Trustworthy Timber since 1939
Treated Timber Products has been in the business of supplying high-quality utility poles for over seven decades. As development increases across the continent and economies grow, electrical needs are on the rise, which Treated Timber Products is incredibly well-suited to accommodate.
South Africa-based Treated Timber Products (TTP) is a Holley family legacy going back over 74 years. The company was founded in 1939 by James Hunt Holley Sr. He was the President of the Commonwealth Forestry Association and specialised in the processing and supply of utility poles.
The company’s core business surrounded utility poles, specifically transmission and telephone poles, however the company has grown to include fencing poles, trellising and vineyard poles, and guard rails.
Working with major state-owned electrical companies like South Africa’s Eskom, Kenya Power and Lighting Co., Tanzania’s Tanesco and Mozambique’s EDM, TTP is now the largest producer of utility poles in the Southern hemisphere and the company’s name has become synonymous with quality, delivery and longevity.
“As a family, we’ve always had substantial timber plantations and farm holdings. We’ve expanded that into other parts of the continent and at last count, there is about 25,000 hectares of timber plantation available for utility pole use,” says Lloyd Holley, marketing and sales director at TTP and great-grandson of James Hunt Holley Sr.
TTP, in consultation with various nurseries and plant breeders, has been involved in the development of clonal saligna and grandis hybrids, designed to produce trees with perfect stem form, density and strength requirements.
“Our industry is very particular in its requirements,” explains Holley. “We’ve had to look at the quality of the seedlings and the quality of the clonal plants we put into the ground to ensure the yield we require, come time of harvest. There has been a lot of work done around that and that’s shown in terms of our yield.”
TTP’s plantations are grown on a five to 18 year cycle depending on the pole size required. The younger aged timber supplies the fencing and fruit trellising market, while the older trees supply the transmission and telecommunications markets. Holley believes the fact TTP is able to offer a range in sizes is one of the company’s most unique factors.
“There aren’t, to my knowledge, entities that have the same kind of land holding and the ability to grow their plantations in the sizes and segments to facilitate the entire market. I think our plantations are our competitive edge. We control our own quality and destinies,” says Holley.
Process and Distribution
After the trees are harvested, they are taken to one of five plants across South Africa – Broadmoor, Cramond, Lows Creek, Ashton and Glenthorpe – to be dried, chemically treated, inspected, labeled and then distributed.
The treatment plant on Broadmoor farm has continuously been upgraded and forms the backbone of TTP’s treated supply. It was in this plant that the first specialised transmission pole drying kilns in Africa were imported from Germany and installed in 1980. With the addition of its other plants over the years, TTP now boasts the largest drying kiln capacity in Africa.
What’s striking is that although the company has grown significantly in its reach and upgraded with the times, the process itself for creating the poles has been preserved over generations.
“It’s unusual, there hasn’t actually been a huge amount of innovation,” remarks Holley. “The principle of making telephone and electricity poles is quite simple.
You need to extract the moisture from the pole; you need to get your chemical impregnation into the pole. By doing these two critical, but simple, factors you guarantee the life expectancy of that pole. It’s not overly complicated, the principle has remained for a long period of time.”
Basically, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
TTP also manages the distribution of its poles. TTP has invested extensively in its internal road transport and it owns a fleet of 20 Mercedes Actros trucks which are able to deliver to our customers across Southern Africa. All trucks have specifically designed timber trailers enabling them to carry maximum payloads within the legal limits.
The company also transports via rail, as well as by sea, shipping in 20 and 40 foot containers as well as break bulk, depending on the length of the pole.
TTP’s plants are strategically located within 100 kilometres of either Durban or Maputo harbour, two of Africa’s largest ports, providing the company with a competitive advantage when supplying customers on the East and West coast of Africa, as well as further abroad.
Corporate Social Responsibility is something Holley and the company take very seriously, which can be seen from its interactions with its employees to its expectations with its plantations.
TTP’s staff are all union members and are compensated beyond the minimum requirements, says Holley. The company also provides staff training and development internally, which has led to a low turnover. TTP also actively hires people who live in the rural communities surrounding the farming and manufacturing areas of the company and works hard to deal only with South African companies in terms of procurements.
In addition, TTP farms are FSC certified and its manufacturing facilities are ISO and SABS certified to meet South Africa’s national standards.
“South Africa has gone through a massive transformation over the last 20 years,” explains Holley. “You need to be incredibly conscious not only of your social impact, but also of the environment, all with the goal of growing, sustaining and developing people and companies within our country. Wherever we can make a difference, we certainly try to.”
“Africa is referred to as the Dark Continent. If you look at a satellite image at night, on a whole, it’s still a pretty dark place. We certainly foresee demand coming from Africa as a whole. Power generation is absolutely key to that,” says Holley.
Mozambique is one area he sees growing significantly over the next decade due to the rise in electrical needs corresponding with the swelling market segment developing around mining and gas discoveries.
“Mozambique is a key driver and has lots of potential in the long term,” he says.
However, Holley believes this is the case for much of Africa. Although the growth will be gradual, Holley believes the demand in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Asia and the Middle East, will develop over a considerable amount of time, offering a ripe market for TTP to supply its poles to.
“We are globally competitive,” says Holley. “If you’re competitively priced, offer good quality and reliability, you’re going to secure market share.”