The following is derived from a presentation by Evapco CEO Andre van der Merwe delivered during a SAIRAC site visit to Evapco’s factory.

Evapco’s new fibre optic laser machine.

Evapco’s new fibre optic laser machine. © RACA Journal

The presentation began with an exciting announcement about the installation of a new fibre optic laser at Evapco. Van der Merwe highlighted the potential of this technology to streamline manufacturing processes and eliminates the need for traditional machinery such as punching machines. With the laser’s advanced capabilities and automation features, tasks that once seemed cumbersome now appear remarkably efficient and intuitive.

One notable aspect of the fibre optic laser is its ability to adapt to varying sheet sizes and orientations without requiring precise alignment. Van der Merwe likened this to loading a sheet into a photocopier, where slight misalignments are inconsequential. This flexibility introduced his broader theme of adaptability and resilience in the face of change – a central tenet of the main theme of change in business, drawing inspiration from the book ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson.

By leveraging new technologies, cultivating adaptability, and fostering a culture of innovation, organisations can not only survive but thrive in an ever-changing world. As the adage goes, ‘the only constant in life is change’ – and those who embrace it are poised for success.

Departing from traditional discussions on refrigeration, Van der Merwe encouraged attendees to explore the effects of change and its implications for the HVAC&R industry. Exploring the nature of change as inevitable, people need to simultaneously manage both positive and negative transformations effectively.

“Advancements in technology, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), have revolutionised industries across the board. For instance, the evolution of control systems and the invention of Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) systems are examples of technological advancements that have reshaped the landscape of the HVAC&R industry.”

Van der Merwe also discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses, citing examples of industries that thrived amidst the crisis, such as e-commerce and digital entertainment. He emphasised the importance of agility and innovation in times of uncertainty, urging businesses to identify opportunities for growth and adaptation.

Furthermore, Van der Merwe addressed the changing demographics of the workforce, noting the increasing age of technicians in the refrigeration industry and the need for skills development initiatives to address the shortage of qualified personnel and dearth of young people entering.

Gregory Grobelaar, SAIRAC Johannesburg chairman, introducing Evapco CEO Andre van der Merwe.

Gregory Grobelaar, SAIRAC Johannesburg chairman, introducing Evapco CEO Andre van der Merwe.

He emphasised the necessity of embracing change as a fundamental aspect of business survival. By recognising the above drivers of change and proactively adapting to evolving circumstances, businesses can position themselves for success in an ever-changing world.

Anticipation, Van der Merwe argued, is key to navigating change effectively. He urged attendees to remain vigilant and observant of the subtle shifts occurring daily, both within their industries and the broader global landscape. By staying informed and attuned to changes, individuals can better prepare for and respond to inevitable shifts in their environments.

The discussion then turned to the inherent fear associated with change. Van der Merwe acknowledged that stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be daunting but emphasised the importance of overcoming fear and embracing change wholeheartedly.

“Continuous innovation is essential for remaining relevant and competitive in today’s rapidly evolving world.” Citing examples from companies like Sony, who successfully pivoted their product offerings in response to changing market demands, Van der Merwe underscored the importance of adaptability and creativity in driving long-term success.

Moreover, Van der Merwe stressed the importance of learning from change. He argued that every shift presents an opportunity for growth and development, and that resistance to change can lead to stagnation and irrelevance. By embracing change as a learning opportunity, individuals and businesses can position themselves for continued success in an ever-changing landscape.

Transitioning to the topic of excellence, he outlined key principles for achieving excellence in business operations: delivering value, memorable experiences to customers, acknowledging that a happy customer is a loyal customer, a sense of urgency, and attention to detail in their work – highlighting the significance of continuous improvement and learning from mistakes.

He underscored the importance of caring deeply about one’s work and setting high expectations for oneself and others. Moreover, he highlighted the role of attitude in driving excellence, emphasising the need for a positive and proactive approach to challenges.

“Above all, vision without execution is futile. It requires disciplined execution of plans and strategies to achieve success. Through a combination of innovation, collaboration and a commitment to excellence, managers can embrace change and strive for continuous improvement in their endeavors.”

A captivated audience inspecting the laser machine ahead of hearing ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’.

A captivated audience inspecting the laser machine ahead of hearing ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’.

He emphasised that it is leadership that drives results and highlighted the significance of building a culture where discipline is ingrained in every aspect of operations. “Disciplined organizations require less micromanagement and bureaucracy, as individuals are empowered to take ownership of their responsibilities.

“On a personal level, my own philosophy is to always maintain a positive attitude in the workplace with a professional responsibility to be in a good mood. This drives a positive energy on team morale and productivity.” Additionally, he emphasised the need for empowering others and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.

Furthermore, Van der Merwe discussed the concept of strengths-based leadership, encouraging individuals to identify and leverage their unique talents and passions. “Managers should always play to their strengths rather than fixating on weaknesses – individuals are more likely to excel when they are passionate about their work,” he says.

 He concluded his presentation by reflecting on current affairs and emphasising the importance of education and personal responsibility in addressing societal challenges. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he underscored the transformative power of education in breaking the cycle of poverty. He warned against the dangers of dependency and emphasized the need for a culture of accountability and hard work. He encouraged attendees to take control of their destinies and contribute positively to their communities, fostering a spirit of self-reliance and empowerment.