JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — Bühler celebrated its 50th anniversary of establishing its business in South Africa on March 18.

To commemorate the anniversary, a special event, celebrating milestones and special memories among Bühler, its customers and staff, was held in Johannesburg.

Bühler said it plans to expand its business there as well as to other African nations.

It began on Jan. 10, 1972, when Bühler MIAG South Africa was registered in Johannesburg. René Schneider founded the joint company, and Hans Widmer was appointed the managing director and the offices moved to the Raschers corner in the central district of Johannesburg.  As the company grew, a workspace of Rand Steel Engineering in Booysens was purchased.

In 1976, Bühler MIAG expanded its offerings and leased a workshop in Wadeville, covering an area of about 9,250 square meters on a 24,000-square-meter industrial site, which was later purchased in 1978. At the beginning, the company’s main activity was customer service, selling spares and wear parts as well as fluting and welding in the workshop. Soon after, the product portfolio got larger as the business grew and more demands of customers and markets needed to be served.

Now the Johannesburg office is the regional headquarters for the Southern Africa sub region, from here they are responsible for Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, La Reunion, Solomon Islands, Seychelles, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“South Africa has been, and will remain, a country with particularly important customers, both local family-companies and leading regional and global brands,” said Stefan Scheiber, chief executive officer of Bühler. “Therefore, a local presence, with local experts has been and will remain key to secure our business, now and in future.”

Bühler South Africa has some of the biggest names in fast moving consumer goods sector in South Africa as its customers. There is also a variety of customers in the whole of Southern Africa.

“We partner with the biggest FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies all over South Africa,” said Harry Bloechlinger, managing director, Bühler Southern Africa. “FMCG companies are the basic pillar of the economy of the region. And together with them we ensure food supply to more than 200 million people.”

Bühler is one of over 100 Swiss companies based in South Africa, employing altogether more than 50,000 people.

Currently Bühler South Africa has 220 employees in various departments: project execution, finance, human resources, sales, industrial engineering, IT, procurement, shipping and logistics and customer service. The company also has a fully operational manufacturing facility, employing boilermakers, welders, machine operators, and painters. Bühler also runs an apprenticeship program which is adapted from the Swiss education system.

To commemorate Bühler’s success in South Africa a celebration was held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg, on March 18. It included Bühler’s top customers from South Africa and neighboring countries, as well as the mayor of Johannesburg, various Southern African country ambassadors, representation from the Embassy of Switzerland and high-profile guest speakers.

Various videos capturing Bühler milestones on the African continent and special memories with its customers and staff were shown at the event. The guests were treated to insights by the keynote speakers as well as some entertainment by motivational speaker Quentin Coetzee, who shared his knowledge of surviving in the wild to surviving in the boardroom. A special menu was served based on the products used in Bühler processes and solutions. In the evening the event was marked with a black-tie ball for staff and their partners, full of celebration, music and dance hosted by a local celebrity Ayanda MVP.

Building on its success in South Africa, Bühler plans on expanding other business units besides milling in the region.

“In the long term, the market of South Africa including the neighboring countries will double its inhabitants to 400 million people by 2050,” Scheiber said. “This is our motivation and reasons for Bühler to continue strengthening our organizations in South Africa but also in Southern Africa, as we continue to live our vision: innovations for a better world.”

The company has a focus on food processing technologies as well as value services including digitalization; also education and training plays a key role going forward.  

Bühler has a drive to increase business opportunities into other regional countries such as Angola, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. India has recently been added to the MEA region as part of Bühler’s South-South-strategy, now being MAI, (Middle East, Africa & India) so the company foresees further collaboration and opportunities within this scope.

“The growing together of the MEA region and the Southern Africa region has reached the next level, so we are changing from a co-existence into a successful partnership with all the great benefits,” said Heiko Feuring, head of Middle East and Africa region. “We can create customer solutions for MEA, we can utilize the supply chain, we can focus on the best country sourcing and develop and provide solutions for Africa within that region. It’s a great opportunity for us.”