When young electrical engineer Johan Human embarked on a business enterprise back in 1997, he could not have foreseen how successful his fledgling business, EDS Switchboards would become.
This scenario is familiar to every entrepreneur; spotting an opportunity, being savvy and having the drive and determination to turn a vision into a reality. Carefully analyzing the risks through self-belief and empowering themselves through the acquisition of knowledge that will further their goals.
Having the foresight and recognizing opportunities and responding to the changing demands of the marketplace are essential elements to any business success, and there is always the element of luck of being in the right place and the right time.
“We started the business in 1997 from a 300m2 premises in Montague Gardens, seeing an opportunity in local panel manufacture supply to customers in the Western Cape. We were essentially assembling control panels from bought in components” related Johan.
“Three years later we saw the opportunity of manufacturing our own panel enclosures and invested in sheet metal machinery outgrowing the Montague Gardens premises which we exchanged for our current 1 800m2 facility in Paarden Eiland. About this time I began developing a modular panel system which we call the Q- range, which complied with relevant SANS 61439-1&2 rated at 50kA for one second."
“Further investment in CNC sheet metal machinery in 2004 and the adoption of our modular design resulted in an increasing number of orders from larger industrial concerns, but it was the orders that flowed from the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium construction and airport infrastructure upgrades that really tested our manufacturing capabilities.'
“Our manufacturing capability and modular design enabled us to complete an avalanche of orders. which tested our production capacity to the limit! At peak, we were producing the same number of panels in one month that would normally take us six months to complete."
“Delivering quality products on time and complying with local and international standards entrenched our name and business continued to expand. We gained a reputation for being able to handle emergency work at short notice and that led to the development of a maintenance division and countering the perception that electrical panels and motor control centers were a fit and forget item” he explained.
Having the business confidence and high tech manufacturing facilities led Johan in 2014 into an association with electrical giant, Siemens who license EDS to manufacture its SIVACON S8 range of low voltage switchboards.
EDS are one of only four such licensees in South Africa and the only one in the Western Cape. Being a Siemens licensee means that EDS can provide fully compliant and certified systems - including components - which has further enhanced the firm’s reputation with major customers and consultants alike, not just in their own backyard but to customers in Africa too.
EDS switchboard products have found their way into a number of industries in most of the neighbouring states. They say that ‘it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good...’ and Eskom’s load shedding predicament certainly benefited EDS in providing control panels to activate standby power in the case of predictable and unpredictable outages.
The swing to renewables and off-grid installations and combination systems of self-generated power provides more opportunities. This includes providing control systems where an independent power source supplements mains power if the demand from expanded processes cannot be met by current mains capacity or where supplementary power provides a more flexible or less expensive alternative.
Now and the future
“The EDS Group has three subdivisions namely EDS Switchboards, EDS Maintenance and Automation and EDS Distribution” explained Johan.
“We offer a one-stop facility with design, engineering, project management, sheet metal manufacturing and assembly, wiring, testing, maintenance, automation and distribution. This full scope of facilities, under one roof, ensures high quality products and speedy delivery."
“Our current staff complement is more than 80 including 10 in our design engineering team and we will be ISO 9000 certified before the end of the year.”
And what of the future?
“The future of EDS looks very bright” says Johan.
“We have developed systems that interface and can integrate with all aspects of power management and generation including Eskom power, wind energy, PV and standby and stand-alone systems. At present our focus is on low voltage systems and expansion can come in various ways - being Lloyd’s compliant, providing marine systems for example, but there are opportunities to explore in medium voltage too. The swing to alternative sources of power will always require control and monitoring systems and people are much more conscious of the cost of electricity and its efficient use, which bodes well for our monitoring and automation business” he concluded.