Penbro Kelnick is an amalgamation of two creators—Mr. Penchard and Mr. Hutton-Brown. From its initial stages of development Penbro Kelnick made short-wave converters for AM radio receivers. When Penchard resigned from Penbro Kelnick to start his own radio production company, Hutton-Brown transformed the company into what it is today—a leading manufacturer of transformers, wire wound resistors and coils for contractors.
History and expansion
The company which was originally named, Penbro Convertors during its inception in 1949, renamed itself in 1980 because of their partnership with Kelnick Development.
The business, which started with a small key staff, has rapidly expanded throughout the years creating a much larger company with endless possibilities for growth.
Herman van Aarde, Managing Director of Penbro Kelnick says, “We started with only five people and now we have 120.”
Throughout their long-winded history, Penbro has seen a lot of modifications. As they gained experience, they started to manufacture a diverse array of products such electro-mechanical phase-sequence relays. Penbro has also built a winding machine for the manufacturing edge-wind resistors in railway locomotives.
Though the company has expanded and started to create new products, they have a commitment to staying true to their original formula which has worked for them for many years. The quality cratmanship of their products speak from themselves and provide them with repeat customers.
“The market has changed quite a bit. We try and manufacture all the old stuff. We’re one of the very few companies that still manufacture the stuff we did 30 years ago,” says van Aarde.
Van Aarde who was born in Germany, moved to South Africa in 1948. He joined the team since 1964 and has contributed greatly to the growth and performance of the company. The Managing Director gained acclaim by creating a large number of jobs within the community by choosing to employ people rather than using man-made machinery.
Penbro has a close-knit employment system with many of their employees building their own houses with assistance from the company. Employees are also co-owners of Penbro.
Because of the company’s respected commitment to its employees, Penbro has received a level four BEE (Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Certificate) contributors score.
The company services equipment throughout Africa and provides training for local communities.
“We service equipment in Malawi and Tanzania and provide service on a contract basis. We do training for local people and are a support basis for them,” says van Aarde.
The company also looks to expand throughout the African continent with hopes of establishing another branch out of Africa which would help them further their goals and spread their products farther throughout.
At Penbro, their products are of utmost importance. The company takes pride in every product they design and manufacture. Their philosophy is simple. Quality is of highest significance and when they design products they make sure to implement reliable components. Their research and development secures resources on one team and further promotes quality work. The company often works with the customer to design and implement products that are reliable and long lasting. For Penbro, a longstanding business relationship is key and they can only do this by ensuring their products are of the highest standard.
Penbro sells a large variety of products. The most popular include Power resistors. Power resistors are used for applications such as heaters, crane control systems, dynamic braking of AC variable frequency drives, electric motors, load testing of energy sources, neutral grounding of AC transformers/generators and harmonic filters.
The company manufactures three main resistors. This includes wire wound resistors, oval and round edge wound resistors, and continuous ribbon resistors. Penbro also manufactures Standard Load Banks which are used for applications such as battery integrity testing and equalisation, dynamic braking of AC variable frequency drives, crane and elevator control systems, electric motors and load testing of AC and DC energy sources.
Penbro has seven different departments that are all interconnected. Each department commitment relies heavily on the success of the other.
At the company, all employees have access to the managing director and many employees have been there for an average of 15 years. This shows Penbro’s to their employees and the type of close working relationship the company has with their workers.
Penbro’s primary focus is on railway infrastructure, telecom, industrial and commercial energy solutions. They have an extended clientele based and provide consultation and contractors. Their products are known for their quality and many of them can only be found at Penbro.
“One reason why Penbro stands out is that everything we sell is manufactured in house. We have a strong design and we are one of the only companies that make certain products. So we are one of the only companies who make some products in South Africa,” says van Aarde.
The company prides itself on its reliable workmanship and product, even when faced with recession or a downturn in the economy. With one of the world’s greatest economic downturns in recent years, since the great depression many company’s have had to make major layoffs or sacrifice the quality of their product by cutting town costs. Penbro has tried to avoid this and maintain their quality services.
“Other companies try to cut down on cost. We avoid that by doing more service. What will happen is that we’ll take over complete service contracts,” says van Aarde.
Penbro has serviced a large number of big-name clients that have furthered their reputation in South Africa and abroad. Recently, they supplied, installing and commissioning for Green Point Stadium, Port Elizabeth Stadium and Bank of Tanzania.
The company has faced a lot of transformations since its meager beginnings but throughout the years have upheld their commitment to personal customer service and excellent products even in the face of massive growth. Penbro has created a company that is based on ethical hiring, quality craftsmanship, and years of commitment to the craft.