December 14, 2017

PMSA drives innovation through technology in partnership with Interology


– Leading concrete equipment machinery manufacturer leads local market through embracing digital and technology transformation in its offices and plants

When Pan Mixers South Africa (PMSA) decided it wanted to transform its business into Africa’s largest manufacturer of a complete range of concrete brick, block and paving making machinery, concrete mixing and weigh batching plants, it took the strategic decision to make use of technology as a key enabler.

 Key to this stated vision was a clearly defined need for transformation in the business. This included several of its processes as well as the technology it deployed across its offices and manufacturing facilities. Pan Mixers’ technology journey started after its partnership with network services specialist, Interology.

After an initial assessment of the business, that included defining a more innovation friendly organisational approach, Interology, a partner of Comstor, the Cisco distribution arm of WestconGroup Southern Africa, proposed a turnkey end-to-end Cisco system including a combination of networking, wireless, telephony, and security solutions.

Defining the business differentiator

From the first engagement with Interology, Pan Mixers highlighted a need to rapidly expand its network but at the same time secure it, as the growing number of connections to the network was making it vulnerable to outside (and inside) threats. As an example, 13 years ago, the company had under 20 users on its network, where today it boasts just short of 100 users who all have multiple devices connecting to it.

“When I first began working with PMSA, the company was looking for a secure network that would connect and mobilise a growing workforce across multiple sites, an updated telephony solution that would improve the user and customer experience, as well as a video surveillance system that would assist it to monitor its expanding Jet Park branch,” says George Baxevanis, founder of Interology. “However I knew straight off that the company’s existing siloed legacy video system, that worked independently of its existing network, simply wouldn’t support its need for integrated video surveillance.”

“I told George what my needs were and where I wanted the business to go and he made the technology related decisions. I trust him fully in this regard and the tests following the implementation of the technology tell us if all bases have been covered, if not, we meet up and fix it,” says PMSA general manager, Michael Dörner. “Within three months the first stage of implementation was completed and we immediately started experiencing the benefits of these.”

“While at first we weren’t sure what to expect from a cost perspective, as soon as we realised that it would be a once-off investment into an environment we could then add to over time and as the business demands grew, it made good business sense. We took the stance that what mattered most is the end-user experience, we needed to supply users with the right tools to do their jobs. That said, it was still imperative to make use of good quality, reliable products, which is why we elected the Cisco solution stack.”

The true benefit to the business

Embracing wall-to-wall Cisco systems has enabled Pan Mixers to take advantage of improved and superior connectivity, information flow and sharing between staff in the five building sites in Jet Park branch. The wireless environment has also opened up avenues for exploration of new technologies, one result of which is that the warehouse is now a completely paperless, scan-only environment – removing the possibility for human error and heightening and improving stock security and control.

 The company’s current wireless network supports over 100 devices and gives employees the opportunity to embrace technology initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). One of the key concerns for Dörner was that the network be used only for professional purposes and so Interology has focused on restricting user access to only the applications needed for an individual to do perform their daily activities. Looking ahead the company also wants to ensure it is POPI compliant, therefore data exchange, information access and information security, have all been key considerations throughout the course of the project implementation.

“The deployment of a wireless infrastructure and service has also meant that we can grant consultants that we have working on site access to the network. This did initially raise a security concern, which has prompted the need to ensure that all visitor’s that connect to the network have the necessary updates and specified security on their devices. A key benefit of providing them access has been our ability to track and monitor who logs onto the network and from where they access it, this has had a positive effect on Pan Mixer’s ability to track billing hours of consultants,” says Dörner.

“We recently picked up malware on a visiting consultant’s laptop, so evidently the system that Interology has put in place is working. We are also looking at providing remote access to some staff, but at present the biggest concern is focusing on what and who is allowed to access what and when.”

The most challenging part of the changes, according to Dörner has been a change in mind-set for employees that are used to legacy equipment. This has required a small amount of training, especially with regards to telephony so that users can learn how to use their new devices.

The future technology roadmap

Moving forward Interology’s focus is shifting to PMSA’s customer base and bringing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and business tools to the wireless system on mobile devices and tablets. In addition the company is working closely with the team to develop and define technology security policies, as well as then installing the required Cisco security solutions required to support and enable these.

“A lot of this is still being explored, but it is all very important if we want to stay ahead of the technology curve. We realise that mobile CRM will be especially beneficial to sales people. Networks are required to support an ever-increasing number of applications. These applications needs to be available to users when and where they need it without compromising security. Customer service is definitely a big focus and we also recently implemented voice recording of calls so that staff can use these for training purposes. These are all hard benefits we are seeing from being aggressive in our adoption of new technologies,” says Baxevanis.

“Notably every solution we propose, design and deploy is built against the backdrop of a ‘security’ first foundation. We deem it essential to ensure that Pan Mixers is protected from internal and external threats to the network, only when these fundamentals are in place can they truly drive business innovation.”

The innovation process continues today, as Pan Mixers continually investigates, implements and upgrades new solutions. As a result of this forward thinking approach to technology innovation, PMSA can be widely considered as a forerunner amongst its peers, in the adoption of new era business processes driven through a desire to innovate.

Our industry is a highly competitive one, so we need to be ahead of our game at all times. Technology can be a real differentiator in improving productivity; streamlining processes and ultimately giving us the control we need over our environment. Looking ahead, I have the business vision of where PMSA needs to go and Interology as my technology business partner can give me the tools I need to get there,” says Dörner.



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