The South African shoe producer

The relationship between the organizations United Fram and Wayne Plastics is a marriage made in heaven. Both companies, which are under the industrial footwear division of tis parent organization KAP International Holdings, have come into the relationship with a lot of experience.

United Fram, which has been manufacturing safety footwear in South Africa for 50 years, produces a range of footwear for industries such as mining, petro-chemical, engineering, construction, and defense. Built through the conglomeration and consolidation of a variety of shoe companies, it uses five different methods of sole construction.

Wayne Plastics, meanwhile, grew from a company called Wayne Rubber, also through a variety of consolidations and a series of buyouts. For the past 12 years, it has manufactured waterproof safety footwear.

Wayne Plastics caters for the specialized needs of the mining, agricultural, food processing, and construction industries, as well as general purpose applications.

Wayne Plastics’ manufacturing plant, located west of Johannesburg, has a production capacity in excess of 50,000 pairs of PVC injection-moulded gumboots a week.

The two firms have manufacturing divisions under the same management team, and a joint sales force, but are still two distinct companies. Mike Lithgow, Marketing Managing, explains, “United Fram is a leather-based product and Wayne Plastics is a PVC gumboot. Fram is more a safety shoe and boot, because leather is not waterproof, but the Wayne is 100 per cent waterproof, much better for work environments.”

United Fram’s product is leather with a polyurethane or rubber sole, or a combination of both rubbers. The products differ depending on the application. Wayne Plastics’ product is a PVC gumboot which also has a combination, or slightly different configurations, of soles depending on application, like fishing, farming or the mining industry.

Both organizations are launching a new range of products. The United Fram products are more modern, more updated, and very style-conscious in the conservative environment of traditional safety footwear, while Wayne Plastics looks toward new designs and value-added features for its boot.

Lithgow adds, “Especially for the mining environment, we would like better construction around the boot, protection from the top part, the bridge of the foot, and how to incorporate visibility.”

Both firms are spanning globally as well. United Fram exports its products internationally with certification from the Australian, Canadian, and European standards authorities. A growing proportion of Wayne Plastics’ boots are supplied into international markets, which include Europe, the U.K., Australia, as well as Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

African customers include Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Ghana.

While expanding across the African continent and internationally, both firms are holding on to their South African roots.

“Springboarding from South Africa, we aim to take it to environments which closely match the environments of South Africa, where there are strong mining economies, strong farming communities, where there is a strong need for our application,” says Lithgow.

One of the key strengths for both organizations is that they have a true solution for both dry and wet applications.

“No other manufacturer in South Africa offers both leather and PVC,” says Lithgow. “On both sides we offer a total solution to our distributors and our customers as a one-stop shop where they can buy any solution for any application, be it wet or dry.”

The firms’ expertise has continued to grow from its understanding of the South African market, despite conditions that have added significant challenges.

Lithgow adds, “The market has suffered in the last two to three years because of a huge number of Chinese imports where distributors have felt they could get a better return, a better margin on cheaper and, in some cases, sub-standard product, especially on the leather side.”

As a result, it is moving quickly from a management perspective to a proactive stance in terms of marketing and selling its products.

“For a very long time United Fram and Wayne Plastics have been a little complacent in what we supply to our customers, with not a lot of design changes and technical advancements and we are at the moment at the cusp of finalizing our strategy for more quick-to-market designs,” explains Lithgow. “We’re looking for strategic partners going forward, both on the PVC and leather side, who are passionate about footwear products.”