80 years on for EP Brick
Brick by brick, Nelson Mandela Bay’s Martin family have been hard at work building one of Port Elizabeth’s longest-standing family businesses into the solid manufacturing concern it is today.
Swartkops-based EP Brick, a third-generation family enterprise of clay miners and brick manufacturers, recently celebrated a solid 80 years of contribution to the greater region’s infrastructure and overall built environment.
Today, EP Brick – which is jointly owned and managed by the Martin brothers Billy, John and Bruce – significantly produces between eight and 12 million clay bricks, in four varieties, every year.
Founded on decades of inter-generational knowledge and experience, ingrained best-quality standards and the ability to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations, the Martin’s products are not just another proverbial brick in the wall.
The company, which lays claim to being the second-largest brick producer in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, comprises its clay mining operation, a brick molding, drying and kiln-baking operation and a logistics arm.
Outlining the history of the brickfields company – which was built from the ground up alongside the significant clay deposits in the Swartkops River flood plain by William Martin snr in 1936 – Billy Martin said ownership of the clay mine, along with the brick factory, was passed to his father, also named William “Bill”, after their grandfather died in 1963.
“During this time, the company experienced many challenging changes, especially in the burning techniques changing from Scotch and Beehive kilns to the Clamp kilns still being used today.
“Upon Bill Martin jnr’s untimely death in 1985, succession passed on to his four sons – myself, John, Bruce and Gary. Gary has since moved on with his own business venture and is no longer involved with the company,” Billy said.
“Over the years we have ridden the waves the South African economy has endured and stand today with a sustainable business supporting the local community,” enthused Billy, who is responsible for the manufacturing component at the company’s extensive brickyard and clay mine operation.
The company, which has acquired a second kiln plant operation which is not yet in production, but which would give the operation vastly increased capacity if required, produces about 100 000 bricks a day.
“We have a team of 74 employees from the local community who work across all of our operations. This team delivers our high-quality products, and we regularly invest in training for machine operation and handling,” said Billy, who named the construction industry and DIY enthusiasts as being among their primary customers.
“We pride ourselves on our product and service. This has proved to be the backbone of the company’s success and its longevity,” he said.
Critical to EP Brick is the firm’s access to their product’s base material – clay – which later, during the actual manufacturing process, is mixed with additives that, among other objectives, assist with the brick baking process and the strengthening of the brick, while contributing to the uniqueness of EP brick’s products.
Totally unapologetic, Billy quipped that the materials formula for their bricks was a secret guarded more closely than the Coca-Cola recipe.
“This entire area is covered in clay deposits. In terms of EP Brick though, we can mine here for another 30 years. And come 30 years, the next generation will be mining from neighbouring land which we’re looking to secure to keep EP Brick in our family,” he said.
Billy, who said the company would continue to focus on its core products rather than product extensions, such as tiles or other clay-based products, commented that uninterrupted electricity supply and access to water, were critical to the business.
“Our marketing efforts – which is primarily business-to-business, rely to some extent on traditional channels such as word-of-mouth, networking, growing and maintaining relationships with existing clients and, of course, maintaining our website.
“Our well-branded vehicles also serves us very well. We also visit various construction sites which helps to increase our visibility and of course we are members of a number of industry associations and authorities and also keep an eye out for tenders and other business opportunities,” he said.
Offering budding entrepreneurs some sound advice, Billy concluded that besides great bricks, the foundation of any successful business would always be based on the quality of its products and its services, the ability to deliver both timeously and with competitive pricing.