iPulse Systems

Winner of the Innovation Concept award for 2018, category for small enterprises

Biometrics that’s user-friendly yet a state of the art

Picture the scene: You’re at the airport waiting to board an overseas flight when a frantic call comes in from the office. The server you run for your biggest and most important client needs urgent attention but the only people who have access to the server room, yourself included, are out of the office. Your customer service team is panicking.

You whip out your laptop and, right there in the airport coffee shop, grant your trouble-shooters one-time, time-limited access to the server room. Emergency defused, you head for the boarding gate.

“As long as you have an internet connection, you can manage your access control from an airport coffee shop, a hotel room, your home – from anywhere in the world,” says Francois van Loggerenberg, Lead Developer and Project Manager at iPulse Systems, designers and makers of biometrics systems.  

“Our systems give clients the most granular level of control,” he says. “You can decide exactly who, when, where, for how long and for what reason a person should have access to a particular space. If someone who does not have authority attempts to enter that area, the system will deny them access and report the attempt.”

While protecting clients from intrusions, the systems also protect the privacy of the people whose fingerprints it records. “People rightly want the assurance that their fingerprint is protected and won’t be shared with someone else,” says Francois. “So we do not store the image of the fingerprint and only extract the identifying data.”

iPulse’s systems are of course smart enough to verify that the fingerprint matches the person’s identity, using an encrypted connection and application programming interfaces (APIs) to request validation from either their own product, BIOVAULT, or from Home Affairs for high level security requirements.

State of the art all this certainly is, but it’s also extremely user-friendly, Francois says. “Users are mostly receptionists and security officers with little software experience, so we have cut down on the processes that can cause complications and taken the user experience to the simplest level.”

For example, the fingerprint imaging device automatically interacts with the user to get the best possible image, guarding against blurry images and smudged fingerprints.

It’s clear as day why this small South African enterprise has succeeded in stamping its name so firmly on the fiercely competitive biometrics market. It’s going places where others can’t.

MobeeWash

Winner of the Innovation Concept award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Maybee what SA needs are more ideas like MobeeWash

Talk about an incredible business and job creation opportunity, and little or no competition to worry about. There are 14 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in South Africa’s 10 major cities, a serious shortage of professional car-cleaning garages and an abundance of unemployed or unemployable people who could be trained in “detailing” (the proper term to describe top-notch car cleaners).

It’s a market just begging to be disrupted and that’s what MobeeWash has in mind.

“Instead of queueing to have your car washed, you book a time via the MobeeWash app and either arrive and find us waiting for you, or we come to you. I’m still tickled pink when my doorbell rings and its MobeeWash,” says Sean O’Connell, founder of MobeeWash and group CEO of its parent company, Bumblebee Consulting.

Other vehicle owners like to drop off their cars while they go to the gym or a quick meeting, knowing that their pride and joy will be gleaming and spotless within an hour. (Note that only waterless, eco-friendly products and steam are used, so there’s no water wasted or messy runoff.)

It has taken MobeeWash less than two years to attract 5 000 users in Cape Town, and now to enter the Gauteng market, Roodepoort having recently become the first city in the province to have a MobeeWash operator.

The part that probably makes Sean and his business partners proudest is that so far, MobeeWash has created jobs for 60 people who were unemployed and in some cases unemployable, whether through lack of skills, illiteracy or age.

“MobeeWash was born out of a dream to get South Africa working by embracing the concepts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and disruptive business philosophies,” he says, explaining that it uses NGOs and youth programmes to find the most suitable candidates – all unemployed or unemployable. 

“We provide full training and mentoring and an initial three-month contract. If a person performs, they become permanent.” Background checks are done on all candidates before joining the MobeeWash family.

As for the MobeeWash app, which is downloadable from the Google and Apple stores, Sean says: “I can’t claim to be completely unique because Uber and AirBnB thought of it first. But we believe there are massive opportunities in car wash markets locally and internationally. It would take 58 000 teams 30 days to wash every car in South Africa. Were we to seek to address just 3% of this market initially, we would create employment for 10 500 people.”

SVA Holdings

Winner of the Sustainability Award for 2018, category for large enterprises

To be sustainable, differentiate yourself

About six years ago, SVA Holdings looked to the future and predicted that conventional security services would no longer form part of its strategic framework… Its response was to completely reinvent itself. The SVA of today has transformed into a Technology-based, Risk management and Asset Protection enabler and bears little resemblance to the company it used to be.

“We transformed from a conventional South African security business that only did physical guarding to a technology-based business with intellectual property that is patented in 43 countries,” says Derick Deyzel, Chief Commercial Officer.

It was a shift that was necessary to ensure the company’s longevity, he says. “To be sustainable, we had to differentiate ourselves from everyone else. As a technology-based risk management company that owns and controls our own IP, we have been able to do that.”

One of the company’s biggest strengths is through the application of its patented platform, Infoman, to help its clients identify, evaluate and mitigate through tangible corrective actions shortcomings and/or deficiencies within their supply chains and improve their legal and risk compliance.

For example, a major retail client was using manual inventory processes in all its stores, which was time-consuming and prone to error, not to mention fraud. “We forklifted their manual processes and automated them, speeding up the processes 10-fold and giving the entire line management “near “real-time visibility,” Derick says. The refined process created the operational visibility, allocated ownership and accountability but also empowered the client to test and measure the effectiveness of operational supply chain decision making, which was evidenced by analytical, source-based risk data.

SVA has mastered the art of analysing risk-related data to identify trends and weaknesses for clients to act on – and in some cases, make uncannily accurate predictions, he says. Today, certain of our clients have been able to predict shrink 2 years ahead with 99% accuracy.”

This is no idle claim: the financial statements of some of its clients for the past 4 years show that the stock level shrink predictions calculated through SVA’s Infoman platform have turned out to be precise.

While SVA’s transformation has clearly worked for its clients, and itself, there’ll be no resting on its laurels, Derick says. “To stay relevant, you’ve got to be dynamic. That’s one of the advantages of our technology platform. If we start with a process and close the loopholes, we swiftly move on to the next shortcoming within the supply chain and in so doing able to ensure Infoman’s relevance in years to come, as it may be today.

Accsys

Winner of the Sustainability Award for 2018, category for medium enterprises

The perils of depending on the next sale

Sign a new deal today; move on to the next deal tomorrow. The incessant search for the next sale keeps many business owners awake at night – and so it should. As long as the focus is on finding the next house to build, the next passenger to fly or the next restaurant meal to serve, sustainability will probably remain elusive.

Prospects for such businesses start looking even more precarious in a higher risk environment of the VUCA variety – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – like the one in which South Africa now finds itself.

“Right now, how do you run a business that can withstand the ups and downs? One way is to make sure that your income is not entirely dependent on new sales. To be a sustainable business, you need a stable line of income,” says Teryl Schroenn, CEO of payroll and HR software company Accsys.

For Accsys, which has been in business since 1981 (and a tt100 finalist and winner every year since 2006), that stable line of income comes from its ability to retain customers beyond the short term and so earn a mix of annuity and contract income.

Teryl explains.

“Why do people use companies like ourselves? Because our promise is that we’re going to keep you up to date with statutory requirements. Every time the Budget comes out, our clients have to comply with a new Tax Act, and they rely on our software to do that.”

Bear in mind that Accsys has clients in 19 African countries, which means keeping abreast of the tax and other payroll changes in all those countries.

“If we were not a sustainable business with a stable line of income – annuity income – it would be very difficult to keep on developing new stuff all the time while remaining financially stable.”

Sustainability is not, of course, just about the financial bottom line. “The triple bottom line is always important,” says Teryl. “You really cannot be an island. You do need to be part of an economic tribe and a social tribe. In Accsys’s case, this includes training and skills development for a wider circle than itself, while moving towards paperless operations and doing more recycling.

Such projects need not break the company budget, she adds. “If you can’t do the big things, do small things – everywhere.”

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the 2018 award for Sustainability, category for small enterprises

Sustainability starts with making changes – big and small

From behaviour change as small as putting on a jersey instead of switching on a heater to making design changes to the aerodynamics (and therefore energy efficiency) of its products, sustainability is a subject that comes naturally to engineering firm Air Blow Fans.

“A reduction in energy has a direct link to CO², as well as savings from lower power usage, and we have a history of energy efficiency,” says Gavin Ratner, the company’s managing member. “Much of our product range (of industrial-scale fans) is generally refurbished many times before they are beyond economic repair and the material is scrapped and sent back to steel manufacturers for inclusion as scrap materials into their processes.”

Through effective engineering, it’s possible to significantly reduce energy consumed, and therefore operating costs, he says. ”Using rotor designs that are more aerodynamic, we can improve the fan’s operating point on its fan curve to better suit the required system flows and pressures.”

These benefits appeal to many users of industrial fans – but by no means all.

“People tend not to like change and some are more risk averse than others. Mostly, when clients become conscious of the positive implications of the recommended change, such as greater energy efficiency and lower costs, they make the only decision that should be made – they change,” says Gavin. “Others will resist and want things left the way they are”

Flexibility and the willingness to explore and experiment are key in driving greater efficiency, which almost always means using resources more sustainably. This comes easily at Air Blow Fans. “I’m the quintessential engineer who loves tinkering,” says Gavin. “I’m not scared of change or the unknown; I enjoy pushing boundaries and trying new things.”

Where he has become something of a stickler is in discouraging energy-wasting practices such as keeping the heater on when you really don’t need it. “Put on a jersey,” says Gavin. “It sounds like a small thing that won’t make a great difference, but change starts with us. If more people started thinking along the same lines about how we use energy, it would make a difference.” Small things count!

SVA Innovate

Winner of the Sustainability award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Lessons in sustainability from yesterday, today and tomorrow

Learn from what happened yesterday but don’t use your rear-view mirror as the driving force.

Constantly check where you are on the S-Curve pattern of innovation and if your products are mostly approaching the top, make sure you are already starting again at the bottom with new ones.

Hire young, extremely talented, out-of-the box thinkers to turn your specifications into real, sellable products, and manage these young people extremely well.

These are some of the learnings that SVA Innovate has embedded in its business, enabling it to feed a steady stream of fresh, innovative and affordable new products and services to its parent company, SVA Holdings. Armed with these, SVA Holdings (itself a tt100 winner for Sustainability in 2018) can maintain the competitive edge it has in the governance and risk management market.

“Business sustainability means not sitting on our laurels and expecting what we did yesterday to be good enough for today,” says Lee McFadyen, group technology executive at SVA Innovate. “At any given time, we have at least five new products in development.”

This is not simply a case of churning out new products but about delivering products that disrupt the market, Lee says.

An example is SVA Innovate’s stocktaking solution, which can predict stock take results two years ahead, with 99% accuracy. “Walmart came back to us and said we were spot on,” says Lee.

One of the five or so new products that the company is currently working on is a new technology solution for retail stores battling to deal with in-store crime. The physical presence of security guards is no longer enough of a deterrent and smart technology is increasingly filling the gap.

“All businesses say they want to use technology but having a computer is one thing; employing technology is another,” says Lee, adding that many companies see technology as a “forced purchase” instead of a tool that can significantly improve their risk and governance processes – affordably.

“We don’t spend a lot on developing our solutions; actually, we operate on a limited budget and deliver products at very reasonable prices, having developed a stable framework over the past 4 years helps us in achieving this,” he says. To a large extent, this is possible because the company makes a point of hiring people with a can-do attitude who don’t demand expensive equipment to deliver. “They don’t have an 8-to-5 mindset and lack of technology is not an obstacle to them; they think differently and find a way to make it happen.”

Accsys

Accsys

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for medium enterprises

Our adjudicator Marilze Schwar shares with us their experience of Accsys.

How to keep your thinking at the cutting edge

When you’re good at what you do and it’s working well, why change? That attitude is called complacency and it doesn’t go down well at payroll and HR software solutions company Accsys.

“We’re constantly reinvestigating our systems and processes as if we had just bought the company and were walking in cold,” says CEO Teryl Schroenn, who has regular conversations with fellow executives and other employees to check what’s still working and what’s not.

Such discussions can lead to interesting solutions in unexpected aspects of the business. “This morning, feedback received from some of our staff is that diversity is a major issue,” Teryl says. “One of the things we came up with is that for the next year, we will focus on one of the South African languages so that we can all at least greet each other in it.”

Age diversity also helps keep the company’s thinking fresh and creative, she says. “The youngest people here are interns straight out of school. The oldest person is 72. This cross-generational mix is important because it provides a blend of stability and new ideas.” When some people are risk-averse, others risk-tolerant and the rest somewhere in between, the results are more likely to be working than if one or the other dominates.

And results says Teryl, are what count. “The implementation of any technology or system should be designed around outcomes and not the method. The question we ask is: What results do we require?”

That might seem like common sense but a surprising number of companies focus on method rather than results. For example, some businesses will automate their payroll systems but keep the old Excel spreadsheet system just in case.

“The one system checks the other,” she says, adding that this might sound like a good idea until you consider that it not only costs more to run two parallel systems but it is also time-consuming – so there go any time-saving efficiencies management might have been hoping for. “Don’t just do old things in a new way. You’ve got to shift your thinking.”

Something else to be on the lookout for is processes and systems that employees are supposed to be following or using but aren’t, Teryl says. “Ensure that what you think is happening is actually happening. People don’t like change and old habits die hard. If you change something and no one is really watching, people will fall back into their old ways.”

Then there is the not-so-old cliché about fixing things that aren’t broken. “Sometimes it is tempting to change something to make your own life easier but, in the process, you might be making life more difficult for 10 other people. You have to keep on asking yourself and others: Is this really going to drive the business forward?” So there you have it: Go to work every day looking at your company as if you have just bought it and are walking through the door for the first time. What would you change and what would you keep, and what results do you seek?

Ready to put innovation on the map in Africa?

Ready to put innovation on the map in Africa?

The Innovation League is a study that explores the innovation landscape in South Africa and Africa. It is the only awards programme in the country that focuses on innovation as a strategic capability and has been running since 2015. The Innovation League is executed by Innocentrix in partnership with varies stakeholders, including the prestigious tt100 Business Innovation Awards and Milpark Business School. It celebrates innovation excellence while helping organisations in Africa better understand their innovation maturity. It also provides excellent insights into the African innovation context and supports innovation capability building.

The aim is to help organisations to innovate better and to specifically write up case studies on innovation excellence in Africa. Results are unpacked and the winners recognised at an annual Innovation Conference in collaboration with partners and friends of the Innovation League.  

Based on INSEAD’s Innovation Readiness Model, upon completion of the survey participants will receive a short feedback report at no cost, explaining their innovation maturity score. The report will present a snapshot of your organisation’s innovation strengths and weaknesses, great insights on what your organisation is already doing to be at the leading edge of innovation and a view of what you can improve upon. 

Click to participate in the Innovation League  
The Innovation League Survey takes only 15-20 minutes to complete. It does not ask for detailed information and there are no costs involved! We are looking forward to meeting you at the award ceremony later this year!
 
If you have any questions please contact  Henra Mayer by sending an email or alternatively get hold of Zander Powell by clicking here. The competition closes on 15 October 2019.  

Thank you for your participation and good luck!  

Kind regards,


Henra Mayer                                     
CEO Innocentrix                                

De Beers Group Technology

De Beers Group Technology

Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of Systems, category for large enterprises

Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of De Beers Group Technology

Even ‘trivial’ details matter with systems thinking

In most workplace settings, the swing of the doors is probably not a particularly important parameter. That changes dramatically in confined spaces such as ships, aircraft and underground mines where a door with a large swing can be a serious and expensive drawback.

“In isolation, the door swing is not a big deal, but when space is at a premium, it becomes really important and can add significantly to your capital costs. From a systems perspective, we have learnt not to underestimate even the most trivial parameter,” says Gordon Taylor, Operations Manager, at De Beers Group Technology.

Understanding the bigger picture and the detail of how everything fits together is what systems thinking means at De Beers Group Technology, which designs and produces specialised mining equipment such as sorting machines.

It’s this kind of thinking that the organisation strives to encourage among its employees through programmes such as the internal innovation system, known as Boost.

The idea behind Boost (named after the first staff-inspired innovation to receive a boost) is to encourage employees to think and contribute beyond their immediate jobs. “If you have an idea in your head, use Boost to translate it into something practical,” Gordon says. The organisation provides seed funding of say R3 000 or R4 000, and time is set aside to experiment towards translating that idea into something tangible.

A substantial amount of time and effort has gone into fine-tuning Boost so that it produces real results and doesn’t just fizzle out. The reason is that it’s important to generate new ideas internally. “The innovation industry is a multibillion-rand industry and we know we can go outside (for innovation services) but we want ideas created internally and we want to do this at a grassroots level,” says Gordon.

This means everyone in the organisation is encouraged to be involved in idea generation, from artisans and tradespeople to administrative staff and engineers, cutting across all age groups. “You must have diversity and inquisitiveness to succeed, and you need to get out of the siloes,” he says. “People should be willing to try things that are out of the ordinary and management should make it clear this is okay. Employees shouldn’t think, ‘Don’t worry, the management team will take care of this’. That stifles innovation.”

The message behind all this is that nothing happens in isolation. Everyone has a part to play in making an organisation work better and no detail is too trivial – including the door swing.

Air Blow Fans

Air Blow Fans

Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for small enterprises

When there’s a big competition, it’s all systems go

Probably the biggest competitive advantage of a small engineering development company like Air Blow Fans is agility and responsiveness compared to larger rivals in the industrial fans field. Agility is not necessarily a question of size, however. Rather, it’s a matter of achieving that end-to-end seamlessness that is so talked about but so challenging to actually accomplish.

“Everything has to tie up. It’s all those interconnected things that feed into each other so that we can act fast and respond to clients’ unforeseen needs,” says Gavin Ratner, managing member of multi-award-winning Air Blow Fans.

The operative word here is “unforeseen”. There is no set formula for fixing the massive centrifugal and axial flow fans that mining houses, power utilities and the like use to keep their plants running smoothly. Every situation is different and every solution has to be approached on its own merits, making those interconnected processes and systems all the more important.

Technology is a big part of this, but so is the human element, says Gavin.

Most plants have remote monitoring systems so that pre-emptive maintenance can be scheduled before there is a breakdown, but in practice, relatively few companies do regular checks. So when their mission-critical fans start vibrating more vigorously than they should, or some of the moving parts threaten to malfunction, Air Blow Fans will receive an emergency call.

That often means racing off to the client’s site for an on-premises, eyes-on assessment, after which technology can take over. “We feed the information from the site visit into a computational fluid dynamics package so that the computer can run different scenarios and devise a mechanical engineering solution that is reliable and fit for service,” Gavin says.

Next comes the design of the system, ordering of the materials, manufacture and installation of the equipment, underpinned by quality assurance. Air Blow Fans has ISO 9001 certification, which is unusual for a small engineering company.

Let’s not forget the people management part. “In a small group like ours, we are all interdependent. While a big organisation can compensate for one or two rotten apples, we cannot and it’s really important to have the right people working together for a common cause.”

With all the moving parts in synch, human and machine, it’s all systems go and no spanners in the works.

Enter Now