Safety-equipment industry demands constant innovation

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Workers who face potentially hazardous situations deserve the best protection possible. This is why MSA, a global leader in safety equipment, focuses on ongoing innovation.

An example of this approach to technology is MSA’s ongoing development of its multi-gas sensors. “We work tirelessly to build smarter, better gas-detection instruments,” Marketing Manager Ahmed Elzoubi commented. The company first introduced its XCell sensor technology with its Altair 4X instrument, and has now added advanced PID (photo-ionisation detection) with the Altair 5X.

“This sets the bar even higher for sensor technology in a six-gas portable instrument for VOC (Voltatile Organic Compound) detection,” Elzoubi highlighted. Based in Dubai, Elzoubi oversees the oil, gas and petroleum (OGP) market segments for MSA in the Middle East, Africa and India region.

Visiting key customers in South Africa recently, Elzoubi said that innovation was critical to MSA’s ongoing success, as it sought to refine its products and introduce the latest technology to its global customer base.

“It is important that we engage with our customers continuously in order to keep them up to date with our newest developments. This not only allows us to understand the specific needs of our customers even better, but gives us a broader insight into specific markets and industries,” Elzoubi explained.

He pointed to MSA’s addition of Bluetooth technology to its Altair multi-gas sensor range, in order to enhance the communications interface with other equipment and systems. “This is a first for the industry, and allows us to establish a new benchmark for these instruments. It means we set the standards for the entire industry to follow.”

Elzoubi stressed that MSA only releases new products onto the market after thorough testing and evaluation, which involves intensive customer feedback. “It is important to showcase to our customers what solutions are available, as they are not always aware of what technology is out there to meet their specific requirements.”

Introducing new technology represents a considerable investment on the part of MSA, as well as posing a challenge in evaluating which market segment to focus its R&D efforts on. “For example, the declining oil price has posed a significant challenge for all manufacturers of safety equipment competing in the OGP space.”

While about 90% of MSA’s global business is derived from this sector, mining plays a major role in South Africa, which gives the company to focus on head and fall protection as well. “The civil defence and military segments also represent major opportunities for growth in Africa as a whole,” Elzoubi revealed.

In terms of Africa specifically, Elzoubi stressed that South Africa was an important gateway to the rest of the continent. “The market here is different in many ways, from standards and approvals to the way that manufacturers can sell to end users. However, there is significant potential, especially if you look at the burgeoning OGP industry.”

Looking at MSA on a global basis, he highlighted that the company has a manufacturing presence in over 30 countries, including warehousing in Dubai to cater for sales in the Middle East region. “Africa and India are playing an increasingly important role in MSA’s global growth and expansion.”

In terms of global marketing, the company has expanded its product-line manager function to include segment and strategic marketing managers. The former look at specific product ranges only, while the later take a broader view of entire industries worldwide, channelling MSA’s product development efforts.

“It is this combination of industry and local knowledge, together with our expertise and experience in many fields, that continues to give us a leading edge,” Elzoubi concluded. “It also means we are always up-to-date with the latest developments on a global basis, which in turn gives our customers peace of mind that they have access to the latest technology.


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