Back in 2007, Mike Voss, founder and Managing Director of Rock Solid Industries (RSI), had just started a fledgling business spraying bakkie bed linings. The bed lining business was successful, but somewhat dead-end, and Mike needed more of a challenge. The mining industry was first port of call and RSI began building roll-over protection systems for mine bakkies.
Unfortunately for Mike, the auto industry also got in on the act, and when the T6 Ranger was released with an NCAP rating that met mines standards, this aspect of the business was made largely redundant. In 2013, RSI began the design and construction of the ‘RSI SmartBox’, a tool box that fits to the back of any bakkie – perfect for fleets and mines alike.
The RSI SmartBox was a stepping stone in the right direction and in 2013 the first canopy designs were pushed through with help from 4×4 engineer, retailer and TV personality André de Villiers. Several of the new canopies were sold at the Joburg International Motor Show and full-scale production for the high end products kicked into gear after that.
Mike’s mantra was to produce the highest possible quality product on the market, using 409 Grade stainless steel and automotive production methods. This approach succeeded in bringing RSI one of the largest canopy deals in South African history when Telkom signed up to equip its fleet of 2500 bakkies. The RSI SmartCanopy is a patented modular CKD (Completely Knocked Down) design with a number of benefits. Because the canopies were assembled using separate component parts, Telkom could replace individual parts when damaged, instead of the entire canopy. Flat-packing of the components also meant that five flat-packed kits fitted into the same space as one fully assembled canopy, with savings on shipping and distribution costs.
One other key benefit of the bolted-together design is that the natural flex which occurs when a bakkie drives over rough terrain can be absorbed by the canopy, contributing to a longer life, whereas rigid designs are prone to cracking at the pillars and other stress points.
Today RSI makes a variety of canopies well suited to the leisure 4×4 and overlanding markets, offering a number of optional extras to tailor each canopy to individual needs. Among these options is a fully-kitted kitchen unit with a built-in stove and twin stainless steel fold-out tables. The canopies feature neat little touches like a positive pressure vent to help keep out dust, and the unique thumb tabs for locking the rear and gullwing doors are unlike anything else on the market.
Colour matching is one of RSI’s standout offerings, and they have geared up at substantial cost to provide colours (in 2k automotive paint) to exactly match any modern 4×4, or any particular tone a client desires.
Thanks to the various customisation options available to fleet buyers, canopies suited to police, ambulance, telecommunications and even hearses have been put into production, but perhaps the most useful new product for overlanders is the new RSI folding roof rack called the RSI SmartRack. Mounted securely to the top of the canopy, the folding rack is a two-piece design that pulls out on slides and eases down to shoulder height on dampener struts, then locks back into place with two quick release catches. The advantage of this design is that you can access spare tyres, fuel or any item mounted on the roof rack, from the side of the vehicle. The rack is nothing short of revolutionary and the patented design completely unique anywhere in the world.
The production process for any RSI product starts with the help from customer feedback, the individual user or the fleet owner. Personal attention is given to each design by Mike Voss and his team of creative and energetic engineers. The designers make a mock-up using CAD software and that gets sent to the laser-cutting part of the factory where automotive grade stainless steel is cut, welded and finally bolted together with in-house manufactured ‘riv studs’ before being painted to spec. Component parts are then either packed into boxes unassembled for export, or fully assembled for local use. Flat pack canopies can be assembled in 25 minutes and are currently being exported to Australia, Chile, Malaysia, Germany, the UK, Spain and numerous sub- Saharan countries.
Today an average of 260 canopies are produced per month in the state-of-the-art factory, which is ISO 9001:2008, European TUV certified – an exceedingly difficult quality grading for any manufacturing plant to achieve. RSI is a proud Level 4 BBBEE contributor and is expanding in 2018 to exceed well over 1000 units per month. They are now working on the final touches for the anticipated release of the all-new RSI SmartRack, due to hit stores in 2018 – watch this space.