From its humble beginnings Desmond Equipment has developed into an intercontinental success story and, with its Dezzi brand of transport equipment, is now aiding the development of businesses across Africa, as it provides a healthy mixture of friendly service and quality machinery.
In supplying heavy industry transport machinery to the mining, timber, sugar, harbour and construction sectors, Desmond Equipment has become a key player for many businesses operating across Africa.
From tractors and haulers to loaders and dump trucks, the Dezzi range of equipment has been busy keeping businesses moving since 1995.
Des Gutzeit, the company’s managing director, set up the family-owned transport company after completing a two-year apprenticeship with a Ford tractor dealership more than 30 years ago. Gutzeit borrowed the sum of R300 to buy his first truck and after 30 years of trading is head of a company that is currently blossoming.
“When I was 20 years old I heard that the local railway authority was looking for trucks to hire, so I went to the station master and he asked me to bring a lot of trucks,” says Gutzeit. “I only had one truck, but I told him I had three.
“I said to the station master that two of the trucks were busy and he told me to bring them whenever I could. So I started off with the one truck and I worked there for about four months saving enough money to buy another truck.
“I told him the second truck was on its way, and he asked me to bring that one as well,” he continues. “From there I saved enough money to buy a third truck and that was actually from where I started the business from.”
Within a year of buying his third truck Gutzeit had invested in a front-end loader and began transporting sand and gravel, while also carting bricks for his father.
Desmond in demand
Having set up a fully-fledged transport business, Gutzeit continued to guide the company along similar lines for its first 10 years, before entering the ready-mix and brick manufacturing industry.
In 1981, Gutzeit sold the ready-mix and brick manufacturing side of the business, reinvesting the money into buying new transport machines.
By 1994, the company had decided to build its own machines and in 1995 built its first front-end loader.
“Today we build 17 different models, including seven different-sized dump trucks, five different-sized front-end loaders, tractors for the industrial market, cane loading equipment, timber trucks, and a range of dump trucks for the mining sector,” says Gutzeit.
Through the success of its Dezzi brand of machinery, Desmond Equipment has built a strong and loyal customer base across the continent.
“We have a lot of machines in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, including a lot of machines in the sugar cane industry” Gutzeit notes. “We even design our machines to suit the site conditions and needs of our customers.
“There’ll always be a place in the market for good machines at the right price,” he says. “But Africa is not an easy market to work in — especially if you’re based in the middle of nowhere, 2,000 to 3,000 kilometres away from service departments.”
Today, Desmond Equipment has a factory on the southern coast of South Africa, a one-hour drive south of Durban and manufactures between 100 and 200 machines per annum.
“We have a team of more than 100 in the factory in South Africa and we have a dealer network that encompasses Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, as well as our own outlet and marketing offices in Johannesburg,” Gutzeit notes.
Taking on the competition
Working across a range of sectors, from construction and mining, to harbours, sugar and timber, can lead to the demand for the company’s machines changing on a monthly basis.
“Some months we’ll sell a lot of machines to the mining industry and then in other months we’ll sell a lot of machines into the sugar cane industry,” says Gutzeit.
With an influx of manufacturers from East Asia entering the African marketplace, the industry has changed enormously in the past few years, but Desmond Equipment has managed to remain as relevant as ever by supplying equipment designed to work in tough conditions, that is easy to repair and is operationally low cost.
“Last year wasn’t the best year for South Africa financially, and I think the rest of the world as well, but we managed to remain very busy as the sugar industry was booming and always has been,” remarks Gutzeit.
The company’s philosophy is taken from a saying Gutzeit’s father used — ‘Give a guy a good deal and he always comes back, but burn him once and you never see him again’.
“That’s a philosophy we keep to and often our customers become our friends,” remarks Gutzeit.
With his own aircraft and landing strip Gutzeit is even able to use his pair of wings to fly and deliver spare parts to customers across Africa.
“We fetch customers from wherever they want to be picked up and we fly them to the factory and give them a tour of our facilities and serve them lunch, before flying them back in the evening,” he says. “It’s nice to get the customers here to show them the factory and do business.”
By always being on hand to help its customers, and with an honest ethos grounded in the company’s humble beginnings, Desmond Equipment and its Dezzi brand is busy writing the next chapter of its fascinating story by developing its reach across the African continent.