Archive: October 19, 2023

Steel for Africa! – Local steel sector proves its ‘metal’ as major Pan-African player at the SAISC Steel Awards 2023

Inspiring steel value chain collaboration between architects, designers, engineers and construction companies delivering world-class projects across the African continent was the highlight of the 2023 Steel Awards, presented by the Southern African Institute for Steel Construction (SAISC).

This red carpet event, commonly referred to as the ‘Oscars of the steel industry’ was held at Emperor’s Palace, Gauteng on October 19 and themed Game of Thrones: not only to celebrate the proud legacy of steel through the ages and its pivotal contribution to civilisation, but also the significant achievements of the South African steel sector.

Every year, the SAISC-hosted Steel Awards provide an opportunity for stakeholders across the industry and steel value chain – including designers, architects, engineers, processors, merchants and fabricators – to present their work and be honoured for their outstanding achievements.

Forging head in Africa

Of particular interest to the judges this year was that many of the notable projects nominated were not confined to South Africa, but exported – and in some cases executed – across the continent. This was reflected in the number of Pan-African projects which won awards, and indicated that one of the SAISC’s long-held goals – is being realised.   

“Fabricators and manufacturers have really forged ahead and made a big leap into Africa! They have built structures in a way that has never been done before, delivering products and innovations which have never been seen before – not only locally but across the continent,” says SAISC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amanuel Gebremeskel.

“For over a decade, we have been encouraging our industry not only to be a centre of manufacturing excellence, but also to get involved in more advanced projects – producing products and innovations which have not been used before in the world. You would expect this in first-world economies like Europe, the US, South Korea or Japan. The fact that we can achieve this standard in South Africa is impressive! We always hear that many large African projects are being created by Chinese, Indian or even American contractors. That does not have to be the case. We have the capacity and the engineering capability to do this and that is what the Steel Awards are all about,” Gebremeskel enthuses.

He adds that many of the projects showcased at the SAISC 2023 Awards are iconic structures, which have made a lasting contribution to the built environment – and will be a testament to South African steel sector skill for many years.

Gebremeskel highlighted the following three projects in particular:

Fresh and fabulous as the overall winner – and more

The Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market is not only the Steel Awards 2023 overall winner – but also garnered several other awards as winner of the Factory and Warehouse category, the Tubular category and recipient of the Best Project Mpumalanga Award.

Nominated by Tass Engineering, the project was designed by Orbic Architects and constructed by (amongst several others) the main contractor Enza Construction and steelwork contractor Tass Engineering.

This so-called ‘market of the future’ was constructed for the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency to act as a regional catalyst for growth, creating jobs and improving food security. Serving the local and international food industry, it is more effective and efficient than existing, traditional fresh produce markets.

The steelwork roof covers a 29,000m2 floor and is designed to provide maximum usable floor space with minimal support columns. The building was also designed to accommodate future alterations and expansion.

The main challenge was the sheer size of the roof structure and its structural framing system, which posed a significant logistical challenge to transport – from the Kempton Park fabrication site to the market site over 300km away in Mbombela. To address this challenge, modular components were transported in smaller sections and then erected on site.

“Fitting all the pieces of this Meccano-like construction in a seamless and cohesive manner was a huge achievement. These challenges were overcome by carefully-designed jigging systems used for the fabrication of the components, and then trial assembling the major structural components and interfaces between them.

Also impressive is the fact that the engineer who designed the structure came up with a very elegant solution for the problem posed: the need for a lot of column-free space. To solve this, an arched roof was used along the entire 220 metre length – supported at each end using a structural framing system. The aesthetics and project execution – including the engineering, connections used, the seamlessness thereof and how the structure was erected – is quite amazing and a testament to the power of structural steel as a material of construction,” Gebremeskel comments.

A record-breaking distribution centre

Structural steel also played a pivotal role in the Pick ‘n Pay Distribution Centre East Port project, joint winner of the Factory and Warehouse category, winner of the Innovation and Sustainability category and recipient of the Best Project Gauteng Award.

One of the stand-out features of this exceptional project is the use of extremely long roofing sheets, ranging from 68 metres to a staggering 280 metres. These unprecedented roof sheeting lengths required innovative solutions for handling and installation – ultimately earning the project a place in the Guinness World Records.

The roof design features a distinctive curved profile with a radius of approximately 600 metres. This unique curvature required the use of the ‘sky-forming’ method to roll and shape the roofing sheets accurately. The success of the project hinged on close collaboration between various teams, including structural engineers, steel fabricators, material suppliers and roofing contractors. This teamwork was essential for problem-solving and adapting the design and construction to the very specific challenges posed by this challenging project.

“This is a phenomenal innovation, and a lot of work went into it. It is very nice to see one of our established, older steel companies showing a lot of vigour and energy. We have really achieved world leadership in sky-rolling capabilities. This is not only a notable project in South Africa, but globally,” Gebremeskel comments.

A praiseworthy achievement in Chad

The third project Gebremeskel highlighted is the Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in N’Djamena in Chad, which is the winner of the Light Steel Frame Building category.

Conceptual design to restore the cathedral started in March 2014, and addressed wind-load considerations through the implementation of a specialised shell structure design employing custom-made brackets to securely anchor the light-weight steel to the concrete structure.

This remote Central African project location required on-site fabrication. A number of logistical challenges had to be overcome due to the absence of nearby ports and limited road infrastructure suitable for container transport. The entire project also had to be successfully delivered during a period of political instability in the region.

“South African steel companies are not only doing incredible work in very complicated environments administratively, politically and security-wise – but are creating structures that are also very noteworthy – as demonstrated by this and other Pan-African projects this year,” advises Gebremeskel.

In summary, the Steel Awards 2023 category winners are as follows:

Mining and Industrial:

Winner: Azmet Reactors  – this bold pan-African mining project entailed fabrication and transport to the DRC of 6 reactor tanks, with detailed design of complex geometry featuring FEM (finite element method) modelling and an integrated support frame and platform

Factory and Warehouse Category / Metal Cladding

Winners: Mpumulanga International Fresh Produce Market and Pick ‘n Pay Distribution Centre East Port 

Tubular Category

Winner: Mpumulanga International Fresh Produce Market 

Light Steel Frame Building

Winner: Our Lady of Peace Cathedral – Chad 

Architecturally Exposed Steelwork

Winner: NMU Ocean Sciences Campus Extensions – this project’s innovative use of steel succeeds in showcasing the university as a world-class tertiary education institution of choice

Innovation and Sustainability

Winner: Pick ‘n Pay Distribution Centre East Port

Best Export Project 

Winner: Azmet Reactors

Regional Awards

  • Best Project Gauteng – Pick ‘n Pay Distribution Centre East Port 
  • Best Project Western Cape – Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika – this innovative use of space expresses and celebrates the building’s unusual geometry, overcoming the challenges of a highly congested site and construction during the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • Best Project Eastern Cape – NMU Ocean Sciences Campus Extensions 
  • Best Project Mpumalanga – Mpumulanga International Fresh Produce Market
  • Best Project KwaZulu-Natal – Pepkor Warehouse, Hammarsdale – this retailer warehouse was completed against a background of severe socio-political unrest and also extreme weather. The cost-effective design and interactive project coordination and implementation are key highlights of this project

Steel trends

Although the SAISC does not judge project nominations according to budget and size, Gebremeskel acknowledged that many nominated this year were far greater in size and financial value than previously. Although mining projects – and especially those in remote locations – are inevitably the largest, he observes that large retail distribution centres have also grown tremendously in size, and also aesthetically.

“Projects such as the Pick and Pay distribution centre – winner in several categories – and the KwaZulu-Natal category winner, the Pepkor Warehouse, Hammarsdale – both point to this. Our retailers are looking for greater efficiency, so these buildings are getting larger every year. South Africa is becoming the vanguard for the construction of distribution centres throughout the region. These are the kinds of buildings that many other countries in Africa require moving forward, so we need to develop local steel sector expertise to deliver similar projects cross-border in the future,” he says. 

He adds that there were also a lot of architecturally-driven projects this year. Winner of the Architecturally Exposed Steelwork and Best Project Eastern Cape categories, the Ocean Sciences Campus at Nelson Mandela University, showed how a large educational institution project could utilise steel to echo the client’s image as a world-class tertiary education facility.

Diverse judging panel and generous sponsors

“The SAISC is very grateful to the Steel Awards judges, who have given of their own time to contribute to the industry that they love.

This year, the judging panel was more diverse than ever when it came to age, gender and professional specialisation. With the greater emphasis on Pan-African projects, we look forward to growing and diversifying the judging panel even further. This includes featuring judges from other African countries, which will provide insight into the challenges faced by project teams in countries such as the DRC, Chad and Namibia,” Gebremeskel remarks.

The SAISC also thanks all stakeholders who worked to make the Awards a success – and the generous sponsors. These include the main sponsor, Unica Iron and Steel, Macsteel (Pan-African Trailblazer sponsor), Bolt and Engineering Distributors Group (table decor sponsor), BSi Steel (factory and warehouse category sponsor), Stewarts & Lloyds (light steel frame buildings category sponsor) NJR Steel  (innovation and sustainability category sponsor), The Association of Steel Tube and Pipe Manufacturers (tubular steel category sponsor) and Isilo Steel (photo booth sponsor).

“The 2023 Steel Awards provide significant insight into our sector, and just how notable and impressive the projects are. The Awards form an essential platform for showcasing – and celebrating – what the South African steel sector can do, not only locally but across the continent. For this reason, we are encouraging all our members to continue to focus on innovation and quality, setting their sights beyond South Africa, and throughout Africa,” he concludes.

Concrete progress: Colossal Concrete Products reopens De Aar plant, boosts revival of rail and infrastructure development

Colossal Concrete Products, a Level 1 B-BBEE company and the largest manufacturer of railway sleepers in Southern Africa, with a proud 64-year track record, reopened its mothballed De Aar factory in October.

This eagerly anticipated move follows the recent conclusion of a 1-year contract with Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to supply precast concrete railway sleepers for the parastatal’s national freight rail network upgrade.   

The De Aar facility is strategically located in the Northern Cape, near one of the arterial railway junctions connecting the Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley lines. Through its manufacturing facility reopening, the company will not only provide a much-needed boost to the regional economy through the creation of jobs – and additional upstream and downstream manufacturing and supply opportunities – but is now in a position to reach its inherent capacity, with the production of over 1 million railway sleepers per annum.

Parallel tracks of growth and development

This will pave the way for growth in South Africa and beyond, according to Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gwen Mahuma-Madida.

“Africa is rich in natural resources, but much-needed growth and progress are often hampered by lack of finance and the required infrastructure. Colossal Concrete Products understands the pivotal importance of infrastructure development – and the impact that this has on the economic development of any country. In line with our precast concrete manufacturing capacity, skills and our Pan-African growth strategy, Colossal can play a significant part in the roll-out of rail, civils and general infrastructure development – improving the overall prosperity of the continent,” Mahuma-Madida explains.

The company has grown substantially over the past two years, taking over from a listed entity and entrenching its own style and culture, while maintaining a sound client base and expanding its market share both locally and cross-border.

This followed the June 2021 acquisition – by a consortium made up of Colossal Africa Group, Mafoko Holdings, Clone Capital and Randvest Capital – of Aveng Infraset’s Brakpan and De Aar facilities for their rail, telecommunications, civil engineering and specialised precast concrete manufacturing capabilities and intellectual property (IP).

Mahuma-Madida says that even though the De Aar facility had in fact been mothballed prior to the 2021 acquisition, its potential was always extremely evident: “The TFR contract has been the catalyst for the reopening, and there are now further plans to keep the operation sustainable. The acquisition of an adjoining property in De Aar will also assist us in growing our footprint within the renewable energy space, which is on the cusp of significant growth following the publication of the final draft of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Masterplan in July this year,” she explains, adding that the De Aar facility is close to the current Northern Cape hub of many renewable energy projects – and is expected to be pivotal in supplying products such as precast wind turbine towers, amongst others.”

Concretising job creation

“De Aar, like many areas in the Northern Cape, has been economically depressed in recent years. It is with this in mind that one of the most important elements in the rejuvenation of the manufacturing facility is the creation of some fifty jobs. No employment opportunities have been available since the plant was mothballed by the previous owner over three years ago, and we have been inundated with job applications. We are also collaborating closely with the local mayor and municipal manager, who are extremely excited about the plant reopening and what this means for the town as a whole, “ says Executive Director Chris ‘CK’ Klagsbrun.

Jobs include mixer operators, team leaders, boom scraper, line feeder, crane operators, boiler operators, wire feeders, fork lift drivers, grinder operators, wire cutters, slot washers, preppers and quality controllers.

“Preference is being given to those previously employed in the above positions at our De Aar facility, and I am confident that a fair percentage of former employees will be re-employed,” he advises. 

Mahuma-Madida adds that not only are she and her team extremely pleased to have a contract which necessitated the plant reopening; but also that all Colossal’s products have met the safety and technical requirements required when implementing projects for TFR.

“The foundational concept here is that infrastructure development and job creation go hand-in-hand: when TFR – or any other public or private sector entity – chooses Colossal as their precast concrete products provider, this means that we can create jobs,” she emphasises.

Further down the track 

Mahuma-Madida notes that the company’s 64-year track record as a supplier of precast products in rail, telecommunications, civil engineering and mining – as well as its valuable intellectual property (IP) – were a critical part of the original decision to acquire Aveng Infraset’s Brakpan and De Aar precast concrete manufacturing plants.

Currently, Colossal Concrete Products is recognised internationally as one of the world’s most innovative and diverse concrete sleeper producers, with a highly experienced research and development division having developed over 40 rail-related products. In addition, Colossal manufactures other precast concrete products including culverts, poles and masts, for use in the mining, civil engineering, construction and renewable energy sectors, to name but a few. There are furthermore plans manufacture wind turbine towers moving forward.

“We are still the only company locally that has such a large range of railway products.  To retain that leadership position is critical. While our competitors do manufacture a selective range of main line  sleepers, we are the only ones to make the entire range,” she says.

Already, there are plans to move manufacture of all turnout sleepers to De Aar. These are highly specialised and supplied to VAE which adds rails.

Technically, Klagsbrun points out that Colossal has maintained its high manufacturing standards with all specifications remaining in line with original technology provided by its Swedish licensor. The company also consistently invests in research and development, which remains a very crucial element of the business.

“Our vision is to constantly bring innovative new solutions to the rail, mining, renewable energy, civil engineering and construction sectors – among many others. Taking this a step further, we also plan to replicate what Colossal does across Africa. We have already grown our consulting division close to home; and we are working closely with our Swedish partner on Pan-African rail projects. There have been two recent enquiries around establishing new manufacturing plants which we have participated in, where Colossal could either oversee construction or conclude service level agreements to manage these facilities,” Klagsbrun explains.

A new platform for De Aar

As the company is a major player in the precast concrete space supplying the mining, construction, civils and general infrastructure sectors, Mahuma-Madida says every Colossal facility will always produce a variety of products servicing multiple sectors: “Not only is the De Aar plant strongly positioned for projects in the renewable energy space – but it is strategically and operationally well placed to fill the gap left by the closure of companies serving the construction sector in the Northern Cape,” she points out.

“Therefore, once we have a solid base and increasing revenue, we will resume marketing to the civil engineering and construction sector once again, selling our culverts, pipes and more. When the De Aar and other plants serving the construction sector closed in the Northern Cape, it left a void. Construction companies were forced to import precast products from Gauteng and other regions. So, we will fill that gap – and save them transport costs!” she enthuses.

The same goes for Colossal’s strategy in neighbouring countries: “We will use rail as a base to move into adjacent countries. Once this is set up, we can introduce other products. For us, it is very important to be a Pan-African player as well as a South African player. Although South Africa still has some way to go, that is where a lot of the infrastructure development stems from – and we really need to be part of that!

In summary, we are very sincerely committed to the future not only of rail, but also of infrastructure development – and therefore also of South Africa and the rest of the continent, and are proud to play our part in moving this forward,” Mahuma-Madida concludes.

B.E.D. Cape Town: cultivating customer relationships for a harvest of growth and success in the Western Cape agri sector

Grain SA’s NAMPO Cape 2023, held in Bredasdorp between 13 and 16 September, proved the perfect platform for Bolt and Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) Cape Town – not only to showcase its diverse product range – but also to sow the seeds of important new customer relationships within the Western Cape agricultural sector, according to B.E.D. Cape Town’s Area Sales Manager, Ruan Willers.

Established in 2010, B.E.D. Cape Town services a large and extremely varied agricultural region that extends as far as Bredasdorp, a town in the Southern Overberg region of the Western Cape: “In the Overberg region, there is a lot of canola, hops and barley; while sheep and dairy farming are typically prevalent in the Malmesbury and Swartland region. It is a very large and extremely diverse sector with a large geographical footprint throughout the province,” Willers explains.

Local is lekker

Agriculture is one of the highest earning sectors for B.E.D Cape Town, accounting for approximately a third of its business over the past year. The sector not only includes farmers and farmers’ co-operatives; but also wholesalers and retailers servicing this sector, as well as local manufacturers of agricultural equipment.

Willers says that local Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) make up a particularly important segment of this market. 

Partnering with agricultural suppliers – many of which are located in the smaller and more remote Western Cape towns – is another win / win”: “This is our route to market and enables them to stock top international brands that they would not have been able to make available to their customers without their partnership with B.E.D,” he notes.

Willers adds that, since making new customer contacts at NAMPO in September, he has closed several deals and will regularly be visiting areas close to Swellendam, as visitors to B.E.D.’s NAMPO stand had opened his eyes to opportunities within the area. 

An ear to the ground

Willers points out that NAMPO 2023 was excellent, notwithstanding the weather challenges which did impact visitor numbers this year.

“Exhibiting at the show enabled B.E.D. not only to connect with different customer segments and with potential new customers – but also to develop a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the sector.

For example, there is a general feeling of uncertainty due to the ongoing energy crisis, turbulent economic times and weather related issues. With waterlogged lands, farmers cannot plant or spray crops. This means that yields are down, while production costs are climbing. As a result, there was a certain amount of reticence when it came to spending on big ticket items at NAMPO,” Willers comments.

“That said, smaller items often pave the way for bigger business further down the track – and B.E.D.’s excellent customer service is always a favourite. Brand exclusivity also proved an asset: having the spares and knowledge to service older machines attracted significant interest, which is an important entry point that could ultimately lead to more enquiries and business further down the line,” he adds.

At NAMPO 2023, B.E.D. showcased a range of brands and products, including established names such as Fronius and SKF. “We also used showcased Metabo, an international supplier of industrial power tools, grinders and impactors which we are introducing to the Western Cape’s agricultural sector,” Willers adds. 

Live demonstrations, which included the use of the Metabo grinders and impactors, and extended to sheet metal nibblers and glass grinding, were particularly well received by farmers and their families. 

“All in all, this was a good way to ensure our products were noticed, and to attract a crowd. NAMPO is a very dynamic event. There are so many farms and ways to reach farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole – and NAMPO is one of the best,” he enthuses.

Taking stock

Willers describes the Western Cape farming community as “real, honest, authentic and human.”

He says that community, continuity, flexibility, reliability and prompt service delivery are key to cementing bonds that can last years. As a result, he listens closely to the needs of farmers and his other agricultural customers, and has built up a portfolio of popular products,  supported by a stockholding at all times.

“Right now, everyone is ready for harvesting season and, if we cannot get that single bolt needed for one of the rollers, for example, it can cost a farmer a day’s labour. Good stockholding has enabled us to give faster service, and to keep production going. This is all about fine-tuning our operation to cater for what our agricultural customers need. Bolt and Engineering is always available and always here for them,” he maintains.

Growing fruitful relationships

Juan van Zyl, Operations Manager at B.E.D Cape Town concurs, pointing out that, in the agricultural sector, it is important as a supplier to think in the same way as one’s customers, with a human rather than a rigid corporate approach.

For van Zyl, B.E. D’s mantra ‘We care, and you matter’ applies. That starts during first time engagements (such as NAMPO) and follows through to customer service delivery.

“This is all part of the B.E.D. ‘100 / 0’ ethos which sees employees taking 100 percent responsibility and accountability with zero excuses. Add our ‘#CGB’ or ‘Continually Getting Better’ call-to-action and customers can expect good service from every single interaction,” he points out.

The company’s caring mentality also extends to their long-standing national corporate social investment (CSI) partnership with Cancervive. At NAMPO in Humansdorp and in Bredasdorp this year, B.E.D donated a Kengirl 77-piece pink toolbox for auction to raise funds. 

Farming forward

While stereotypically, farmers can be portrayed as being conservative and set in their ways, B.E.D. has found that they are in fact open to new technology, products and brands.

“We are able to assist agricultural customers in this regard. New technology ticks important boxes when it comes to efficiency, productivity and cost containment. What sets Bolt and Engineering apart, is being able to introduce new technology, products and ideas without sacrificing the warmth and character for which B.E.D. has always been known and loved for the past four decades. With this mindset, we look forward to consistently partnering in – and furthering – the growth and success of the agricultural sector in the Western Cape,” Willers concludes.

AES: putting the benefit back into ore beneficiation for mines through optimised steam generation

Efficiency, reliability, maintenance, sustainability, fuel selection and procurement are just some of the challenges facing the mining sector – and, as one of South Africa’s leading operations and maintenance service providers to the steam and boiler sector, Associated Energy Services (AES), is perfectly placed to optimise these.

AES Commercial Director, Dennis Williams, points out that AES has walked a “long and well-trodden path” with many different industries and is currently focusing on growing its footprint in this pivotal sector.

“Our ability to deliver efficient steam generation is based on reliability and the continuity of operation as well as on the cost of production. Any opportunity to improve on production costs through reduced fuel usage will definitely have a positive operational and financial impact,” he says.

Superior energy from steam

Williams says that, although steam is often taken for granted or even relegated to history as having no part in modern industrial processes, it is in fact an important and useful energy carrier. Within the mining context, the energy generated from steam assists with everything from downstream ore beneficiation and specialist mining processes to on-site cooking and heating for mineworkers’ accommodation. 

“Typically, while a mine’s steam plant is operating and supplying steam, there is little concern. However, few mines operate their steam generation facilities with the same care as their core production equipment. Hence, this aspect of their operations and maintenance tends to lag behind the others – and this is where AES can assist,” he says.

AES’s experienced assistance encompasses many aspects, including operational efficiencies and maintenance planning, shutdown maintenance or even supplementing the often limited steam boiler operation skills pool available to mines in remote locations.

“How are you managing spare parts procurement? Can you locate a service provider? These are things that are part of our daily planning. Therefore, prospective mining clients can be sure that, when challenges arise, we are able to turn things around in the shortest possible time,” he adds.

Efficiency and productivity are the key deliverables specified as part of its service level agreements – topped off with a performance guarantee for which the company is well-known. Furthermore, Williams says that AES takes pride in partnering with clients to create bespoke solutions based on their specific operational challenges and objectives.

Mining bespoke solutions

Bespoke solutions often depend on the skills and management that have historically been on site, and the type of plant and equipment in play.

“A key focus would be on areas which the mine finds particularly challenging – as well as on their operational strengths. Potential clients in the mining sector will soon see just how far-reaching taking something like steam generation out of their scope of management – and letting AES look after it – can be. They will also see how the benefits flow from that upstream to their beneficiation process.

If you have reliable, good quality steam, you can optimise your process to the maximum. You no longer have to account for outages or drops in pressure from the steam supply side,” he explains. 

AES begins with a careful site analysis, before coming up with proposed technical solutions. In some instances, for example, the plant in use may not be fit for purpose or require changes in how it is used or configured. 

“From a skills and efficiency commitment perspective, we certainly can address challenges – whether it is maintenance and reliability or just understanding problems as a result of poor fuel selection or poor operations control. This can even extend to other areas such as sustainability, including carbon footprint reduction and reducing the consumption of water,” he notes.

Remote monitoring, valuable insights

AES’s remote monitoring system (RMS) also plays an important role here. 

“When we arrive on site and share data through our RMS system, we can make a client more aware of the impacts that their operations have on our ability to supply them with steam efficiently and reliably. Our RMS system is an Internet-based interface, and clients can even set up their own tailored dashboard to provide them with the key metrics that will influence their processes moving forward,” he advises.

Williams adds that AES is also able to assist with potential expansions. “Many mines want to open new reserves and explore new operations – but they are constrained as the national energy utility is not always able to supply them with sufficient power. In this case, AES will recommend and propose standalone power generation solutions to allow mines to develop such opportunities.”

Health, safety and sustainability

AES is acutely aware of very specific issues within the mining sector, starting with stringent health and safety requirements.

“AES can assist by ensuring that South Africa’s mines do not experience unnecessary downtime due to lost time injuries (LTIs). 25 years of experience in working with potentially dangerous pressurised steam and combustion plant means the company has an inherent awareness of – and focus on – safety. Our ISO 9001, 14 001 and 45 001 certification is testament to how the business is managed and how it can contribute to the optimised operations and maintenance in sectors such as mining,” Williams adds. 

He points out that another area where mines are under particular pressure is sustainability and environmental impact. Once AES understands a client’s objectives – whether it is reducing costs related to sustainability, mitigating these costs completely or even rebranding their business as the greenest choice in its market – the viable options can be addressed.

He points out that each of these options will have a completely different trajectory. AES can look at the energy requirements on site and how these can be integrated, share information pertaining to the very latest technologies and make solution-, technology- and fuel-agnostic recommendations. An example in this case would be using alternative, less carbon-intensive fuel sources such as biomass.

Most importantly, all of AES’s inputs are made with the unique objectives and geographical location of each mining business in mind: “For example, we make recommendations based on the geographical accessibility of fuels and the cost of transportation; as well as how, if used, they will impact on the operating costs within a reduced carbon footprint scenario.

Then there is the execution strategy. This is where our many years of expertise and experience in the operations and maintenance space – not to mention our performance guarantee – means that mines can look forward to the myriad benefits of smooth, reliable steam generation and energy for ore beneficiation and many other applications,” Williams concludes.

Passion for safety pays off: Dekra Industrial achieves its 9th consecutive NOSCAR Award with highest-ever score

Dekra Industrial SA has clinched its 9th annual NOSCAR safety award – and achieved its highest-ever score as a recipient of the greatest safety honour from the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA).

However, for Dekra Industrial Managing Director, Johan Gerber, and Dekra Industrial’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Manager, Carina Kleinhans, there would be no safety without people.

“We entrench a safety culture both within and outside the workplace in line with our global company Dekra’s stated intention to be a global partner for a safe and sustainable world by 2025. This means safety is an integral and inherent part of our DNA, and always a key priority,” explains Gerber.

Kleinhans agrees: “This is a very noteworthy achievement and, to be the recipient of this for the 9th consecutive year, speaks volumes about who we are and what we aspire to be as a company.”

Safety in numbers

The award is only conferred after an extremely rigorous verification audit. Scores need to be above 95%, with a disabling accident frequency rate of less than 0.8%, no fatal accidents, no occupational health issues and no major environmental incidents.

Kleinhans says Dekra has improved its score consistently from 92.26 in 2014 to 97.61 in 2023. This fact alone demonstrates that the auditor’s recommendations have been consistently implemented by Dekra for 9 years.

For his part, Gerber is very proud that Dekra Industrial SA has emerged as a top performer within the well-established international Group, which has an impressive 98-year track record.

“Dekra in other parts of the world tends to focus on single industry vertical sectors such as the automotive industry; while locally, Dekra Industrial performs non-destructive testing (NDT) and inspection services for an extremely diverse range of industries: literally, from mines to a nuclear facility and many more. Hence, the company’s systems and records cover a far wider range of environments, regulations and requirements. Complying with South Africa’s strict OSH Act also sets the bar even higher,” he notes.

No safety without people

Kleinhans concurs, adding that Dekra Industrial is committed to safety from management level right through to each team member in every branch across South Africa. Furthermore, management has an open-door policy, and employees are asked to recognise the achievements of their colleagues by nominating them as monthly safety ambassadors.

These ambassadors not only prioritise safety for themselves but ensure that others follow suit. By recognising safety ambassadors via wall posters – as well as certificates and commendations –  employees are motivated to continue prioritising safety, and even to report near misses to ensure that serious accidents do not happen.

“They truly are each other’s keepers,” she says of a workforce which is proud of their ingrained safety culture.

“It is important for our employees to be able to say that they work for a company that has received this 9th NOSCAR safety award. The same goes for our clients. This speaks to our safety consistency – and proves that we walk the talk,” she enthuses.

She adds that Dekra Industrial’s achievements – also reflected in awards presented by clients in the power generation and petrochemical industries for excellent work on individual sites – reflect that clients can be confident that they are working with a service provider which not only upholds a culture of safety itself, but which is a safety role model for the whole of industry.

Safety and accountability: closing the circle

Kleinhans believes accountability is also important: “For example, I am accountable should I not notice that a planned task observation by a supervisor is not done; or that waste disposal is not carried out using a landfill management company which complies with environmental legislation.

From the moment we open a can until the moment it goes into a landfill, I need to prove that all rules and regulations are adhered to – and that I leave behind a future for all our children. If I cannot, then that is regarded as a non-conformance. I need to be able to prove that my circle is closed,” she explains.

The same goes for health, which requires a far more holistic approach than in the past, and no longer simply means sending employees for annual medical checks, but also extends to ensuring that employees are physically healthy and mentally well.

Safety training

DEKRA Industrial’s commitment to occupational health safety extends not only to training its employees but providing safety-related training to companies operating across a broad spectrum of industries via its division the DEKRA Institute of Learning (IOL).

The IOL is one of only two training institutions in Gauteng to have received accreditation from the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) as a designated assessment centre for its Health and Safety Practitioner course.

Christopher Morsner, Head of Training at Dekra IOL, says this was a strategic move in tandem with an overall national increase in focus on health and safety throughout  industry: “At Dekra IOL, we are the industry’s partner for occupational health and safety, skills and education: from the office to the shopfloor and more. As such, we focus on developing the occupational competency of employees across all levels in an organisation.”

Morsner says that there are plans underway which will ultimately see the IOL accredited as an assessment centre for the other 39 qualifications and 12 skills programmes within the adult-based education sector.

Profiting from safety

Gerber notes that another spin-off from an entrenched culture of safety is the fact that those Dekra Industrial teams which are safety conscious are also the most profitable. For example, those servicing the petrochemical and power generation sector – which have particularly strict safety requirements – are the top performers.

“If you are committed to safety, then you are committed to self-discipline, doing your job well implementing and being compliant with company rules – and delivering quality. Safety is the easiest thing on which to compromise – however, if you are vigilant here, you will be vigilant when it comes to everything else. This is certainly the case with our team at Dekra Industrial, and I want to sincerely thank Carina and her team for ensuring that we remain firmly on track as the ‘heroes of safety’ which we always aspire to be,” he concludes.