Shared values

Part of Invincible Valves’ success can be attributed to the company’s integrated and inclusive approach to business and leadership, with MD Pam du Plessis at the helm.
Shared values

When opening or closing a tap, do you ever think of the simple yet effective technology inside it? The little valve that allows water to flow and then cuts it off with a few twists? Straightforward, easy, effective. Valves are critical components across many industries – mining, agriculture, petrochemical, power generation. Where would we be without valves? According to the Valve and Actuator Manufacturers Cluster of South Africa, the valve sector rakes in roughly ZAR4.5 billion annually, and its 18 member companies account for 90% of valve products manufactured locally, demonstrating the importance it holds within the industry and the country’s economy.

One of those companies is Invincible Valves, which has been in operation for 35 years. As one of the continent’s largest valve stockists, the company has its own range – Inval – which is specifically manufactured for its business, and includes products such as ball valves, butterfly valves, diaphragm valves, gate valves, knife gate valves, non-return valves, pinch valves, pressure reducing and relief valves as well as actuators and all other add-on items such as positioners and switches.

For Pam du Plessis, MD of Invincible Valves, this position was a goal from day one – when she started out as the firm’s accountant 11 years ago. She attributes the company’s core growth to the ‘new age’ management system used to oversee the company, as it enables her to be more open to discussion and less prone to ‘running around with a big stick’. This way of managing also helps staff feel more assured when putting forward proposals or sharing ideas because they are included in any form of discussion, planning and implementation around the concept that was brought to the table, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how they thought it would.

Du Plessis says this is to ensure that employees’ suggestions are supported, and through consultation and education, they are capable of becoming adopted (or adapted if needed) into actual working processes.

‘Simply put, I am a leader – not a boss. My middle management is made up of team leaders who have teams of no more than five employees, making it incredibly easy to manage all staff appropriately. It also allows for the teams to work closely and for the leader to identify any gaps within, while our business model makes provision to recognise achievements inside and outside of the company, giving our staff empowerment opportunities.’

She notes that through its family-oriented approach – which is based on integrating honesty, integrity, innovation and communication into all aspects of the business’ functioning – it is relatively easy to ensure staff remain motivated, while brand awareness has created a new and dynamic working environment that provides staff with a sense of belonging.

To continue growing within the sector, the company is striving for diversification and expanding its market by increasing its Inval product range. Now three years into a five-year plan, it has placed its focus on broadening the scope of valve education.

According to Du Plessis, there’s a definite lack of knowledge in the valves industry, due to an ageing talent pool, which is why training in all aspects of a business is essential for ultimate success. Invincible Valves addresses this challenge through its empowerment programme, which includes extending its internal training to learners at local technical schools via internships and bursaries to students with an interest in engineering. ‘Before the end of the year, we will put competitions in place to determine suitable candidates for a bursary sponsor­ship toward engineering studies for one year at a technical college or university, as well as hands-on experience in the workplace.’

The commitment to drawing young talent into the industry by focusing on valve education is also demonstrated through a new on-site training facility. With it, the company aims to set a benchmark for training in the valves industry – especially as a small to medium-sized business – to show other valve manufacturers and assemblers the value of education and training within the industry.

While still in its final stages of completion, the training facility has already registered 12 employees for its three courses – which take up to six weeks to complete for basic skills, and six months for advanced skills.

Invincible Valves also runs the South African Valve and Manufacturers Association’s Working with Valves online course, which covers basic valves, control valves and working with valves. The more-specialised Working with Control Valves course has 10 modules – it focuses on the principles of fluid dynamics, trims, sizing software, actuators and desuper-heaters, among other aspects.

‘Alongside these courses, we offer an in-house basic business principles course, which has been designed by myself with the use of the Harvard Business Review,’ says Du Plessis. ‘This gives our staff a basic insight into business – how it works, budgets, debtors and creditors, leadership, strategy, risk and compliance.

‘Another part of the education programme is health education, as in HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and also general wellness. This programme has been incredibly successful over the years and all staff and our local community are afforded the opportunity to learn more and be tested for a number of diseases – dreaded or not.’

By Melissa le Roux

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