THE HISTORY OF BAKER PERKINS SOUTH AFRICA PTY LTD
Prior to WW2, Bradley & Bowman Ltd. of Johannesburg were Baker Perkins' agents in South Africa with engineers trained to install and service the equipment they sold. Following discussions started during the summer of 1946, a controlling interest was taken in the company - these arrangements being completed by Mr. H. Kirman during a visit to South Africa lasting several months. The company was re-organised, its management and staff generally strengthened and its name changed, in January 1947, to Baker Perkins & Bowman (Proprietary) Ltd. Both turnover and profits increased substantially and a dividend was declared for the year ending June 1947.
Governmental restrictions of imports reduced trading and profits considerably in 1950 and arrangement s were made to purchase Mr. L.M. Bowman's shares, the company's name being changed to Baker Perkins South Africa (Proprietary) Ltd. Further governmental restrictions forced the company to seek ways to widen its range of activities. New premises were taken in Selby both to allow local manufacture and as a central depot for servicing customers' equipment. These premises were extended in 1955. During these difficult times, all profits were retained in the business. Branch offices were established in Durban and Cape Town.
Despite the political turmoil of the late 50's/early 60's, the company made profits, albeit on a reduced turnover. By 1962, however, over-capacity in the industries served resulted in a loss. The next five years saw a return to profit and a doubling of sales, the company employing some 200 people.
By 1968 the lease on the factory had only two and a half years to run. A. I. Baker, on one of his visits to the region, was able to arrange for its purchase by an insurance company and for its lease back to the company. At this time, A. F. Mosley was appointed managing director and T.W. Fargher deputy managing director.
There were three sales divisions. The Biscuit and Bakery Division was headed by A. F. Mosley; the Laundry and Dry Cleaning Division by T. W. Fargher; the Chocolate, Confectionery and Wrapping Division by D. A. Brown. The Biscuit and Bakery Division was devoted to the selling of the U.K. made equipment. The Laundry and Dry Cleaning Division handled the sales of Baker Perkins laundry machinery and also held a number of agencies, the most notable being that of the Spencer range of dry cleaning units. The Chocolate, Confectionery and Wrapping Division was responsible for the selling of the U.K. made equipment and also held the agency for the Manesty range of tablet making machinery.
The company had a large engineering and spares department, to provide back-up services, as well as a shipping and invoicing division. The company also had a small drawing office for the preparation of basic layouts. A commercial department to handle the correspondence side came into being in the early 1970's. There was very little in the way of local manufacture at this time.
The branch offices in Cape Town and Durban specialised in the selling of unit laundry and dry cleaning equipment, backed up by service engineers. These offices acted mainly as a listening post for the other divisions and carried out regular visits to the customers of those divisions. Baker Perkins South Africa also operated in the various neighbouring countries without having a physical presence there.
Licences were needed to import machinery of any type into South Africa. Import permits were generally freely available as, due to its exports of gold, South Africa usually had a balance of payments surplus. The lure of gold also proved to be too much for those countries whose rhetoric favoured the prohibition of exports to South Africa.
The early 1970's saw a dramatic rise in the production of biscuits in the country. Competition in that industry increased due to an American group gaining control of a large independent biscuit company and the emergence of a new group in the field. During the first five years of the 1970's, plant capacity doubled - and Baker Perkins South Africa took every order.
For more information on the growth of the South African Biscuit industry, see www.teriton.co.za (With acknowledgements to Mr. Len Baumann).
During the 1970's, the bread industry went through a boom period. The industry was very much controlled. You were not allowed to process wheat in any shape or form without a licence from the Wheat Industries Control Board. Licences for the production of bread were in categories, with a KAB licence to make tinned bread being the most prized - and the most difficult to come by. This resulted in milling groups buying out as many of the independent KAB licence holders as they could and there was a great deal of competition in the industry. The maximum price of bread was fixed by the South African government in an attempt to control the cost of living but this did not prevent price-cutting by the plant bakeries in an attempt to gain further sales. In many instances, the Chamber of Baking arbitrated to restrict sales areas. The fact that the industry was able to cut prices did not go unnoticed by the government and, when operating costs steadily rose in the later years, the government was loath to increase the maximum price of bread, even to allow for wrapping.
As time went by, sanctions did start to bite and South Africa had to go out of its way to obtain vital imports, such as oil. The rate of exchange of the Rand against other currencies started to decline and, with the cost of imports rising, local manufacture came to the fore. In the late 1970's, the Baker Perkins Australia designed tray oven was being imported. As the rate of exchange worsened, the oven was being made locally to combat the Spooner opposition.
During the late 1970's and early 1980's, A. F. Mosley and T. W. Fargher, who succeeded him as managing director, retired. D. A Brown and B. du Toit, the accounts director, were joined on the board by A. Ferreira and M. C. Walton. G. Wawra was temporarily transferred from Australia, to oversee local manufacture and represented the Australian company on the board, and H. M. Rose was appointed as managing director.
In 1980 the Southern sub-group was formed to combine the Australasian sub-group and Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Local manufacture was given greater prominence and the sale of bakery plant centred round the Australian 440 tray oven with the larger plants being imported, the largest plant installed being capable of producing 5000 loaves per hour. By this time, Werner and Pfleiderer were importing tunnel oven plants at highly competitive prices and gaining a foothold in the industry. Baker Perkins unit machines were still highly regarded and the sales of Accurist Dividers in South Africa alone more than matched the combined sales to the rest of the world, including the U.K.
The buoyancy of the laundry market continued and on the 18th March 1983 an agreement was signed between Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) and Laundraland (Pty) Ltd. under which it was agreed that the laundry and dry cleaning machinery and domestic appliance distribution business carried out by both companies would be merged in a new company to be known as Baker Perkins Laundraland (Pty) Ltd., which in the present century is still in operation in under that name Another new company, Poliva Sales, was formed to market consumable goods in the dry-cleaning industry.
The low point for Baker Perkins South Africa came in 1983 when the baking industry was at a low ebb and plant orders were a rarity. The decision was made to secure a plant order at a non-profitable level to keep the competition at bay - and in order to keep local manufacture alive and to avoid laying off experienced engineering staff. The basis of the plant was a direct-fired oven, using the exhaust gases in the baking chamber to create air turbulence and speed up the baking time. The basic system was the same as that which had been employed by Spooner ovens over a long period. The manufacture and installation went smoothly but the commissioning was a disaster with rust appearing in the baking chamber and bearings constantly seizing up. Shortly prior to installation, the South African government had struck a deal with Iran for the supply of oil. The oil turned out to be high in sulphur content and the fumes from burners using that oil, in the presence of moisture, turned into sulphurous acid. Simultaneously, with our realisation of the problem, came reports from around the country of boiler flue stacks rusting away and the front end of Spooner ovens collapsing. The oven was replaced by an indirect-fired unit at heavy cost to Baker Perkins. Spooner also incurred heavy losses due to the sulphur problem and disappeared from the market.
In 1985, Baker Perkins Bakery Ltd, Peterborough took over from Baker Perkins Pty, Australia, the responsibility for bakery machinery activity in South Africa.
Previously, Baker Perkins had shown little interest in the shop bakery market. Against all advice, a belated attempt was made to get into this growing sector by bringing together a few minor companies and floating a new company, Norbake. It was a case of too little too late. By then other companies, specialising in unit machines, had become firmly established in the market. They were manufacturing locally and had creamed off the representation of the choice European manufacturers. And, so, a further financial cost was incurred.
Following these series of losses the directors decided, in 1986, to dispose of the group's investments in South Africa.
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