The Queens of QC

Magdalene (Maggie) Dampies and Levina Solomons are the queens of Quality Control (QC) at Parceval. With 22 years at the company, of which 17 have been in QC for Maggie and 14 years for Levina, their hands-on knowledge is unparalleled.

“With Maggie’s attention to detail and experience, I can sleep at night, knowing that all is in good hands. And Levina shows a keen interest in plants, you will always find reference books at her station, where she compares plants and reads up about them. It’s not about testing plants, she tries to understand them,” says Wendy Clapham, head of QC.

Here we sit down with them and ask them to reflect on the journey.

When and where did you begin at Parceval?

Maggie: It was 1998 when we started working at Parceval, when the factory was still on Waterkloof. We both started in bottling. We were a small team, only about ten people in Production.

Levina: Everything was small and we worked with small quantities – the tinctures were in drums and pots, not in big tanks like now. We did all the labels by hand and only produced about 200 – 300 bottles a week. We even did some of the harvesting of the plants back then.

What were the milestones for you?

Levina: In 2000 when Parceval moved to Kruishof, there was a big expansion to the company and many more people joined. We got a nice big Production and added a tabletting department.  

Maggie: it was during this time that we both moved to QC; first I moved, then Levina joined.

Levina: In 2010 there was another change when we moved to the Lady Loch premises. Here Parceval really found its feet and grew to what it is today.

What differences are there between when you started in QC and now?

Maggie: there are many more tests that we do these days. In the beginning we only had a few products, now there are many different ones.

What moments stand out for you?

Levina: We were still employed by Ulrich [Feiter] directly, there was no HR back then. I remember the day he told us we were permanently employed. That’s why we’re probably still here… We watched his children grow up; Kristian was still a baby when we started and we saw him learning to walk outside on the stoep. Clara would always come visit us in bottling.

Maggie: One of the best memories is when we still had a big bus that brought us to Kruishof. We used to see so many things on the way and sing together.

Levina: We met many characters over the years, like Ouma Truitjie [who worked in the fields on Kruishof], she always said “I’m going to go fetch Uli from the airport.” There were good times, there were times when we cried and times that we laughed.

What kept you at Parceval over the years?

Levina: Here at Parceval we share our hardships and help each other. Parceval was the stability in my life. My husband didn’t work, and through my job at Parceval I could put my children through school.

Maggie: If my mother is sick then I know they will understand and I can go home to look after her. We know each other so well here. Wendy knows when I am not okay and she will always check up on me.

Levina: I like it here because I’ve worked my way up here. Here I enjoy my work and have built up my knowledge.

What have you learnt at Parceval?

Maggie: I had never worked with a computer and I was intimidated by it but I learnt to master it. Without any degrees or papers to my name, I worked myself up in QC and now know a lot. Once, we lost the labels on some raw material and they called me in to help identify them. I can tell a lot just by the TLC [Thin Layer Chromotography]. You start noticing the small details working with [the plants and different products] all these years.

Levina: we know all the names to the plants and what they are good for. When young people come with their degrees, we can still teach them a lot.

What do you hope for Parceval?

Levina: I only have five years left to retirement; when I leave, everyone must continue building from our work. I want to see Parceval stay steady and be a place that is still around when my grandchildren are big.

*Interview translated from Afrikaans and modifications were made to capture the spirit of the conversation