Eddels Footwear manufacturers, situated in Pietermaritzburg, has a history stretching back over 100 years. The founder of Eddels Shoes, Charles Eddels started in the shoe business as a retail boot and shoe store in 1904. The company became a PLC in 1913 and was formally constituted as Eddels Shoes in 1948.
Eddels produces 3000 pairs of footwear per day under the following brands: John Drake, QC and Riccardo. All shoes are hand finished and only top quality leather is used.
In 1999 Eddels generated turnover of R103 million with 881 staff, while in the year to June 2006 it generated turnover of R102 million with 550 staff. When John Comley took over the business in 2000, he introduced a business model that would harmonise processes and steer the company on a course to prosperity.
The strategies that have been successful at Eddels include investment in people to develop multiskilling, incentive schemes and improving overall efficiencies. On the day that John Comley officially took over, he gave 5% of the company shares to his workforce, to be administered by a trust and put together a management team made up of existing workers. Over and above the dividend they get at the end of every financial year from the shares, staff have a weekly incentive scheme, which sees them sharing whatever they gain on costings every week.
"I wanted to do something about job losses in the industry and thought we could achieve this by involving workers in the ownership structure of the business", he says. "Somebody had to prove that making shoes can work somebody's had to give the industry a chance, he reflects."
The fact that the workers had a share in the company's profits was a significant motivator for them and this was to show in the company's outputs. At the time, 330 workers were in the company's books a saddening statistic given that at one time in its recent history it once boasted a staff complement of 1 700. These workers made history by being the first workforce in the manufacturing sector to have shares in their place of employment and they didn't disappoint.
"As a result of the incentive, production catapulted, with the company reducing 32 days production to 3 days, beating costings substantially. Such productivity levels are understandable when seen against the levels of loyalty in the company. The average period of service is 20 years and a hallmark of our employees is loyalty," enthuses Comley.
Eddels has established itself as a microcosm of what the footwear industry can become, perhaps even the clothing industry as well.
"Our worker empowerment strategy has to be an industry standard. This will have a positive bearing on our outputs, but the captains of industry are currently unprepared to change their business model," Comley laments.
Instead, the same captains, as members of the South African Footwear Manufacturers Association have a very ambitious vision which says:
"To become one of the most stable predictable and profitable sectors in the South African economy. With strong brands, unique response capabilities and constant innovation it will provide service superior to that of competitors and become the cornerstone supplier to its customer"
The progressive thinking of its existing management team is something that most industries can learn from. The company espouses a strong ethos in establishing trust amongst the workforce and giving staff their due benefits. In addition, the company adopts the policy of division of labour and staff rotation, which ensures the multi- killing of employees. Transparency is key to the relationship between the directors and workers, who are given a regular update on the turnover, profit and expenses.
Democracy thrives within this organization. Senior management, including Comley, have their goals set by staff. 80% of all the managers were workers in the company and the management of human resources can be described as being contemporary. There is an on- site Adult Basic Education (ABET) training for staff, teaching Levels 1 to 4 in literacy, as well as maths/ numeracy. They can also train within working hours and over 78% of the workforce has been through some kind of training on-site. Eddels received a major recognition in the form of a National Silver Award in October 2007 from the Department of Labour for the National Skills Development Strategy imperatives.
Craft Men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 are also exposed to training with a view to creating what Comley calls the Super Worker. This training gears these workers to understand the analytical and practical aspects of shoe manufacturing. Their response to intensive training is tested regularly so that they can take production to another level.
Eddels also contributes towards assisting companies that have borne the brunt of the industry slump. Having streamlined their operations, they found themselves with ample space that they did not need. It is this space that is being allocated to SMMEs that couldnt survive the hard times faced even by the industry giants. Eddels then sources some of their required components from these SMMEs, who are not charged any rental or electricity costs. This is a healthy encouraging symbiosis showing how SMMEs can feed into big business and vise versa to ensure survival.
Full Company Name: Eddels Shoes (Pty) Ltd
Nature of Business: Manufacturing.
Services / Products: Branded Footwear, Formal and Casual Leather Shoes For Men, Ladies and Children.
Date Established: 1904
Customer Base: National Retail Chains and Independent Retailers in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana
Annual Turnover: R110 million
No. of Employees: 482
Auditors / Accountants: Deloitte
Bankers: Standard Bank
Advertising Agency: Twyne Advertising and Design
Chief Executive Officer: John Comley
Managing Director: Deena Moodley
Sales & Marketing Director: Richard Starmer
Production Director: Mark Veness
IT Director: Jeff Cassim
Human Resource Director: Jai Deepnarain
Physical Address: 440 Victoria Road, Pietermaritzburg, 3200.
Postal Address: PO BOX 55, Pietermaritzburg, 3200.
Tel: + 27 (0)33 342 8111
Fax: + 27 (0)33 394 0907