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Loadshedding sees demand for petrol-driven lawnmowers rocket

12th February 2023

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor

     

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South Africa’s energy crisis has had a significant impact on demand for the electric cord-based cylinder mowers in the Professional range manufactured by Randburg-based lawnmower manufacturer Rolux South Africa.

“The demand for petrol-driven models has skyrocketed, making our Professional 17-inch cylinder mowers with a Loncin 196cc engine the machine of choice for our customers,” says Rolux South Africa CEO Stuart Williams.

Rolux, under its Professional brand of mowers, has produced more than 10 000 units since introducing the Professional cylinder mowers to its product offering, when the company took over production from the founding Loxton family in 2019.

Designed in 1965, the Professional cylinder mowers were developed to address the need for a locally made cylinder mower that is built to withstand African conditions and cope with the dominant grass species, kikuyu.

Initially, Rolux experienced significant challenges around dated tooling, poor workmanship on the machines and unmaintained moulds.

“We also encountered a global market with varying product needs. This meant holding different spare parts and colours for different markets. This is incredibly difficult for a niche product.”

Over the years, Rolux has since developed a new clutch system which significantly reduces wear and tear and improves the safety of the machine when in use and is busy working on a cartridge-based system which will transform the machine into a multi-purpose gardening tool.

A height-of-cut indicator, and various aesthetically pleasing parts have also been added to significantly modernise the machine.  

Manufacturing of the cylinder mowers, which are available in 14, 17, 20 and 25-inch versions to accommodate varying lawn sizes, employs 40 people directly and about 250 people indirectly through the company’s network of outsourced local suppliers.

“We can produce as many units as is needed owing to the use of our outsourced South African suppliers. We do not have many manufacturing capacity constraints as a result. This was a decision we took early on in our ownership and is now reaping results,” adds Williams.

While loadshedding is a major impediment to growth, hindering Rolux and its suppliers’ ability to run consistently and increasing rejection rates and wastage, most of the company’s suppliers have installed off-grid power systems.

“However, several of our smaller suppliers have gone out of business. Unfortunately, manufacturing machines offshore is becoming more of a possibility as our suppliers continue to be impacted on by electricity supply constraints,” explains Williams.

Excluding the engine, the cylinder mowers produced by Rolux comprise more than 85% local content.

“Nothing on the market, potentially worldwide, can compare with the build quality of this machine at our current price point. With only 2% of parts being plastic, the cylinder mowers are made with solid steel componentry. The product is precision engineered and is simple to operate and to service. Contrary to modern engineering, the machines are designed to last for several lifetimes, and we regularly see machines that are 30- to 40-years-old,” emphasises Williams.

Although cylinder mowers are considered a niche product worldwide, the global market is large, and demand has grown owing to people being based at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The crisis drew people into their gardens and made homeowners appreciate the value of a perfectly manicured lawn and its corresponding impact on property values.”

 

The Professional range of cylinder mowers is sold throughout Southern Africa by a network of about 100 dealers. Rolux also exports to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and soon the US.

“Although Australia is our largest market, our biggest potential lies in the US,” highlights Williams.

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