The largest number plate company in Africa, Uniplate has been a leader in number plate manufacturing for the past 46 years. Uniplate, which started in 1957, have made a good name for themselves in the industry. The company holds true to its mission to “produce quality products, offer personalized service, coupled with a policy of both competitive and fair prices for our customers, without compromising the product quality.”

The company, once a small operation, has sufficiently grown throughout the years. With South African headquarters in Johannesburg, Uniplate also has operations in Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria. With its exponential growth, Uniplate now has more than 200 committed employees.

Uniplate has an extensive dealership network and, from that, the company covers a variety of locations throughout South Africa and the African landscape, including Malawi, Nambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Despite its success in the South African market, Uniplate South Africa is not the company’s only subsidiary. It has also set up shop in England, creating jobs and bringing forth its unique approach to number plates to the Western sphere. Uniplate is now a major supplier of number plates in the United Kingdom. The company that started with only four employees has grown to 30 in its U.K. subsidiary. Acrylic blank plates are all manufactured in South African plants and then sent over to the U.K.

The number plate company has a division, Falcon, which it partnered with to make signage materials, supplying globally to countries like Japan, France and Korea.

Number plate legalities

Number plating is a necessary industry, as every motorist requires one and law changes see to a constant demand of number plates. Number plates are more common in metal than their plastic counterparts. From February 2010, the South African number plate industry went through changes boosting sales for companies like Uniplate. There was a process of replacing all plates in South Africa to be aluminium and numbered with an RFID tag, a distinct identification code. This new mode, labelled as the Intelligent Number Plate system, was an extensive project in the South African region. The Department of Roads and Transport in South Africa put aside R25 million for this extensive project. This new system, when scanned, will make it easier for authorities as they can see any motorway offences the driver has instantaneously.

In January 2009, the law stated that number plates needed to be affixed to the vehicle body in a permanent fashion.

New regulations in effect from February also state that it is illegal for any form of advertising to be on number plates. Along with the advertising legalities, new size requirements came into play.

Products

Uniplate sells many different types of plates, including acrylic blanks, number plate reflective material, vinyls, digital media, perspex, reflective material and chromadek.

The primary products manufactured by Uniplate are number plates and equipment that are processed in their Pretoria factory. This includes embossing and acrylic equipment. Uniplate sells number plate blanks, which includes acrylic blanks, steel and aluminium blanks, plastic holders, plastic screws, clapper dies, etc.

The company has a number of different designs for their number plates, catered to client needs and aesthetics. The Eastern Plate design, for example, has an iconic image of an elephant. These designs set Uniplate apart from other manufacturers.

As well as number plates, the company manufactures machinery. This includes acrylic systems that come with a kisscut three rollers and table, setting boards and seven millimetre kisccut dies and die rack. Uniplate also manufactures embossing systems that include a press, painter, setting boards, full flat set dies and die racks.

A number of accessories are available as well, both useful to clients and simultaneously making Uniplate a one-stop shop, selling inks and solvents in a variety of colours, trailer holders, trade plate holders, backing plates, double sided tapes, SABS stickers, bolts and nuts, plastic bags, replacement rollers, etc. One of its new products is the number plate tool kit. This innovative set comes with a number of integral parts for number plate fitting.

Falcon

Nizoo Chagan, Managing Director of Falcon, Uniplate’s division, has an interesting story of success that can only be achieved with hard work. Chagan grew up during apartheid South Africa and, under family obligation, started working at age 16. He started work as a factory labourer at Safety Car Plates, telling himself that someday he would own his own company.

Chagan persevered and, 25 years of working his way up the company ladder, he became managing director of the company. In 1985, Chagan took a position with Uniplate and in 1994 he merged his independent company and Uniplate. Chagan relocated to the U.K. to work with Uniplate and returned back to South Africa in 2003.

Falcon, Uniplate’s division, sells a comprehensive range of sign making supplies. The company has 11 outlets worldwide, including the largest stockest of Avery Dennison PVC vinyls in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also the only supplier in South Africa that sells the Hexis range of self-adhesive PVC vinyls.

Uniplate is not your standard number plate company and it is no surprise how it has transformed into one of the biggest plate companies in South Africa. With subsidiaries in the U.K. and with the Falcon division, Uniplate has created a name for itself built on its expertise and product variety.