Machine man

Kanoo Machinery is signing new deals, developing new facilities and its general manager has his eye on the future.

Bobcat is one of Kanoo Machinery's brands in the region.
Bobcat is one of Kanoo Machinery's brands in the region.

It's mid-December and Allan Callaway, general manager of Kanoo Machinery, is on his way to Japan.

In Tokyo, in the company of Kanoo Machinery's deputy chairman, Mishal Kanoo and directors from Hitachi, Callaway will formally sign a distributor agreement with Hitachi Construction Machinery.

If you look after the product support, the sales will look after themselves and it sure doesn't happen the other way around. - Allan Callaway

"This agreement covers the full range of Hitachi construction equipment," said Callaway. "And Kanoo Machinery will be responsible for the provision of product support. We'll be recognised as Hitachi's distribution partner in the UAE. This will support our distribution agreements for Hitachi in Qatar, through our joint venture Obeikan and our own operations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

This is just the latest in a long line of deals done over the Kanoo group's history. Established in Bahrain in 1890 by Haji Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo, the group has grown from its early trading and shipping business to become one of the most diversified business houses in the Gulf region, with interests in areas such as shipping, travel, logistics, property, oil and gas, power, as well as construction machinery. Kanoo Machinery grew out of the group just over 40 years ago.

Now, it is in the process of establishing new division to provide dedicated support to the Hitachi product across the region. With new manager Mamdooh Diyab already in place, the new division is part of a wider structural change for Kanoo Machinery, which has gone form being a matrix organisation to one with a single international structure.

"Everything will be under one umbrella - Mamdooh is in charge of Hitachi products for all countries - so this will allow us to have a uniform strategy and initiatives," said Callaway, who just over a year ago retired from a career with Caterpillar, only to find himself being drawn back into the industry.

The ink on the deal may only just be drying, but some of the kit covered by it is already on the way. Four of Hitachi's giant 518 ton EX5500 excavators are already on a ship heading for the UAE, to work on what Callaway describes as a 'large infrastructure development project'.

"They come over in parts," said Callaway. "Because they're so big, they can't be transported on a low loader, so they arrive in a semi-knock down configuration and are built on site. This takes about a month.

Hitachi makes up apart of Kanoo Machinery's portfolio of products, a portfolio that also includes international brands such as Bobcat, Massey Ferguson and Lincoln electric. The company is also the Gulf-wide distributor for Hyster, and provides after market support through parts and service for Perkins engines, as well as selling loose units for power generation, oil and marine applications. This all adds up to big business for the company across the region.

"We have a portfolio of products that enables us to provide a total package for customers in the construction, mining and industry sectors," said Callaway "Our annual growth averages at over 30%. We have a growth target of 32% for 2008 and we're very confident of achieving that. To have growth like that across such a large portfolio of products is phenomenal.

Managing this growth provides some challenges and like the rest of the industries in the region, Kanoo Machinery is on a perpetual hunt for good people.

"We're literally scouring the world looking for qualified mechanical engineers and technicians," said Callaway. "Of late we've been recruiting through South East Asia and bringing senior managers in from New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and Australia.

"All our products are becoming more and more technical, with electronics playing a huge part in engines and control systems. This has led to a change in direction for the type of people we employ and the way we recruit people.

"Our aims are to increasing the standard of our product support to be world class and ensure our customers' enquiries or requests are handled very promptly and to our satisfaction. The service and product support side of the business is the number one focus for 2008.

"If you look after the product support, the sales will look after themselves and it sure doesn't happen the other way around.

Callaway sees the tasks ahead of him as taking the company to the ‘next level'. This includes building a regional management structure, implementing succession planning and developing proper career path planning for all the company's employees.

"We're looking at improving the overall standard of our employees and helping then with training," said Callaway.

We're opening a new facility in Jebel Ali and the 29 000m2 site will include workshops for pre-delivery inspections and a technical training centre. We're also opening a new 55 000 m2 facility in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has sensational potential, so we're putting a lot of resources and expertise into that area.

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