BACIF: Still driven by the virtues of innovation and resilience

BACIF’s Yolanda Geddes-Kendall with a product display

When President David Granger visited the Ruimveldt operations of the Brass Aluminium and Cast Iron Foundry more than a year ago he made a point of underscoring the importance of innovation in industry in pursuit of adapting to the needs of the Guyanese economy. He could hardly have been in a more appropriate place to do so. He pointed out at the time that BACIF had had to function in an environment that not only placed it in competition with rich industrialized countries but had also been required to function in a domestic environment where the continually changing landscape – like the ‘rise and fall’ of the bauxite industry – compelled the company to shift gears, to find innovative ways of creating new demand for the products in which it specializes.

It would hardly be surprising if BACIF makes a claim for being amongst the most innovative of companies ever to ‘set up shop’ in Guyana. Set to become sixty next year, BACIF have become past masters of responding to the critical needs of some of Guyana’s most important industries and two weeks ago we found the company’s representatives still seeking to market what it has to offer in the company of a number of other local manufacturers of a decidedly more recent vintage at the Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) at the Marriott Hotel.

It is not difficult to tell that BACIF’s primary ‘selling point’ is its demonstrable endurance in the face of continually changing fortunes and its remarkable ability to adapt  its production proficiency to suit the changes. When Stabroek Business stopped by the BACIF display on the penultimate day of the GUYTIE event, Yolanda Geddes-Kendall, a Director of the Company who ‘doubles’ in the position of Acting Commercial and Design Superintendent  assured us that the company was ‘holding steady’ despite the small matter of having had to endure the damage done to its mainstream market by the travails of the Guyana Sugar Corporation. GUYSUCO, Geddes-Kendall told us used to account for around 75% of BACIF’s market.

Seemingly assuming a too-resolute-to-fail posture BACIF, in recent times, has simply turned to finding more ways of serving more sectors of the country’s economy.

What has been the survival game plan? Geddes-Kendall explains that it is simply a matter of soldiering on, the pressures of having to cope with the vagaries of the country’s economy serving to focus minds. There are seventy- five jobs at stake here and it seems that management never loses sight of that.

What this has meant – apart from carefully planned diversification – is the placing of an enhanced value on the importance of the critical customers………like the Guyana Water Inc. and the mining sector. It has meant, too, that BACIF understands the importance of placing an even higher value on its external market so that the Jamaican entity Wray & Nephew has become an even more valued customer.

 At the GUYTIE event, BACIF had strategically put on display a range of fabricated products designed to serve as a reminder of the variety of its work and as if to make the point about its enduringly nationalistic fervour had strategically placed among its exhibits a striking gold-coloured replica of the Cacique Crown. It would have been a good thing if the fortunes of sugar had not dried up orders from GUYSUCO for bearings, scraper plates and other products for the mills but Geddes-Kendall subtly makes the point that nostalgia is not a luxury BACIF can afford. Indeed, the company has long begun to look ahead pointing to the overhead walkways across the highway on the lower East Bank as offering a glimpse of the company’s future.

These days BACIF’s product count is up to 1000 different custom-made items  per year, a feat which Adrian Barkoye, the Technical Assistant to the Company’s Chief Executive Officer says is testimony to its ability to identify needs and to ‘sell’ itself as the company to respond to those needs and to the innovativeness that attends that marketing strategy.

BACIF has made an impressive journey from the late Claude Geddes’ four-man enterprise “in the backyard of his residence” almost fifty years ago.

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