AS a supplier of spraying and high-pressure pumping products, Durban-based Hawk Pumps often receives customer requests which are out of the ordinary.
That’s according to National Operations and Sales Manager Troy Mokawem, who cited a recent brief from a customer in the Seychelles to build a pressure washer that was able to clean barnacles and general dirt build-up from the hulls of yachts.
“The catch was it had to be done underwater, while the yachts were docked,” Mokawem said.
“There was nothing in our existing catalogue that was able to service this exact need. So, a bit of forward thinking and invention needed to be put into the solution.”
The high-pressure cleaners and pumps the company generally supply are free-standing or autonomous mobile units. “We decided that we had to think differently to solve this unusual problem. The answer turned out to be a skid-mounted, petrol-operated 21-litre per minute unit, which delivered 200 bars of pressure.”
They custom-built the unit on a stainless-steel chassis that could be mounted directly onto the customer’s boat. The unit included a header tank, hose, gun and a rotating nozzle for maximum impact. And the gun was nickel-plated on the inside to enable the diver (operator) to work underwater.
“No matter what business you’re in, new ways of doing things are being invented every day. And COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt even more. There is no room for complacency in our ever-changing business landscape. In manufacturing, for example, the biggest challenge during the pandemic has been communicating with our customers and engaging with the public.”
Mokawem said manufacturers had traditionally relied heavily on print media and trade shows, to expose customers to their products. “But we had to find new ways of marketing our services. The pandemic saw many publications either shutting down or converting to fully digital platforms. And of course, all planned trade shows for this year were cancelled.”
He said digital communication had become a vital tool for the company. “We have leveraged it to showcase our products in new ways, while reaching a wider audience than ever before – even on the international stage, in countries like the Seychelles and Australia. We have adapted to using different avenues, including a PR agency. And our social media presence grows every day.”
The company has also tapped into the desire of many South Africans to find new income streams during the pandemic – either due to job losses or loss of revenue.
“We created a mobile, lightweight and affordable drain cleaner to generate income for a wide variety of small business owners looking to expand their income streams during lockdown. It provides an opportunity for plumbers to boost their service offering without breaking the bank.”
A smaller version is available for use as a mobile car wash unit.
“Now is the time to be thinking ahead. As manufacturers, we can’t rest on our laurels. We are a vital component of the national economy and it is up to us to develop customised solutions in unusual times. Innovation is not just a science. It is about making a connection with the market you serve.”