The roots of Geerlings go back quite a bit further than 1965, to 1947, when first generation Dutch immigrant Jan Hendrik Geerlings started his own saw sharpening company JH Geerlings and Son in Krugersdorp.
The company ventured into machinery maintenance during the 1960s, with Jan Geerlings at the helm, after his father sent him for onsite training at the Wadkin factory in the United Kingdom. In March 1965, Geerlings (Pty) Ltd was officially registered and immersed into the second hand machinery sales and maintenance market. Hetti Geerlings, Jan’s wife, joined the firm in 1980 and became chairperson during the early 1990s after many weekends helping Jan refurbish machinery.
Their son Arnold joined the team in 1990 and worked his way from the factory floor to heading up sales during the mid 1990s and ultimately became MD, after buying out the rest of the family’s shares in 2008
The move to new machinery in the 1990s
To meet the changing market Geerlings started selling new machinery in the early 1990s from Italy. In 1994, Arnold went to Tuscany, with a group of local dealers and secured Bulleri CNC, amongst other principals. In 1995 Jan and Arnold went to Ligna trade fair in Hannover looking for a wider range of new machinery agencies, and Geerlings secured several European manufacturing agencies over the next few years.
Most predominant is the SCM Group which were then leaders in traditional and the emerging CNC high technology machinery market, which was developing fast in the 1990s. This includes SCM, the main brand name, Minimax (semi professional), Gabbiani (beamsaws), Morbidelli (cnc machinery), and many more.
One of the sole agencies which Geerlings was able to secure and build a great relationship with is the Celfa Finishing Group, which specialises and leads technology in the world’s finishing market.
This addition saw Geerlings become the leader in finishing in the local market added to its deep roots in the already established high technology CNC and Panel Processing industries.
In this period Geerlings also added Freud Tooling which proved to be a fantastic product range and today is a world leader. Geerlings, during the late 1990s, also started selling Holytek traditional machinery from Taiwan, which has proven to be a steadfast and reliable brand and they have enjoyed a successful relationship for over 18 years.
This growth in product scope required supplementary growth in after-sales-service capacity, which necessitated the opening of branches in Cape Town, Durban, and back then, in George, which now has a satellite operation in the Eastern Cape. While the woodworking machinery market has grown, shrunk and grown, as industries do, with newly emerging competitors, markets, global recession and changing political and industry environments, Geerlings has diversified and weathered these challenges over the years.
The diversification of the years 2000
The new millennium saw big changes in South Africa and Geerlings used this period to finalise the product range and deepen the existing supplier and client relationships. Within this period, Geerlings diversified its machinery range to include aluminium and PVC machinery ranges, most notably from FomIndustrie, which include both traditional and CNC options.
The range from Fom includes automatic lines, CNC centres, sawing machines, thermal breaklines and software, and more traditional machines such as end milling, corner routers and crimpering machines.
Geerlings’ customers All of the successes and growth would not be possible without the customers, who grew with Geerlings.
Geerlings would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their years of support and ongoing investment in the mutual relationship. Many of the clients have grown into impressive businesses and leaders in sectors such as joinery (doors and windows), kitchen manufacturing, furniture manufacturing and shopfitting as well as many niche markets like boat building and moulding manufacturers to name a few.
Geerlings would also like to congratulate many of its clients on their successes and wish them prosperity and growth into the future as the South African and African market changes.
Geerlings today: 2015 and beyond
The structure of the team
The team is now headed up by Cornelis Rostoll, as MD. Cornelis has 19 years of experience in high technology, installations and service. Arnold also appointed his service manager, Martiens Bezuidenhout, as service director. Martiens has 18 years’ experience at his post and has built strong bonds throughout the industry.
These are the core staff that keep Geerlings alive and kicking, as are some key administrative personnel such as Jackie Armstrong and Minette Göpper with years of loyal and dedicated service to make a whole team. Arnold Geerlings fills the role of financial and technical sales advisor to the team and focuses his attention on international sales.
Commitment to service
Geerlings offers technical back-up service in the form of ongoing maintenance as well as breakdown servicing. At each of the branches, teams of staff and trained technicians are available for call out and telephonic consultations.
Geerlings’ principal suppliers such as SCM and Cefla once again outperformed themselves at Ligna 2015, and Geerlings are pleased that many of its long term and new clients enjoy the riveting technology displayed at Ligna 2015. SCM displayed their Smart manufacturing Flexicel, incorporating the Pratix S CNC, Sigma Flexi Cut beamsaw, with loading and offloading. They also showed their impressive Airfusion K560 edgebander which detailed their biggest advancement in edgebanding, with polyurethane and slimline air fusion technology, which gives a joint-free edgebanding result.
Cefla displayed many new innovations, including their new Inert Coating technology, by Sorbini, which allows any surface or edge to be prepared to perfection, including MDF, HDF, raw chipboard etc. to turn low cost material into profitable products.
In many ways, these leaps in design and productivity of these advanced machines will be determining the future growth of Geerlings and its customers.
Message from Arnold Geerlings
Arnold says South Africa has changed a lot over the past 20 years, and the woodworking industry even more so. Today all of Geerlings’ successful clients are those that invested in technology rather than labour, he notes.
“Even though we are aware employment needs to be created, productivity is in our view even more paramount for the success of any wood working enterprise into the future. Making your company poised for growth is best achieved by investment in new technology, to manufacture faster, smarter and more cost effectively”.
“Geerlings has founded its relationships with all the major industry leaders on the basis of their growth and needs. We would like to do the same with new clients wishing to expand their potential