27 July 2011, 00:00
Bell Equipment Sales South Africa (BESSA) has appointed Francois van Tonder as the General Manager of the Coastal Region while Les Lothian, who previously held that position, has been appointed as General Manager of the Central Region.
Van Tonder has a good perspective of Bell Equipment having joined the company in March 2007 as an Engineer in the factory’s Product Verification and Validation (PV&V) Team. He specialized in the Structural Analysis of Bell’s Articulated Dump Trucks (ADTs) and after a year he started to manage that PV&V Testing Team.
In mid-2010 he was promoted to Programme Manager where he was responsible for new development projects through the Product Delivery Process (PDP) for ADTs as well as Sugar and Forestry machines.
Van Tonder lectured for five years in the field of Structural Mechanics in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Pretoria before joining Bell Equipment. He also worked for Armscor as a Project Manager and Engen Petroleum as a Sales Engineer.
The Coastal region includes KwaZulu-Natal, Nelspruit and Swaziland and as General Manager, Van Tonder is responsible for running Bell’s business in the area.
“Apart from working with people, I enjoy that this position offers new challenges every day,” he says. “In general I will be looking after the business holistically and aligning the business to support the Group’s initiatives. During the recession we were forced to run a lean budget and now it is my goal to ensure that we have the necessary resources in place to provide our customers with the high level of support to which they have become accustomed to and which I know we can provide.”
He added that he will also be focusing on developing employees so that skills levels are able to support the service levels to which the region aspires. “Improving our customer service levels will support product growth. We have a strong, motivated and dedicated team and they know what is expected of them,” he said.
Meanwhile Lothian joined Bell as GM of the Coastal Region in September 2007. He first found his way into the industrial sector after serving his articles with Price Waterhouse when he became a founding partner in a business dealing with specialised abnormal logistics. After eight successful years the business was sold and he joined Johnson Crane Hire and was later approached to join Bell Equipment.
He moved to the position of GM of the Central Region in February 2011 and is enjoying the challenge of heading up Bell Equipment’s largest region in South Africa, which extends from Middelburg in the East through to Kuruman in the West and from Tzaneen in the North to Bloemfontein in the South.
The region, which is serviced by eight Customer Service Centres, also has the largest machine population in South Africa and accounts for the lion’s share of Bell Equipment Sales South Africa’s revenue.
Comments Lothian: “Business is predominantly mining and construction driven, although all other sectors feature. The mining sector is particularly strong at present, stimulated by global demand for commodities while the construction sector is in a slow recovery period. We’ve also had some success through Public Sector spend and look forward to this trend continuing as government fulfils its commitment to improve infrastructure.”
He adds that he enjoys the “hands on” aspect of his position. “It’s all about getting the balance right; interacting with customers daily, building relationships and ensuring the operational units within the region meet Group expectations keeps me focused and my team stimulated,” he said.
“I have a philosophy of ‘right, first time right’, which is quite a challenge, however at Bell we are very team orientated and each member strives towards the same goal. Our products are world class and matching this with sound aftermarket delivery makes this challenge a whole lot easier.
“Our focus going forward is to develop our employees and raise their ability to deliver quality service, which our customers rightly demand and have become accustomed to over the years,” he said.