Plastic & Chemical Trading’s technical team is at the heart of the company’s customer service philosophy. With a collaborative approach to problem solving the team is committed to going above and beyond to deliver on its promises to customers. Matthew Cockram, technical director, and Khaya Sibis, technical coordinator, are dedicated to leading the team to achieve these goals but from two different ends of the spectrum.
Q: Tell us about your background in this industry and how you came to work at Plastic & Chemical Trading?
Matthew: I’ve been here now for almost 18 years. I was in a totally unrelated industry when Ben and Roger had started the business. When they moved from raw materials into machinery they needed a technical input to the company so Roger approached me and effectively asked me if I would like to join this family business and based on that I came in and I joined in October 1998 just in time to go to Germany for the K show which is a big exhibition. There I had my eyes opened as to how all-encompassing plastics really were. So while our company does work outside plastics in the bottling and beveraging industry and high speed packaging the bulk of my focus is on the plastic side where with my engineering background I can be very useful in helping customers optimise their operations and develop the right processes to get the most out of the machinery.
Khaya: I joined plastic and chemical trading in 2005. I had just finished my tertiary studies and 1 year of training when I saw that Plastic & Chemical Trading were looking for trainee technicians. The way the post was advertised was very interesting for me because it spoke about interacting with Europeans and the position was customer based so you won’t be doing the same job every day. I the applied and was employed as a trainee service technician. I did my training with the company for 2 years which also included going over to Germany and learning about the machines. In 2008 I was approached by Matthew and Ben to head up the technical team because the guy who was doing it had moved on. I was relatively new but I think what they saw was that I was willing to learn so I’ve been heading the service team since then.
Q: What does your role at Plastic & Chemical trading entail?
M: In real terms my focus is on making sure we supply the right solution to the right customer. I’m particularly strong with the automotive side which is a large chunk of the business we do so it’s about making sure that the machine is the right size for the job without being oversized and over expensive and has all the necessary features to be able to run the relevant parts successfully. I very rarely do hands on work now and I think Khaya actually gets nervous when I do hands on but I am available there as a stopgap.
K: My job is about customer service and after sales. The sales team makes promises to our customers and it is my job to make sure that we fulfil those promises. For instance, if the customer has a breakdown with the machine I’ll have to make sure that we have a qualified technician for that particular machine, because we have two teams that are running at the moment one for injection moulding and also one for the bottling industry. I work very closely with Matthew in terms of customer support so if we have particularly difficult issues I know I can lean on Matthew’s experience and say look we have this issue can you see how we can resolve it. My job also includes making sure that our guys are trained in the specific equipment that they are working on and making sure that once the job is done we get all the paperwork and we are able to invoice the customer, if they require spare parts I have to make sure we have it in our stock which requires working closely with the office staff too.
Q: What are some of the highlights of working for a company like Plastic & Chemical Trading?
M: For me the highlight is when we go and do things that our competitors or the other players in the marketplace can’t do. For example, one very interesting success story was where we helped a customer make wheelbarrows out of recycled shampoo bottles. So we’re injection moulding a blow mould grade material into a mould. Few machines are capable of doing that and even fewer are capable of getting a consistent reliable quality part out of the process. Putting an automation cell into a market where everybody is saying “but you can’t put automation into Africa, it will never work” and then helping the customer set it up and make it work and working with them to the extent that they are comfortable to run that automation successfully. These are the kind of projects that I find very exciting.
K: For me the highlight is the growth. The company allows you to grow in your position and also as a person. You’re given the opportunity to interact with different people from around the world. You gain a lot of confidence from interacting with all of these different people which is great. Another highlight for me is the faith and the trust you get from your employers. They give you enough authority to make a decision because at the end of the day they can see that you have the best interest of the company at heart. I don’t get questioned as to “why did you do this,” they know that they’ve given me the authority to make decisions and they trust completely that I will do what’s best for the company.
Q: What defines Plastic & Chemical Trading’s customer service philosophy?
M: It’s about making sure that customer gets that perfect part out every time, whether it’s a bumper or a dashboard for car, a beer crate or a paint bucket. Until the customer is getting a perfect product out of the machine, we haven’t solved his problem and we will do everything we can until we do solve his problem even if it’s at our own expense because we have promised a complete solution and we must deliver.
K: For me I think the focus is on making sure that customer always has access to us. We are a 24/7 service company so if the customer has a breakdown in the middle of the night we are able to get someone out there as soon as possible. Our technicians know that they don’t need permission from us to go out and help someone, they can just tell us the next day that they got a call out, this was the issue and this is what they did. We need the customer to know that we will always do everything in our power to resolve their issues.