Sunday, March 3, 2024

Piket Implements: 90 years of unbroken success as a leading SA agri equipment manufacturer

Piket Implements: 90 years of unbroken success as a leading SA agri equipment manufacturer.

Reaching 90 years of age in 2023 as a multigenerational family business is an impressive milestone, especially considering the challenges that the past 90 years have served up: a depression, a world war, and now, load-shedding. Today, Piket Implements is celebrating this milestone with pride while ensuring that it attributes its success to grace, staff, and loyal customers.

How a business not merely survived this length of time, but grew consistently into one of South Africa’s leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery, is a story worth investigating. This is something that historian Simone van der Colff spent three years doing.

What Van der Colff unearthed is a rich history of men and women of extraordinary character whose entrepreneurial skills and determination built a foundation of ethics on which Piket Implements stands today. As a result, the story of the past 90 years is not merely about the company’s achievements, but the people behind its success.

From grain to machinery
The history of the company begins in 1933, when Sam Krupp and Hennie van Niekerk, both of whom worked in their respective family milling businesses in Eendekuil, Swartland, Western Cape, bought their fathers’ grain milling licences and established Van Niekerk & Krupp.

The mechanisation boom was taking hold in South Africa at this time, and Van Niekerk & Krupp gradually moved from milling grain to selling and servicing farm machinery. They made a formidable team and together forged a trailblazing business importing and selling agricultural equipment.

Before long, their respective brothers signed on as directors, and each played an important role in building the business. Family and friendship became the cornerstone of their success, a characteristic that defines the company to this day.

The business expanded and in 1942 was moved to Piketberg, a small town 80km east of Saldanha Bay, where its founders lived as neighbours. Their houses were within walking distance of the business, a symbolic representation of their commitment to its success.
Tragically, Krupp died in a car accident a few days before Christmas, 1957. His shares were sold to the Van Niekerks in 1977 and the business remains in the Van Niekerk family today.

The company today
Piket Implements (the company was renamed in 2018) is presently headed by Van Niekerk’s two grandsons, Rossouw and Carel Jr. Both are engineers and still work side by side with their father, Carel van Niekerk Sr, who is an engineer as well as a passionate musician.

Rossouw and Carel’s wives are also involved in the business, with Ilze heading the finance department and Leana overseeing marketing.

When visiting their headquarters (still in Piketberg), one is struck by the sense of camaraderie: the staff are smiling, the atmosphere is welcoming, yet energised, and everyone is bustling about. No one, however, is too busy to take visitors on a tour of the factory.

It’s an atmosphere that is conducive to bringing out the best in people, which is no doubt part of the reason why so many employees have spent their entire careers working here. It’s not uncommon to find Piket employees with 20 or more years of service under their belt.

This energy reflects the fact that after 90 years, Piket Implements is still a growing business. In the company’s archives is an image of a signboard that sums up the attitude here: “If you have nothing to do, please don’t do it here.”

A celebration of people
To pay homage to all those who came before them, Piket Implements is celebrating its rich history with a six-part series on YouTube called 90 Years of Grace. The first two episodes are already available to watch.

Asked about the secret to their success, Carel Sr praises the generations of farmers who have supported them and placed their trust in the business. “Farmers keep us on our toes,” he says.

He adds that their success is also due in large part to individuals of “great character” who loved their trade and took pride in their work.

“You become aware of the simple honesty in their handiwork, which speaks louder than words ever could. Many such remarkable men have walked the floors of our workshop.”

Piket Implements is a business that has its roots firmly planted in the legacy of its past values and principles, yet has its eyes fixed on the future. Plans are already afoot to establish an online store, create an app, and build a showroom displaying the rich history of the business. It seems there is no stopping this Swartland giant. SA agri equipment manufacturer.

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