Rolfes – the future looks bright

Rolfes Colour Pigments International

For Rolfes Colour Pigments International, the last few years have been rife with challenges.

RCPI is nothing if not resilient. In August 2017 it welcomed back a familiar face, Wouter Badenhorst, who rejoins the team as Managing Director of RCPI, and is exploring all manner of exciting new directions for the business. No stranger to the company or its customers, Badenhorst was appointed CEO in 2002 and went on to captain the business through one of its most dynamic and demanding periods.

He departed in 2012 to pursue other interests outside the chemical industry, including several successful property developments. But it seems he never lost his passion for the business and with a few opportunities winking on the horizon, Badenhorst is at the helm once more, with all the energy, vision and resilience that has always been synonymous with the Rolfes brand.

A long, proud history in colour technology

RCPI has been manufacturing lead chrome pigments in South Africa since 1937. Rolfes virtually dominated the local market while international sanctions were in place. With the advent of democracy in 1994 came an influx of global multinational players, exposing the company to some fierce international competition for the first time in almost a decade. The business responded with innovation and transformation to retain its leadership position, further buoyed by the appointment of charismatic and creative leadership.

Significant shareholder value was created when it added key products to its product range thus creating a fuller basket to offer customers. The Industrial division manufactures and distributes various organic and inorganic products including additives, in-plant and point-of-sale dispersions, leather chemicals and solutions, solvents, lacquer thinners, pigments, surfactants, cleaning solvents, water treatment products, creosotes and waxes.

Rolfes Colour Pigments International was successfully listed on the AltX in 2007 and then on the JSE in 2012.

Lead chrome pigments are economical to produce, provide bright colours, and superior substrate coverage. However, concerns around toxicity created pressure globally to use lead-free alternatives. As this spread from decorative applications on toys and interiors to a multitude of industrial applications, it took its toll on the business. Sales and production volumes for lead chrome pigments declined steadily. By March 2016, global and local demand had dwindled to the extent that RCPI made a strategic decision to close its Jet Park lead chrome manufacturing plant after nearly 80 years of operation. As to be expected, this closure had significant impact on organisational culture. Rolfes’ roots had always been in manufacturing. Struggling to equalise, support functions suffered. The unrelated exit of several key staff meant perceptions took a further knock.

Despite withdrawal from pigment manufacturing, RCPI remains one of the major pigment suppliers in South Africa to the inks, plastics and coatings market, supplying a wide range of pigments and pigment chemistries, with no plans to reduce its footprint or sales activity.

Trust and technology

Badenhorst’s immediate focus is re-establishing the values of quality, consistency and integrity. He’s also eager to grow trust and reestablish sustainable partnerships with its customers.

“I’m delighted to be back and I’m excited about the future of this business. I firmly believe that RCPI has all the ingredients – from technical expertise and sincere passion – to grow the business well in to the future,” he says, adding,  “We’re committed to the South African market and have plans to add value further to its customers and stakeholders.”

RCPI is hard a work reaffirming these commitments by exploring lucrative opportunities for international collaboration that involve the Rolfes dispersion plant. “One of the corner stones of our value-added offering is that Rolfes has always maintained the healthy core of its technical competencies,” he says, adding, “We’re expanding this competence and putting it to work serving the local market. We have the experience and we know what it takes to emerge and lead from the front. I think people are going to be really excited about what we’re bringing to the table.”

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