Through the implementation of a strong remodeling strategy which drives innovation, private equity firm Jacobs Capital have ensured that their recent acquisition – South African textile manufacturer, Gelvenor Textiles – has remained competitive, relevant and clearly differentiated in an increasingly competitive and challenging international market.
The fact that a local textile mill in Hammarsdale near Durban could establish itself as a world leader in the development of industrial, technical apparel, outdoor lifestyle, protective and aeronautical fabrics has long been one of the sector’s best kept secrets.
Gelvenor Textiles has a history characterised by innovation. They developed the world’s first microfibre low bulk parachute fabrics in 2002. They also created South Africa’s first flame retardant fabric and aramid fabrics which provide ballistic protection. In 2007/8, Gelvenor supplied more than R100 million worth of ballistic fabric for vehicle armouring for coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2016, Gelvenor Textiles won the 2016 Fabric Innovation of the Year award from the IFAI in the USA
The list goes on.
For Wessel Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Capital, it was more about an opportunity to take this degree of innovation and technical expertise to a whole new level. Gelvenor Textiles engineer some of the world’s most innovative textiles, and Jacobs Capital’s highly experienced business catalysts will ensure that this innovative spirit is filtered into every aspect of the business.
“The technical aspect of Gelvenor Textiles is what lends itself to developing a business focused on innovation. By taking action on this existing potential, combined with a meticulously developed business strategy, we are now seeing Gelvenor emerging as a truly formidable player in the global technical textile industry,” explains Jacobs.
“What we saw in Gelvenor Textiles was the potential to take an operationally sound business to a new level by driving innovation. While we still have some distance to go when it comes to achieving all of our goals, the results experienced so far have been nothing short of exceptional,” adds Jacobs Capital director, Quintin Terreblanche.
They both agree that changes to the already successful business model would not have been remotely possible without having a solid team in place at Gelvenor Textiles from the onset.
“Gelvenor Textiles view innovation as threefold – evolutionary, devolutionary and revolutionary. Primarily, they focus on the evolution of the Gelvenor Textiles product range through constantly adjusting and adapting current fabric technologies to develop new applications. When it comes to devolution, they look to opening new market applications through the use of existing textile technology. They also pursue a revolutionary course of innovation which aims to disrupt and challenge existing technical and production competence with pioneering textile solutions,” explains Jacobs.
This ability to innovate is evident in Gelvenor Textiles’ groundbreaking products. These developments include parachute fabric that is lighter than ever before and allows for a 15% to 20% reduction in pack volume without compromising on strength. Gelvenor Textiles also developed a patented conveyor belt carcass fabric for the mining sector – used for extremely long conveyor belts, this advancement helps mines radically reduce energy consumption and lower manufacturing expenses. In addition, these belts offer better adhesion, improved strength and a longer lifespan to further decrease costs.
Another innovative product development is the microfiltration fabric component manufactured specifically for use in the VA-RWF, a non-electrical water filter which has already brought clean drinking water to hundreds of households in rural South Africa. This pioneering fabric saw Gelvenor Textiles achieve international recognition when they won the IFAI Fabric Innovation of the Year award in 2016.
Jacobs believes that the grit that has seen Gelvenor Textiles survive the implosion of the South African textile industry during the nineties, and the technology that has made them a trailblazer in the global market, could lead the way for more South African textile companies.
Already, Gelvenor Textiles is playing a role via its involvement in the South African Technical Textile Cluster (SATTC), a Department of Trade and Industry initiative aimed at helping local producers benefit from an integrated value chain which coordinates their efforts to bring new, improved technical textile products to the market. Ultimately, the results speak for themselves with SATTC reporting a 115% growth in exports during 2016 when compared to 2012.
The reality is that South African textile operations cannot compete with the Chinese mills that dominate the “commodity” side of the world’s textile market. But, as innovators who have committed to relinquish the manufacturing of commodity fabrics and invest in delivering technically superior quality products, they can lead rather than follow.
As for Gelvenor, this strategical decision taken to focus on these superior quality fabrics is certainly paying off. Today the company exports to 27 countries worldwide, including China.
To find out more about Gelvenor Textiles winning the 2016 Fabric Innovation of the Year award from the IFAI in the USA – visit http://gelvenor.com/gelvenor-scoops-international-iff-innovation-award-2/