The Right Tool For The Job
Doing whatever it takes to meet your needs is what Somta Tools is all about. It combines high tech and low prices to make sure all of its customers get the most complete solution possible, while also keeping its products affordable. Somta works hard to stay on top of the market while remembering its roots.
Founded in 1954, Somta hit the ground running in the business of manufacturing tool bits. From then on it has been set on a track of aggressive expansion in order to stay on top of the market trends.
Somta currently exports tools to over 70 countries worldwide with many of its largest clients based in Europe. Its tools are in use by internationally-known brands such as Boeing, Airbus, BMW Germany and Toyota.
According to David Risk, Somta’s export sales director, the company’s biggest competitive edge is it has extensive, high-quality product catalogue. Since they’ve been in the business for so long, Somta is able to offer its clients a large number of products to choose from and is able to assemble full packages to meet a variety of needs.
Acquiring this large catalogue of products wasn’t easy. In the 1980’s Somta acquired two large manufacturers of cutting tools, Clarkson Tap and Die and Mitco.
Following the acquisition Somta absorbed all the employees and their product line. This was a big help to boost its offering according to Risk. “It meant that fairly quickly we could expand our product portfolio into a wide range of high speed steel, cutting tools.”
“To this day I think that remains one of our strengths. The fact remains that we do offer a fairly broad range of products,” he continues. “Competitors of ours tend to focus on narrow segments, for example drills or taps or dies, whereas Somta makes all of those products and can make a catalogue range of all of those products.”
This rapid expansion of its inventory – over 10,000 items and counting – has put Somta ahead of the market for a long time. With its lead already in place, it has been important for Somta to continue looking forward and reassessing its businesses in order to stay ahead.
In any market there is always the fear that a competitor will come onto the scene with prices so low that nobody else can compete. This happened to Somta recently when Chinese manufacturers came to the market with extremely low priced tools. Things looked bleak for a short while, but it was Somta’s dedication that helped pull it through the rough patch.
“We were in a situation where we only manufactured our own products,” says Risk. “We were bringing in raw material, high speed steel, from France and also Austria. We found that just a blank piece of steel, before we began any work on it, cost more than a completely finished drill that was brought into South Africa from China.”
This seems like an impossible situation to come back from but Somta’s solution was simple and elegant. “We set up a quality control laboratory in Shanghai and we sent our technical director across to China to work with a number of different manufacturers to source those products at the price sensitive end of our range.”
Instead of letting the Chinese companies undercut them, Somta connected with Chinese manufacturers and added a price-competitive line of tools to its catalogue. Not only did the company do this while fighting to stay above ground, it managed to maintain its stringent quality standards at the same time. This is just one example of how, at the end of the day, Somta cares the most about its quality and its customer.
This innovative and outside-the-box thinking doesn’t stop with its product lines or clients. Somta makes sure that all of its employees are motivated and excited about what the company does because they understand a business is only as good as the people who work for it.
The business belongs to everyone
Everyone who works for Somta is a part owner. This idea was introduced in 2010 after the company made a huge loss in the previous year, had to retrench 40 per cent of its staff and was on the verge of being sold to a Chinese company. Luckily the deal fell through and a management buyout was concluded. Among the new agreements, the Somta Employees Trust was created, enabling the company to finally achieve its BBBEE accreditation for the first time in its nearly 60 year history.
Somta Employees Trust gave all Somta employees a combined stake in the business of 7.5 per cent. The move, thought up by managing director Allan Conolly, is directly in line with Somta’s philosophy of empowering its employees.
By making employees part owners, Somta is able to motivate them to work hard because now they all have a shared interest in the company’s success. Risk says Conolly’s decision was part of an overall philosophy on how to motivate his team at Somta. “He wants to leave behind a legacy so that he’s worked with a team that has achieved, not just something that is good, but we’ve together achieved something that is great. Something that nobody thought is possible.”
Somta isn’t afraid to get in on the ground floor of new technology, and being leaders of the pack, it’s easy to see why. Over the past two years Somta has been working closely with a research and development consultancy and a head R&D executive from a large American company, as well as a leading engineer from Israel.
“We’ve realized that if we are to penetrate the solid carbide market, we would need to bring some new designs, some geometries of tools, that would outperform whatever is currently available on the market,” says Risk.
With its new line of products that are focused on hard materials, Somta has been able to break into the market with a head start. The company has also been able to expand its catalogue, yet again, which will continue to give Somta an edge in the business.
Somta has used this dedication to innovation again and again to beat all the odds and turn the company around to become one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. With a solid history in the market and the business to prove it, Somta has the perfect set of tools to continue building a business that will last.