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Leading the charge: Guy Jack

Guy Jack, a third-generation Kenyan and the CEO of Associated Battery Manufacturers (ABM), explains that the company is essentially divided into two main units: ABM is the manufacturing arm, while Chloride Exide manages sales and marketing. The latter also handles the renewable energy side of the business.

Noting that technology is very similar throughout most of the world in terms of automotive batteries, Guy says that quality is what sets a company apart in his industry, along with their focus on minimising waste as much as possible.

To this end, ABM’s state-of-the-art facility has been an integral part of the firm’s success with manufacturing in Kenya and selling throughout the entire region. After reaching the impressive industry milestone of producing one million batteries in 2018, Guy has big plans for ABM going forward.

“As a manufacturing operation, our strategy is geared towards the annual production of two to two-and-a-half million batteries within six to seven years,” he says.

“As an organisation, we recognised and embraced the importance of strategy in the business years ago. That’s been absolutely fundamental to our growth and it’s something that we’ll continue to embrace. Everyone in the organisation knows exactly where we’re going for the next 12, 24 or 36 months and what their part in it is.”

Guy maintains that it’s important that everyone is involved in the business and that they’re aware of what the company is trying to achieve through its strategies. “Our employees are all part of it,” he says. “They understand very clearly each and every person’s contribution to the strategy and, therefore, what the business goals are.”

“Everyone in the organisation knows exactly where we’re going for the next 12, 24 or 36 months and what their part in it is.”

The emphasis on good channels of communication also extends to ABM’s suppliers. “Occasionally you have suppliers that are not able to give you what you need – perhaps some new innovation or a current opportunity,” Guy explains. “As long as you’ve shared it with them and given them the opportunity to meet that need, then they have absolutely no problem if you have to move on. It’s about longstanding relationships – great communication and trust in the relationship. And, as a result, we all grow; we all evolve by collectively moving forward.”

This business style has paid off for ABM in terms of new opportunities, such as being part of a larger group of battery companies since 2016. Seventy-five per cent of the firm’s shareholding is Kenyan owned, with the remainder being held by Metair, a key player in the energy storage industry that has subsidiaries in several countries, including Romania, Turkey and South Africa.

“Being a small part of that, we’ve certainly seen huge opportunities coming through synergies in purchasing from the same suppliers in equipment for raw materials, and the benefits in terms of technical support, equipment and raw material pricing,” Guy points out.

As ABM’s main competition comes from international players, particularly firms in the far-east region, its competitive platform is very much on a global level. “This is good for us as an organisation, because it pushes us to achieve even higher standards,” Guy says. “We have to, because if we don’t, then our product or our pricing suddenly becomes unviable in the market.”

In terms of plans for the immediate future of the business, Guy wants to continue to focus on exploring market opportunities. “There’s no point investing if you don’t have a market for it,” he says. “So we spend a lot of time and effort focusing on the market demand and then subsequently ensuring that we have the capacity to meet it.”

He cites the availability of raw materials as another priority, with the firm using 100 per cent recycled lead as its main material. ABM is committed to seeking sustainable manufacturing processes and protecting the environment.

“From a recycling aspect, lead and glass are wonderful products in that they can be recycled indefinitely,” Guy explains. “It’s very easy to buy back old, used batteries, break them open, process and refine them, and they come back to pure lead again. We’re also able to re-use the plastics and we recycle the plastic containers. They get used to make things like packing crates, basins and buckets.”

ABM’s commitment to protecting the environment is reflected in the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) activities. “The CSR side of the business is very much geared towards the utilisation of our own renewable energy options,” he says. “For example, electricity is a crucial resource in Africa that is only available to probably 25 per cent of the population. It’s incredible when you supply mains electricity to somebody and suddenly their lifestyle completely changes.”

Guy is proud of Kenya’s level of innovation, particularly with the world of ICT, app development and the use of software for innovation and automation, and this is something he’s appreciated in his own team members at ABM.

“Nowadays, it’s incredible what our engineering teams are able to develop in terms of automation for our plant, comparable to some of the top manufacturers globally. It’s all done in-house, too,” he beams. “It’s an amazing thing when you empower people to really unleash their creativity, and the end result is unbelievable.”

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