As strong as steel
South African supplier of automotive accessories, Maxe, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. We visited the company’s stand at the Futuroad 2017 expo to find out the secrets of its success
With its manufacturing facility in Pinetown running 24-hours a day, Maxe has obviously done something right to build its reputation since entering business in 1997.
The company began as a supplier of stainless steel accessories to the automotive industry for bakkies and sports utility vehicles (SUVs), adding heavy commercial vehicles to its repertoire ten years ago.
Today, on the light commercial vehicle side, the product portfolio offered by Maxe has increased to include everything from nudge bars, bumper wrap-around bars, headlight wrap-around bars, sports bars, side steps, rear steps, tow bars, scuff plates, exhaust tips and taunneau covers.
For the truck market products include stainless steel and black bull bars, nudge bars, seat covers, anti-siphon units, screen guards and abnormal-load boards.
All these products are designed and engineered in house by a dedicated research and development team of 15 engineers. Naturally, as a direct supplier to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), high standards are non-negotiable.
“Our products are approved by most major OEMs and we build in accordance with ISO 9001 standards,” says Clayton Wait, new business development manager. “We don’t think that’s enough, though, and are heading to the IATF 16949 standard in the next 12 to 18 months.”
All products are tested by accredited third parties, following a programme of five strict tests that are both computer simulated and mechanical. “For example, we’re the only company in South Africa that can provide the OEMs with airbag-compatible bars,” Wait explains.
The company’s focus on quality and durability has earned it a number of service-level awards over the years. For example, it’s won the Toyota Supplier of the Year award for the last four years, and seven times in total.
Over the years, Maxe has diversified its product range to keep up with a changing market, but all new offerings have remained close to its core business. A range of LED lighting products are one example.
“Our key goal is to grow in the truck market,” Wait says. Undoubtedly, the Maxe range of modular-design bull bars is central to this strategy. The modular design allows damaged components to be replaced quickly and easily. Customers are provided with fitting instructions and can perform the repair in their own yard.
“The concept has proved popular in the mining industry and a lot of our return customers insist on these bars because of their design,” Wait notes. Taking into account the cost of replacement, the bars are not necessarily more expensive in the long run.
“The brackets are the most important aspects within the design. We’ve optimised the material and design for light weight and strength, while the brackets are designed to account for vertical resonance, meaning they are durable enough to remain on the truck for the full period of its life,” Wait explains.
Furthermore, the oval bar design makes for better airflow to radiators and condensers. “The OEMs are very sensitive to how our products affect the performance of their vehicles,” says Wait.
Not that the team from Maxe should worry – 20 years in the business has definitely proved its capability.