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Davis and Shirtliff, a leading water and energy equipment supplier, turns 75

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Davis & Shirtliff head office on Dundori Road, Industrial Area, Nairobi.

Davis and Shirtliff, the region’s leading water and energy equipment supplier, is celebrating its 75th Anniversary, a major milestone in its corporate history. This is a most unusual achievement for any organisation, though especially one that has the same family shareholding and essentially the same market focus since its founding. There are few companies anywhere with this claim, and D&S is therefore extremely proud of the achievement, with various events being held in celebration.

The company was founded in 1946 by ex-soldiers Eddie Davis and Dick Shirtliff. It was initially based at Westlands, Nairobi. It grew rapidly as the country recovered after the war, focusing on boreholes, water supplies and the coffee industry. In the mid-1950s, the base was moved to new larger premises at the present Dundori Rd location in the industrial area.

The Founders, Eddie Davis (left) and Dick Shirtliff. Davis & Shirtliff

An added activity was swimming pools, both residential and commercial. Water treatment was another diversification. In 1970, partner Dick Shirtliff retired and after a period, the Davis family, then represented by Eddie’s son Alec Davis, assumed control.

The 70s and 80s saw slow but steady growth as the country grappled with various economic and political challenges, though there was a particular focus on building the pump business, for which the company is so well known, notably through representation of the Danish manufacturer Grundfos.

1993 was a significant year for both Kenya and D&S due to economic liberalisation, which was the catalyst for the company’s rapid growth since. It was also the year that Pedrollo pumps from Italy were first introduced, now the Group’s largest supplier. These two developments enabled a distribution strategy to be developed as supply constraints were removed and the branch network was then established, initially with Kenya branches being opened in Westlands, Eldoret and Kisumu. Subsidiaries in Uganda and Tanzania soon followed as well as establishing a presence at the Coast though the merger with partner Butech.

The pump business grew hugely with Pedrollo and the now well-established Solar and Power Generation activities were then added.

Since the new Millennium, growth has greatly accelerated, revenue increasing many times. Major initiatives have included a complete redevelopment of the Dundori Rd site with expansion into adjacent plots, the opening of subsidiaries and associate companies in Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and DRC, considerable growth of the branch network, introduction of the successful Dayliff range of own-brand products and a huge expansion of the product range, with Solar being especially successful as the company developed its focus on renewable energy.

D$S Lusaka, Zambia. Davis & Shirtliff

More recently, a major development has been the establishment of a 10,000 square-metre Distribution Centre at Tatu City. The centre provides the resource for increased stockholding and has transformed distribution efficiency throughout the region. It was completed in 2020.

Staffing has also grown correspondingly, the Group now employing over 1,000 committed staff operating from over 70 locations.

It is often said that success is transitory and sometimes unsustainable, though D&S has managed to maintain unbroken growth for an exceptional period of time. This has been achieved by commercial focus, manageable ambition, continuous physical and organisational investment, and, importantly, living the values established by the founders of Quality, Integrity and ‘Altiora Peto’, which translates to embracing continuous change.

D&S is now a widely respected company in the region and is proud of the contribution it has made, summarised by its slogan, ‘Improving Lives’, which is demonstrated both by the important nature of its activities and also by an active programme of community support that focuses on providing water to underprivileged communities, many thousands of people having benefited. 

Of course the 75-year milestone is just a moment in a journey and the Group continues to grow with a number of ongoing initiatives and great plans for the future.

Ably led by CEO David Gatende and supported by dedicated and committed executives and staff driving this growth, the company is fortunate that the third generation of Davis, Edward and Henry, have joined the business, so continuity is assured. The Group continues to expand in product and markets with a particular focus on digital business, and looks forward to keep serving the region with essential products that certainly “Improve Lives” and also to demonstrate that an indigenous African company can compete internationally and be a world-class organisation.

Dayliff – The D&S Brand

Dayliff, the brand of Davis & Shirtliff, can trace its origins back to the 1970s when it was first applied to engineered water treatment systems and various swimming pool chemicals and accessories. Subsequently in 2008, the decision was taken to strengthen the company’s position by launching a comprehensive range of water pumps and associated items that offered customers unrivalled choice, availability, value and support from the D&S Group. Now featuring over 45 distinct product groups, well packaged Dayliff products occupy market leading positions in all the company’s segments of activity, including surface and borehole pumps, solar solutions, water treatment, swimming pools, power generation and irrigation items.

Dayliff range of products. Davis & Shirtliff

With a particular focus on Africa, Dayliff offers quality solutions at a reasonable price, with recent notable innovations including the expanded range of sustainable solar pumping products designated as Sunflo, Sunflex, Sunverter and Suntower.

In addition to this, D&S continues to offer customised engineered solutions under the Dayliff brand, including Reverse Osmosis and Ultrafiltration plants and advanced water boosting and fire sets.

Digital development is also a key focus with remote control monitoring service iDayliff, the Dayliff App and sizing programmes Solarcalc and Pumpcalc being examples of recent innovations that enrich and add value to the customer experience. Dayliff is now a very well recognised and respected regional brand and it will continue to drive the D&S Group’s growth into the future.

Tatu Distribution Centre

One of the most significant events in the history of Davis and Shirtliff, has been inauguration of the new Distribution Centre at Tatu City. D&S faced the capacity dilemma of all growing companies as the Dundori Rd Head Office warehousing facility became increasingly unfit for purpose. This led to the birth of the Tatu project that since completion, has lifted D&S to the next level, providing much improved efficiencies and the capacity for considerable volume growth.

The Tatu City site was selected as being ideal for the purpose, being in a readily accessible undeveloped location outside Nairobi, as well as being an excellent living and working environment.

The Tatu Distribution Centre is a major strategic investment by the D&S Group, being the central stocking hub enabling hugely improved service levels to its wide regional operations, as well as being the centre for development of the growing e-business. It will make a big contribution to the D&S Group’s purpose of ‘Improving Lives’ through better access to the essential products and expertise that it supplies. The company is very proud of the result, which is a world class facility that represents the standards and aspirations of the D&S Group, who look forward to reaping the many benefits that this resource will no doubt bring.

#ImprovingLives

Davis and Shirtliff, through its #ImprovingLives initiative, focuses its charitable activities on providing access to safe and potable water to needy communities and institutions, mainly for disadvantaged children. In 2018, 64 projects were completed, benefitting 50,000 people, and in 2019, 91 projects were completed, benefitting 94,000 people.

At the end of 2020, 140 projects were completed, all with a focus on water and sanitation in the region, benefitting close to 500,000 lives!

Davis & Shirtliff

The D&S commitment, embedded in key driving philosophy ‘Purpose before Profit’, is to improve lives in disadvantaged communities. While the company has driven these projects on many fronts, there has also been close collaboration with various partners, including the communities themselves and other corporate or donor organisations, who have been able to benefit from D&S’s expertise and whose support is much appreciated. The above photo represents just one of the many heart-warming moments of impact that have been experienced through initiatives that D&S is justifiably proud.

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