Forging ahead with solid values

2012-09-19 00:00

THE importance of retaining one’s longstanding values while moving with the rapid industry changes imposed on businesses is not lost on the leadership team at Dalton-based UCL, a major manufacturer of wattle bark extract, sugar and pine products.

In fact, this is the single most important contributing factor in the company’s recent and ongoing expansion plans.

Established in 1924, UCL operated as a co-operative until 2005, when it was converted into a company.

However, the old-fashioned values and principles associated with the co-operative have been the driving force behind a new chapter in the history of the business, which has about 1 500 employees and about 450 shareholders.

The community

UCL GM Rolf Lütge told The Witness: “It was very important for us to retain the sense of values from the past. We still operate on co-operative principles. About 91% of our shareholders are raw material suppliers.

“The suppliers remain shareholders … so, for example, the share trading mechanism contains various control measures which allow the company to manage its shareholder base in line with its objectives.

“The decision in 2005 was based on creating additional value for our shareholders.”

Many locals are involved in the business directly or indirectly.

“The community owns us, because the community comprises farmers and they own UCL. The entire board comprises community members and farmers,” said Lütge.

The company’s saw-milling business has expanded significantly in recent years, in terms of capacity and farming.

UCL does business with about 110 cane suppliers, 250 established wattle suppliers and about 300 developing wattle suppliers.

The wattle bark extract business

UCL recently completed a major re-branding process that included a new corporate image directly aimed at stakeholders in the company’s wattle bark extract business and the sugar business.

The extract is used in the leather tanning industry and UCL exports to a number of countries across the globe, primarily in Asia, Europe, as well as Central America.

Although this business competes with petroleum-based products used in the leather tanning industry, it has consistently been operating at full capacity for the past several years.

The sugar business

Another new development is the company’s decision to become an independent supplier and marketer of sugar, primarily to the industrial sector. UCL has commissioned a new R60 million, 4 000 square metre packaging plant and warehouse in Dalton, which has capacity for about 20 000 tons of sugar.

The facility is expected to be completed in November.

“It’s the first time in our history that we have decided to market sugar independently, on a large scale in the domestic market,” said Lütge.

The sugar business is concentrating on the industrial sector, which represents a lucrative niche market for UCL.

“We want to be seen as partners, rather than simply suppliers. We see them as partners rather than just customers. What is key is that we offer them security of supply.”

The Rich History

UCL began as a bark factory and developed other areas of business. initially through sugar and later through trading, farming and saw milling.

It was established by W.S.R. Surrendorff and F. Nuss.

Although Lütge said the corporate culture has evolved since the re-branding and new corporate image-process, UCL had maintained its “one family” culture.

At the core of this vision was value creation and strength through unity.

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