Probe’s story is one steeped in family. Its journey is inseparable from the Rovelli family’s story. The family lives and breathes Probe, and so, Probe’s story began years before it officially opened for business. It began in 1954 when founder Francesco Rovelli arrived in South Africa.
After leaving post-war Italy for Eritrea, Francesco met his future wife, Graziella, and they travelled to South Africa. Francesco made the journey in the engine room of a ship and at the age of 28, he set his feet on South African soil and felt the promise of the country. He never looked back.
Probe opened for business in downtown Newtown, Johannesburg in 1963. At the time, Newtown was a fading industrial epicentre marked by empty tram sheds and vacant buildings, but it was home to a small battery business that would become a leader in South Africa’s energy industry.
It was in these early days that Francesco Rovelli established his habit of travelling the country working and everything he did, he did for Probe.
“When I came out my mother’s womb, there was a battery next to the bed and a starter and alternator.” And so, the multi-generational heritage of Probe was set in motion. Frank Rovelli joined the Probe story when he entered the world in 1965 and his devotion to the company has never waned.
From working at Probe during his school holidays to accompanying his dad on spontaneous road trips to see customers, Frank’s involvement with Probe was always earnest. So devoted was little Frank to the survival of Probe that when, at the age of four, a fire broke out across the road, he trundled over with a fire extinguisher in hand, ready to put it out.
Witbank was established in 1969 and has since built a reputation for providing a comprehensive range of premium products by key OEM autoelectrical manufacturers for the heavy-duty automotive, mining and construction industries.
Richard Rovelli joined the Probe family nine years later in 1974 and, like his brother, grew up besotted with and committed to Probe. Francesco Rovelli would spontaneously cart them across the entire Southern African region, all in the name of customer service and pioneerism.
One Sunday lunch, Francesco received a phone call from a customer in Namibia. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he had said. They embarked on the 15-hour drive and the next day he stood in Namibia, the customer in awe, listening to Francesco talk about a solenoid.
It was on these trips that both Richard and Frank Rovelli got to grips with the essence of Probe: quality solutions and devoted customer service.
1974 was a significant year in Probe’s story in that not only was it the year the now-CEO of Probe Corporation, Richard Rovelli was born, but it was also the year that Probe became an authorised dealer for Delco Remy. Probe has always been a proponent of high-quality products, so when it became an authorised dealer for one of the leading global providers of starters and alternators, its reputation in premium energy products was cemented in many ways.
In 1979 Probe began trading with the first sealed maintenance-free Delco freedom battery and the business flourished. From the well-worn streets of Newtown to Port Elizabeth to Zimbabwe, Francesco Rovelli could be found proclaiming in a thick Italian accent that he was selling “di first-e, sealed-e, maintenance-free battery-e”. He would proudly call himself a pioneer. And he was.
Francesco Rovelli was always anti-regime and that was reflected by his business practices. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Probe consistently hired and upskilled black South Africans to become technicians, a job role reserved for white people according to the government at the time.
From the start, Francesco was all for his staff and there was always a familial feel to Probe. Every now and then the smell of his cooking would permeate the air, and it culminated in a big pot of pasta there for everyone to enjoy. Every day, Francesco would be seated in the boardroom with his pasta and a glass of white wine and anyone was welcome to join him.
Probe developed the Deltec label in 1984.
A new South Africa was born in 1990 when the end of Apartheid was officially on the horizon. With this period of revival came a renewed economy in South Africa. International trade opened and mines were built up again. Probe saw the opportunity and became a leader in the field, providing starters, alternators, and sealed maintenance-free batteries to the burgeoning industry. Today, mining is one of the core industries Probe services, benefiting from our integrated mining solutions for improved safety and productivity.
1990 marked noteworthy change not only in the country, but also inside Probe itself. After decades of on-the-job training with Francesco Rovelli, Frank Rovelli took over as CEO of Probe and he has spent the past 30 years at the helm. Under Frank’s leadership and with his CA (SA) expertise, Probe’s revenue increased 800% making it the leader in Southern African energy that it is today.
Now, Probe Corporation and its subsidiaries are specialised industrial equipment suppliers, providing aftermarket support for global and local brands and our Probe ranges, including Probe batteries, ProbeAir compressors and Probenergy power solutions. And it all comes back to our insight into change and our burning desire to continually meet customer needs, regardless of how they may evolve - a quality traced straight back to Francesco.
Kuruman was founded in 1991 by Roselt Senior, from a small garage in Hofazel and moved to Kuruman, Northern Cape in 1993. Known as Kuruman Auto, this branch provides automotive support to the mining and construction industries and exemplifies a robust success story built on trust, service and understanding market needs.
In 1994 Probe, which had been operating as Fawick until this point, officially became Probe. Today, the name ‘Probe’ is known far and wide as the leader in energy storage. Probe was able to continue business as usual at the dawn of the new South Africa thanks to its continued unprejudiced upskilling endeavours.
1994 was also the year Probe was appointed an AC Delco distributor, another milestone in its quest to provide premium energy storage products with excellent service to Southern Africa. As an authorised dealer for yet another leading brand, Probe continued to thrive.
Probe’s Witbank branch, now Probe IMT
, opened for business in 1996. It was the second-ever BEE company partnership with Anglo American, a remarkable feat and a fitting achievement given Francesco Rovelli’s disapproving outlook on the Apartheid regime. Probe remains committed to transformation in South Africa, being BEE and Employment Equity compliant.
Although he had been working at Probe during school holidays throughout his life, Richard Rovelli officially joined the Probe workforce in 2000.
After years of beneficial partnership, Probe became a silver award winner for AC Delco in 2000. Being recognised for our long-standing commitment and service excellence was a milestone many at Probe will never forget.
The new century brought with it advancements in energy storage technology that necessitated the exploration of new battery suppliers abroad. Probe, being ever-driven to anticipate and lead the changing energy landscape, realigned through strategic partnerships with suppliers to ensure that our first sealed maintenance-free battery penetrated the South African market successfully.
2002 was also the year that Probe secured its biggest deal - one that is still in effect today, a tribute to the company’s value of long-lasting relationships.
Throughout Probe’s extensive history, we have always been quick to notice change and move to fill gaps in the market with a relevant high-quality product offering. And so, Probe aligned with Autozone in 2004 to supply autoelectrical products to South Africa.
2004 also marked one of the defining moments of forging a path of quality products, quality customer service, and quality installations. As a result of Francesco Rovelli’s experience in the auto-electrical space, working with Delco Remy products and the stellar team he had around him, Probe was awarded a partnership with Delco Remy. For years, Probe has been a trusted distributor of Delco Remy products and the partnership with Delco Remy, a high-quality global battery brand, set us apart.
Platinum Battery Technology Rustenburg began as a satellite office in 2005 and has since complemented its product range with a field service team, capable of installing and repairing all autoelectrical components such as wiring harnesses, LED lights and battery replacements.
Probe moved into its Meadowdale offices in Johannesburg, where the heart of Probe continues to beat today.
The Probe Rustenberg offices were opened in 2006 as well to attend to the mines there.
We launched Probe Cams, South Africa’s first mining collision avoidance system
, in 2008. Launching our CAS products was an ultimate risk given their novelty and the economy at the time, but it turned out to be an incredible success and an indelible mark in Probe’s story. Probe IMT still offers these products today, enabling Southern African mines to seamlessly protect their teams, their equipment, and their infrastructure at all times.
Probe acquired its first bonded warehouse with SEKO Logistics in 2009. Today, 14 years later, we are still using the same business for our freight and warehousing, an emphasis on the value we place on building a lasting network in everything we do.
The Witbank branch experienced massive growth over 2009 and 2010 by diving into the auto-electrical space and offering the digital elements required for optimised and safe mining. Probe’s collision avoidance systems and real-time monitoring equipment have transformed the way mines operate, resulting in the success of Probe’s mining endeavours, and later IMT Mining.
After living with diabetes for 54 years and cancer for 24 years, Francesco Rovelli passed away, leaving behind his beloved family, the company he built from humble beginnings and the staff he loved so dearly. He is remembered as a deeply Italian man, bubbling with charisma. He was strong, proud, respectful, incredibly loving, generous, and deeply devoted to his family and his business.
In 2012, Probe merged with what is now the Probe IMT
Kuruman branch in the Northern Cape to service mines in the region. Since the beginning, Probe has been about meeting customers where they are. This first looked like making cross-country road trips, and Probe is proud to have grown so much that it now manifests as opening branches where we see a gap for Probe products.
In 2014, local South African energy storage manufacturers reached a global standard, creating premium quality products. As a long-time advocate for supporting local empowerment wherever possible, Probe naturally explored local manufacturers to integrate into its operations. Today, Probe has its own battery production operation in our warehouse in partnership with a local supplier.
Ever on the lookout for growth, Probe Group expanded over 2017 to 2019 to include Kariba.
With these inclusions, Probe could service customers in Gerberha, Kariega and Bloemfontein.
In 2019, Probe’s mining division was created and separated from other divisions to concentrate Probe’s efforts to serve the mining industry.
became a significant focus for Probe in 2019 as it became clear that it was the future of energy storage. As storage specialists, we are constantly at the forefront of new and exciting developments in the constantly evolving energy landscape.
Since Francesco Rovelli began Probe back in 1963, the staff have always been integral to the company and its growth and success. We’re proud to have had staff members like Coenie, Elias, Peter and April, who have been a loyal asset to Probe for over 20 years. Our people have always been important to us.
Probe survived COVID-19 without retrenchment and maintained usual business operations. As a business made by its staff, seeing COVID through unscathed, so that all of our people had job security, was a remarkable achievement, and one we feel immensely proud of.
Francesco Rovelli was a doting grandfather, always singing funny Italian songs and playing games with the newest members of the Rovelli family.
The family bond didn’t stop there, as Probe saw its first member of the third generation of Rovellis dedicate their lives to Probe when Francesca Rovelli joined the company in 2022 after completing her articles. Though Probe’s story has spanned generations, its very core has remained the same throughout the decades: deliver quality energy solutions with unmatched customer service. This is what guides everything at Probe, even today.
2022 was marked by growth all around in the Probe story. Orizen
was acquired to provide electrical forklifts and rentals, and Sinetech Energy
also joined the Probe Group of Companies as a means to meet the growing requirement for sustainable energy in South Africa. Probe’s longevity is down to the fact that we strive to ensure that we always understand and stay ahead of the storage requirements of our customers, offering relevant, impactful and high-quality products to meet their needs. With the advent of acquiring Sinetech and Probenergy, Probe started its first-ever B2C element, offering solar solutions to keep South African homes and businesses empowered, no matter what the grid is doing.