Electricity + Control

Speech by Alwyn Skelton - Managing Director of ifm South Africa

Ten Year Anniversary Speech

Good Evening. I would like to welcome you all to this memorable function for us at ifm electronic South Africa. Today, the 1st March we are officially 10 years old in South Africa. For those of you that perhaps I have not had the chance to meet personally over the years my name is Alwyn Skelton, and I am the current MD of ifm South Africa and therefore have this esteemed opportunity to give this address at this historical event in ifm’s history in South Africa.

Alwyn Skelton Managing Director of ifm South AfricaAlwyn Skelton, Managing Director of ifm South Africa.

With that, I would like to do some ‘Thank You’s’.

  1. Firstly, thanks to Celia de Beer who heads our Marketing Department. For her role, in managing and arranging these functions and making sure that they are within our corporate identity. Clearly, in this case with some African Influence as can be seen with the Beadwork Proxi man who is our company’s mascot. To all our Branch Managers and their staff for their effort in securing the venues, entertainers and general assistance with guest lists and invites. To Sarnia Hattingh, our Financial Manager, who as in everything we do, handles the money matters.
  1. Thank you to you, all our customers, for your continued business with us over the years. You are all the reason that we have come so far and the reason we will sustain in the future. But most of all, I really appreciate that you have all made the time to be here with us to celebrate this milestone of ours.
  1. Thank you to all the South African ifm staff who have remained committed to our company vision statement and go beyond the call of duty to ensure our customers’ needs are taken care of.
  1. Thank you to all those at ifm Germany who remain committed to the service of ifm South Africa and to our countries future, with their fantastic product innovations, for their commitment to education both with unemployed and employed South African people and for the generous contributions to the Social Economic Development in South Africa. This by meaningful contributions to Schools for the disabled, mental health institutions and art. As can be seen with the Beaded Proximan you find on your tables.

A lot happens in a decade

So firstly to try and put some perspective into time and in particular the year 2008, the time when ifm was born in South Africa, I googled what happened in that year because I could not remember anything, it seems so long ago. In the year 2008 there were some major worldwide political changes. Fidel Castro’s stepping down as the President of Cuba after nearly 50 years in power. Barrack Obama’s election as the first African-American President of the USA. Vladimer Putin was appointed as the Russian President. Something more relevant to South Africa, Thabo Mbeki resigns as President of the country. On the sports front Usain Bolt breaks the world record for 100 metre sprint and then goes on to break his own record at the Beijing summer Olympics.

Technology wise in that year there was a lot of space travel, the first Chinese astronaut space walking; India with an unmanned space ship in orbit, The Messenger space probe does a flyby of Mercury. But most significant for South Africans was Elon Musks first ever private space craft launch: the Falcon 1.

Scientifically 2008 was also an exceptional year with an experiment not followed by everyone but what has been hailed as the biggest experiment ever in the history of mankind, the Large Hadron Collider was powered up in CERN Switzerland. Which amongst other things is being used to investigate the origins of the universe but mainly to investigate the unsolved questions of physics.

But I think what we all might remember the most was that it was the year of global recession. Many countries including South Africa slipping into recession after what was termed the subprime mortgage crisis in America. The first time in my life I heard the term ‘Austerity Measures’. A really tough year to start a business.

When the doors opened

To give you all some idea of what this day means to us as employees of ifm, as I mentioned earlier we opened doors to trading on the 1 March 2008. We were 31 staff on that day; we had premises, we had phone lines and computers but not one direct customer account or even one account with service providers, let alone any credit rating to assist us. The next months were hectic for us all, getting all the accounts sorted out and stabilising the business to minimise any inconvenience to our customers buying channels and delivery. I feel we were fortunate as many of our customers assisted us to get through this difficult transition. I must thank both the staff of ifm and our customers that were there at the birth of ifm South Africa. At this point I feel it right to mention that 10 years on 16 of those 31 original staff including myself are still employees of the company. Ten years on many of those customers are still customers of ifm. I am positive there is a lot of you sitting here among us and I thank you for that.

As each and every one of us South Africans would know, we have all had to face so many challenges in the past 10 years to get to the place we are now, but we at ifm have done it because we have always remained committed to and achieved our milestones. And I congratulate all 57 of our current staff who have helped the company achieve its goals. Thank you ifm staff and well done.

ifm as a global company

I would like to give you all some idea about ifm as a global company. Ifm started in 1969, is a two family-owned business, which by the way will turn 50 years old next year, and although they now have more than 6 500 staff in 80 countries, they continue to maintain a ‘family feel’. This feeling of being part of a family is not restricted to employees but includes our customers as well. After all without our customers we would not even exist. So if I think about a family, I can say that family members are easy to contact, and offer support to each other, than perhaps by deduction once you start buying ifm products we become part of your family and then it’s up to us, to ensure, that you become part of the ifm family, this we do in the philosophy of ifm ‘Close to you’. This phrase says it all, if we are ‘close to you’ our customer, you will find us easy to contact us and that we will always offer the efficient support that you require. The positive nature of just this relationship has been paramount to our success over the years. Over the years I have seen many customers change the companies that they work for, but I have seldom seen customers change the ifm product.

Maintaining the ‘family feel’

And how do we maintain this family feel within the company? I would say this, as you would all know, a company Name is just a name, a fantastic product remains only a product, the company premises is only a building. However, the attitude of the people that work in that building, carry the company name and support the products is what can make a company great. I have always wondered why ifm is so successful globally and why my work colleagues and I have always been happy going to work and putting in the extra mile? If I can start by saying this, it’s been said that don’t search and then employ a qualified person and once he starts work, tell him what to do. Basically you are just standing in their way. So as a manager you have a choice, stand in the employees’ way or assist the employee to grow and build his or her core strengths. Give the employee the opportunity to excel and find their ‘WHY’. We have found over the years that if employees of a company know their ‘WHY’; they perform better and enjoy their work. It’s also great to work in a company that is so innovative and in every way takes seriously the lessons learnt from the following. Nokia never bought Android. Yahoo one of the first internet search engines never bought Google, and Blockbuster Video never bought Netflix. We strive to not overlook possibilities and opportunities. This more so then ever in our current engineering space with the advent of Industry 4.0. Basically if you don’t keep up with this technology you will be left behind. This to us is like the cell phone is to the land line telephone providers.

… And the future

So perhaps a little about the future for ifm. As we are a manufacturer of instrumentation and automation products, we are one of the companies that believes in the phrase ‘changing lives through technology’. Now this especially in South Africa is often seen as technology that possibly reduces jobs. But we in ifm see it rather as upliftment. Our technology does not reduce jobs, but rather changes business into more productive, efficient and profitable organisations, ones that grow and prosper. Perhaps with this growth the companies can enter the international marketplace, market their goods at competitive pricing and in that, grow themselves and grow our country on the global platform. With this growth more jobs will be created locally, at a higher level, ones that require more skill, that require more education.

Further to this, companies like ifm and our local professional bodies that we are affiliated to, who are already committed to the education system in South Africa in association with the Government will further increase our assistance to education and this will help to accelerate our economy and offer a future for the South African youth.


With that thought and vision of ifm on your minds I would like to thank you all again for celebrating with us tonight and would like to take this opportunity to make a toast to the past 10 years of ifm and to the future of ifm and all of you our valued customers and staff.

I ask you all to take up your glasses and toast to you our customers, the staff of ifm South Africa and ifm.


ifm electronic ZA

Tel: +27 (0) 12 450 0400

Email: info.za@ifm.com


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