure our productivity to see how we were doing and to make the best of what we have. I then sent out a questionnaire to all the staff to gauge their understanding of their productivity and where they are at. I also held individual meetings with the supervisors, because a lot of people will write what you want to hear, as opposed to the true state of productivity during the day,” he says.

His analysis and scoring of the data resulted in staff being grouped into three categories of productivity: unproductive, semi-productive and productive.

After checking the results for accuracy and reliability, Jason used the branch’s visual display system to show a flowchart of productivity at the branch, showing each person’s score. “I also sent out tips and suggestions on how to improve productivity during the day.”

For example, he sent out suggestions on how to delegate and manage time, and how to capitalise on good moods to get more done – all guidelines he picked up while doing research for his BCom degree.

Following up and tracking progress

A few weeks later, Jason sent out a second staff survey, went through the analysis and scoring process, again and again, displayed the new results for everyone to see. The results were positive: some of the lower scorers had moved up and some of the top scorers were under pressure to retain their strong positions, says Jason. “For those who like the recognition for all their hard work, there’s nothing better than having your name at the top of the list.”

His managing director was at his oral defence when he presented his results and asked afterwards when his system was going to be implemented at Seabourne Express branches nationally.

“That’s what we are currently doing,” Jason says. “The first set of questions have just come back and are being analysed, and by the end of the year, we will be able to gauge productivity countrywide.:

*The formal title of Jason Potgieter’s work-based challenge is, “Identifying low productivity and the tools used to manage productivity”.

Dynamic mix of new and established innovators take 2017 TT100 awards

South Africa’s small community of technology and business innovators is growing. Some fresh new faces have appeared alongside experienced innovators at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards.

“What we find especially exciting is how emerging and small enterprises – the engines of growth – are not just coming up with great ideas but executing them with insight and precision,” says Professor Bennie Anderson, CEO of The Da Vinci Institute, School of Managerial Leadership.

Newcomers to the awards, which have been running for 26 years, include I AM Emerge, whose Vuleka app empowers township businesses to jointly make bulk purchases, and Passion4Performance, whose online assessment tool is revolutionising training and enabling learners to track their careers from school to retirement.

Among the new faces in the category for medium enterprises is Space Advisory, whose Gecko Imager is blazing new trails in satellite imagery and storage. The imager uses data streaming to and from satellites to capture images at the super-speedy rate of five frames per second.

 A newcomer in the large category is Indian company Nelito Systems, which provides credit facilities to unbanked people in rural areas.

“We welcome the entrants who have won awards for the first time and at the same time congratulate companies who have won TT100 awards in the past and were back again this year,” Professor Anderson says. “That they keep returning demonstrates the value they extract from the TT100 awards and their ability to constantly improve the way they manage technology, innovation, people and systems (TIPS™).”

Winners with staying power

These “repeat” winners include X/procure Software, whose online procurement portal processes over R10 billion worth of pharmaceutical orders a year, payroll software company Accsys, and Durban-based electronics company PFK Electronics.

In total, 28 winners were presented with trophies at a gala dinner held at the Johannesburg Country Club on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, which was attended by business innovators, industry captains, government officials, researchers, and academics.

For the 2017 TT100 awards, The Da Vinci Institute collaborated with several long-time partners, notably the Department of Science and Technology, Eskom, Blank Canvas International and Innocentrix.

Giving the keynote address at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards, Minister of Science and Technology Mrs Naledi Pandor said she was impressed with the quality of business innovation entries in this year’s competition, which was encouraging given the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective of turning South Africa into a high-growth, employment generating, knowledge-based economy.

Minister Pandor said the long-standing alliance that the DST has maintained with the TT100 awards programme was central to the ongoing efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships in support of South African technology-based businesses.

“Such partnerships not only enable awareness creation of business technology development initiatives and opportunities, but also profile the innovation prowess of South African tech companies to local and international markets,” she said.

Identifying role models

Running since 1991, the aim of the TT100 awards programme is to promote the culture of innovation amongst large, medium, small and emerging businesses.

The programme seeks to identify role models within the management of innovation and technology domains who have demonstrated their excellence in co-creating new workplace realities.

“The awards do not judge the worthiness of new technologies, but rather focus on how organisations manage the process of creating new technologies and innovations, and to what extent they are doing it sustainably and systemically,” Prof Anderson said.

“We have become aware that unless organisations manage their technology, innovation, people, and systems, and connect the relationships between them, innovation does not come to fruition, its commercialisation is not sustainable, and its socio-economic impact negligible,” he added.

The 2017 awards attracted a total of 379 entries in seven categories:

·         Management of technology
·         Management of innovation
·         Management of people
·         Management of systems
·         Sustainability
·         Overall excellence
·         Innovation concepts

The Innovation Concepts category was introduced for the first time this year. “With the addition of this category to the TT100 awards programme, we are hoping to connect the innovators to venture capitalists and other potential funders to enable them to commercialise their concepts and take these promising ventures to the market,” Prof Anderson said.

How the winners were selected

A total of 91 category finalists were selected following a rigorous face-to-face adjudication process, which culminated in 28 category winners being selected as the top-performing innovators of 2017.

In the new Innovation Concepts category, I AM Emerge came out tops among emerging entrants with its Vuleka App, which facilitates the bulk purchase of goods for township businesses.

The small business award in this category went to Tabula Rasa Investments Private Limited with their Pundutso Musha (PDC).

The winner in the medium enterprise category was Space Advisory for their Gecko Imager, while India’s Nelito Systems Ltd came out tops in the large category for their rural credit facilities to the unbanked.

In the Management of Technology category, Brucol Global Development (Pty) Ltd was the winner among emerging enterprises, while Cura Risk Management Software (Pty) Ltd took top honours among small enterprises. The winner in the category for medium enterprises was Global Track, while Altech Netstar was the award for large companies.

In Management of People the winners were: emerging category – ThisIsMe; small category – X/Procure Software SA; medium category – Accsys (Pty) and large category – Nelito Systems Ltd.
Winners in the Management of Systems: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd; medium category – Space Advisory and large category is PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

Top honours in the Management of Innovation went to: emerging category – Brucol Global Development; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

The winners for Overall Excellence were: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

When it came to Excellence in Sustainability the winners were: emerging category – I Am Emerge and Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd and Fetch Them; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – Altech Netstar Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

A number of entrants won more than one category, such as Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd, which came out tops among emerging companies in Overall Excellence, Excellence in Sustainability and Management of Systems.
The TT100 programme not only benefits the winners and finalists, but all participants. Everyone receives intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate.

Winners and finalists becoming part of the TT100 community are invited to participate in TT100 events, including business forums held jointly with government and partners involved in promoting business innovation, particularly the DST.

Top Innovators Set Alight Da Vinci’s TT100 Business Innovation Awards

Johannesburg, 15 November 2017

Top innovators have received high praises from the Minister of Science and Technology Mrs Naledi Pandor at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards, showcasing how South Africa is building an inclusive innovation system through growing support for grassroots innovators and developing local innovation.

In total, 28 winners were presented by Minister Pandor with trophies at a gala dinner held at the Johannesburg Country Club on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, which was attended by business innovators, industry captains, government officials, researchers, and academics.

Minister Pandor, who gave the keynote address, expressed her admiration for the quality of business innovation entries in this year’s competition, an achievement she has described as encouraging and in line with the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective of turning South Africa into a high-growth, employment generating, knowledge-based economy.

Minister Pandor said the long-standing alliance that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has maintained with the TT100 awards programme was central to the ongoing efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships in support of South African technology-based businesses.

“Such partnerships not only enable awareness creation of business technology development initiatives and opportunities but also profile the innovation prowess of SA tech companies to local and international markets.”

“This is in line with the NDP’s recognition of the importance of innovation as laying the foundations for more intensive improvements in business productivity and a more intensive national pursuit of the SA knowledge-based economy,” said Minister Pandor.

The 2017 TT100 awards were held under the auspices of The Da Vinci Institute School of Managerial Leadership, which has partnered with the DST, MTN, and Eskom to make the TT100 innovation competition possible.

The TT100 awards programme has been running since 1991 and its aim is to promote the culture of innovation amongst large, medium, and small businesses.

“The objective of the TT100 awards is to promote the importance of developing an innovative management ecosystem, which can help boost innovation outputs in our companies in a manner that impacts positively on socio-economic development and the bottom lines of our companies, whether small, medium or big,” said Professor Bennie Anderson, CEO of The Da Vinci Institute School of Managerial Leadership.
There were 379 entries in the following 6 categories: management of technology; management of innovation; management of people; management of systems; sustainability; and innovation concepts.

A total of 91 category finalists were selected following a rigorous face-to-face adjudication process, which culminated in a total of 28 category winners being selected as the top-performing innovators in 2017.

Four industry winners representing emerging, medium, small, and large enterprises were selected, who respectively received the DST Director-General Award and Minister Award for Overall Excellence.

“This year, we have added the Innovation Concepts category to assist in raising the profiles of innovators who have outstanding concepts, but don’t have the funding to commercialise their concepts.”

“With the addition of this category to the TT100 awards programme, we are hoping to connect the innovators to venture capitalists and other potential funders to enable them to commercialise their concepts and take these promising ventures to the market,” said Professor Anderson.

The 2017 TT100 awards also received a resounding support from Kammy Young, Innovation COE Manager at Eskom, who concurs that the programme will go a long way towards driving socio-economic development in South Africa.

“Innovation is one of Eskom’s values. We strive to embrace new processes and technology to improve business efficiencies, while investing in science, engineering, technology and innovation in the country, with the aim to grow the economy in support of socio-economic development,” said Young.

The TT100 programme provides enormous benefits to winners and finalists. TT100 participants receive intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate their organisations.

Winners and finalists receive the additional benefit of becoming part of the TT100 community and being invited to participate in TT100 events, including business forums held jointly with government and partners involved in promoting business innovation, particularly the DST.
ENDS.
About the Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme
The Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme is South Africa’s foremost business Awards programme. TT100 has been recognising innovation and technological prowess in South African companies for more than 25 years. In going forward, it is focused on identifying true managerial leaders who through innovation, tenacity and a belief in people, have been able to take their organisations to new levels of competitiveness.

The programme seeks to identify role models within the management of innovation and technology domains who have demonstrated their excellence in co-creating new workplace realities.
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Alfa Destiny Communications

Altron: The key is to adapt and to adapt fast

Allied Electronics Corporation Limited (Altron)

Joint winner of the 2016 Blank Canvas International Award for Sustainability
Category for large enterprises

The cloud has changed everything

These are exhilarating times for businesses which understand that what is popular in the marketplace today might be gone and forgotten tomorrow.

The business landscape, especially the electronics industry, is littered with once-successful products that are now virtually museum pieces: the pre-digital camera; tape recorders, video cassette recorders, dial-up internet, palm pilots…

Having been in business since 1965, Altron has seen and been through the electronics lifecycle enough times to know that the next wave of newness is just around the corner. You’d better be ready for it.

Right now, the current wave is all about the cloud; the internet has changed everything. But what stands out this time is the sheer speed and velocity of the change. It’s all happened extremely quickly.

In no more than a few years, the electronics industry has become highly converged and concentrated, with telecoms companies dominating and hardware companies taking strain because of the rush to the cloud.

The key is to adapt and to adapt fast

A quick look at Altron’s history since 1965, when it started up as a manufacturer of DC equipment, shows how good the group has been at shedding assets that are showing “fatigue” and acquiring fresh assets in new and growing directions.
It has been many years, for instance, since Altron washed its hands of home appliances and exited the increasingly difficult consumer cellphone market. By contrast, it has strengthened its position as a technology company with valuable intellectual property in fintech, healthtech, safety and security, not just in Africa but also in the United Kingdom, Australia and Malaysia.

Knowing when to let go and when to take on new business lines is only one of a multiplicity of factors that have converged to create Altron’s 52-year-long story… and counting.  

Here is the group’s sustainability strategy in a nutshell: Do business for longer. Do business better. Be the best in what it does. Employ the best people, develop and retain them. Improve and grow the bottom line. Anticipate risks and seize opportunities.

It seems so simple: the art is in the execution.

Altron’s Success to Managing Systems

Allied Electronics Corporation Limited (Altron)

#TT100 Winner of the 2016 Eskom Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems

Category for large enterprises

Stronger, nimbler and better, together

Going it alone is a business model that belongs in the past; the future will be built on partnerships, with five, six or sometimes more companies combining their skills and strengths to co-create the best solutions for clients.

This is the thinking at Altron – winner of no fewer than five awards in the 2016 TT100 Awards Programme – which may well be ahead of its time in moving away from the traditional “winner takes all” model of doing business.

For Altron, part of systems thinking is the ability to see the bigger picture and realise that one company cannot control it all. It means looking at how innovation can occur across companies working together, with each partner bringing their particular skills and strengths to the value chain.

This model is becoming especially important in mega-projects, such as the City of Tshwane’s broadband access and fibre initiative, where one player is extremely unlikely to have all the skills and resources a project of this scale demands. For big projects like this one, the consortium model can work well, provided everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do, is accountable for their part and keeps in mind that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Keeping track of the detail 

Just as important as seeing the bigger picture, though, is the ability to view and manage the detail. At Altron, this means having the ability to track every product across its lifecycle, from the individual electronic components that go into it on the assembly line to the finished product that is shipped off to its destination anywhere in the world.

Lifecycle management is critical because if something goes wrong, the problem can be quickly traced back and picked up. As a result, Altron manufacturing processes have a very low defect rate.

The same meticulous systems management goes into other Altron business lines, such as Netstar, which monitors 200 000 trucks and 600 000 cars at any given time. This calls for exceptional coordination across different systems, and the ability to process, analyse and make sense of masses of diverse data in real-time, ensuring that the vehicles stay on their routes, away from crime hotspots and free from the clutches of hijackers.

In the end, systems are what keeps a business one step ahead – on the roads and in the marketplace.

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Pieter Theunissen

Change is a package deal when delivering parcels

Change is part and parcel of the courier industry, and no one knows better than Pieter Theunissen that a change in one cog of the wheel brings change in all the others too.  He saw that first-hand when RAM Hand-to-Hand Couriers switched from manual to automated processes in its parcel-handling warehouses.


“We went from a 15-step process to a nine-step process, and everything worked fine in the warehouse but we suddenly had a large increase in the number of parcels coming back undelivered,” says Theunissen, RAM’s National Distribution Centre Manager. “It was clear that the new process was having an impact on Customer Services’ ability to cope with all the parcels coming through for delivery.”

That was about three years ago, about the same time as he enrolled for his BCom studies through The Da Vinci Institute. The sudden increase in the parcel non-delivery rate made the impact of change on customer services the natural choice for the topic of Theunissen’s work-based challenge.

He started off with some research on parcel distribution and delivery rates, and then tapped into the satisfaction levels of customers, using the company’s customer satisfaction survey results. He then introduced an employee satisfaction survey to gauge employees’ feelings and attitudes towards RAM’s parcel-handling processes.

Unblocking the bottlenecks

It quickly became apparent that a lack of teamwork was one of the biggest reasons for the parcel bottlenecks; another was the need for better coordination of deliveries between customer services and customers.

“I worked with the Customer Services Manager and we changed the whole process. We introduced scanners so that we can see in real time exactly where each vehicle is and when the customer has signed for a parcel. Customer Services also started making appointments for deliveries.”

Back in the warehouse, another innovation was the introduction of cross-functional teams of 12 to 16 people. “Each team consisted of operations people, customer services, drivers and finances, and each team had their own delivery targets and incentives,” Theunissen says.

This worked so well that before long, productivity was up and the non-delivery rate was down. “Three years ago, a team of 16 was handling 8 000 parcels a day. They can now push 22 500 boxes a day, and the delivery rate is high.”

Employee satisfaction was also up, as measured by the six-monthly employee satisfaction that RAM has regularly conducted since he took the initiative with the first one.

His work-placed challenge has had a definite influence on these improvements, and the company’s chief executive officer has invited him to keep on suggesting changes for still more improvements.

“For me, the exposure to senior management was one of the biggest benefits of my work-based challenge,” says Theunissen, whose BCom graduation was in September 2017. “We have developed a relationship and as a result, I can now go to management and tell them what I would like to do to help make this an even better business, and I know they’ll listen.”

Accsys: “Staying power is just one element of sustainability”

Accsys (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the Blank Canvas International Award for Sustainability
Category for medium enterprises





Staying power is just one element of sustainability

Accsys has been in the payroll business long enough to remember the days when employers still handed paper cheques or pay packets of cash to their employees on payday. No doubt they will still be in business when salaries are microchipped or light-beamed or transferred in blockchain currencies like Bitcoin.

“For us, it doesn’t matter how employers want to pay their people. What matters is that our software allows them to do anything they choose,” says Cathie Webb, chief operating officer. “Electronic transfers have been the main payment method for the past 15 to 20 years, but we also work for clients who have unbanked employees. South Africa is still a cash economy in parts.”

This mixed economy is one aspect that makes payroll more complex than meets the eye. Other complicating factors are ever-changing statutory requirements from government agencies such as SARS and the Department of Labour.

“There are about 250 000 companies – a lot of them tiny – that submit to SARS and approximately eight million people paying tax,” says Teryl Schroenn, chief executive officer. “Some people feel they can do their payroll using Excel, but there is a lot of risk in not using a designed-for-purpose solution.”

Accsys is able to adapt its proprietary software relatively quickly and easily – a quality that appeals strongly to clients, their satisfaction being a key success factor in its sustainability strategy. “Our systems are pretty efficient and we have happy customers,” Cathie says.
Earning annuity income and following the money

Another critical element of Accsys’s sustainability is its financial model, says Teryl. “Our model is annuity based; clients pay a licence fee for the right to use our software, which gives us the financial stability to continue developing the software. With a stable amount of money coming in every month, we have a strong financial base.”

Accsys also knows how to “follow the money” – understanding what the company is spending money on. “There is very little here that Cathie and I don’t sign off on. That might sometimes seem like micromanagement but we believe it’s critical to be extremely careful and know exactly where the money is going.”

Other critical success factors for business sustainability in South Africa are fulfilling social responsibility and statutory requirements such as broad-based black empowerment (B-BBEE). “We have to think about B-BBEE all the time. We have got to keep looking at the full context of how we fit into the South African economy,” says Cathie.

Teryl agrees. “It comes back to the South African context; there is a price for doing business in every country and if you want to do well and be sustainable, you’ve got to make it constructive in your own environment. Wherever you are, whether the United States or Mauritius, business is not for free. The question you have to ask yourself constantly is, how do we make this work for us? I think Accsys does quite well at that.”