• Your Trusted 24 Hours Service Provider!
  • Talk to Us : +27 11 345 0700

Author Archives: Prycision

New Rand-Air GM to build further on the company’s firm foundation

Since its inception in 1973, Rand-Air has been driven by a simple yet highly effective operational ethos – to exceed customer expectations at all times. The company has underpinned this with a fleet of top-quality equipment and unmatched customer service levels; and prospered to such a degree that, in a synergistic move in 1998, leading international equipment manufacturer and supplier Atlas Copco acquired Rand-Air.

Throughout his 33 year tenure, previous Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus maintained and developed the company’s dynamic growth and development trajectory very successfully. However, in December 2019, he stepped down to embark on other ventures and a well-deserved retirement.

Taking over as Rand-Air’s new General Manager with effect from 1 January 2020 is former Sales Manager Kim Coetzee. Coetzee has been with Rand-Air for the past 24 years, and has held a variety of positions throughout the company.

“This has given me a thorough understanding of exactly how a rental company works. With this understanding and industry knowledge gained over the years, I look forward to putting this knowledge into practice, to take Rand-Air to even greater levels of achievement,” she explains.

Asked whether she has seen an evolution in the company during her time with the business, Coetzee says: “Yes definitely, the focus has shifted in terms of not only the markets we serve, but we have become an organisation that looks to offer specialised solutions to a diverse vertical industry-focused customer base – something I intend to develop even further.”

Looking to the future, Coetzee’s ethos is simple: “My focus has been – and will continue to be – exceeding customer expectations. However, I will be bringing my own interpretation to this.”

She believes that the current Rand-Air team is the best in the equipment hire industry and, therefore, her goal will be to support and grow this team further, in order to take the organisation to the next level.

“In today’s challenging times, the importance of teamwork – and of each team member making the effort to deliver consistently high-quality results – cannot be over-emphasised.” She explains that the same applies in Rand-Air; and that, to this point, every employee takes full responsibility for the work they do – no matter what the level of seniority.

“When you work for a fantastic organisation such as this, where there is a collaborative, inclusive environment with passionate people, it is possible to build on this foundation. To do this, Rand-Air annually invests considerable sums in training and developing our team, so that their growth and success is reflected in that of the company.

Personally, I have had the privilege of attending excellent management training which taught me a huge amount, personally and professionally. I look forward to applying this knowledge, in the management of Rand-Air going forward.

We also always look to attract new talent so that our team remains diverse in terms of skills and cultures,” she points out.

Coetzee furthermore emphasises the importance of being part of a global organisation – Atlas Copco Specialty Rental, a provider of world-class solutions in the air, power and flow markets – which means that Rand-Air, and consequently there customers, constantly have access to the very latest in leading-edge technology.

“Recent good examples are the introduction to the Rand-Air fleet of Atlas Copco’s two new-technology DrillAir variable high-pressure compressors, which with their versatility, will lower the cost-per-metre of drilling for various drilling applications.

Another recent innovative example is the introduction of Atlas Copco TwinPower generators. This containerised generator solution gives a very compact footprint, unrivalled versatility, optimised performance and excellent fuel economy in demanding modular power plant (MPP) applications. In addition, the two modules inside the container can be synchronised so that it is possible to supply either 1000 kVA or 500 kVA – a versatile and portable cost- and fuel-saving option for the customer,” Coetzee explains, adding that the range of Atlas Copco global solutions is extensive and, where applicable, Rand-Air makes these available to their customers.

“Our Level 3 B-BBEE rated company now has branches and agencies spread across Southern Africa, and we will continue to expand our operational footprint so that we can service our diverse market, as opportunities arise,” she continues.

“Ultimately, at Rand-Air, everything we do is focused on our customers, as our future sustainability and prosperity is vested in theirs. To this end, we recognise the importance of continuous improvement and of working hard to develop ourselves and our skillsets accordingly.

As the new General Manager of Rand-Air, I would like to extend my immense appreciation to Louwrens Erasmus for all that he did for the company – and for each and every one of us – in setting an example of continuous improvement and self-development.

For my part, I look forward to working closely with our excellent team to continue with our mission of exceeding our valued customers’ expectations with the highest quality products and service,” concludes Coetzee.

Rand-Air’s oil-free compressors, portable generators and nitrogen generators ensure ‘well-oiled’ refinery shutdowns

An oil refinery is a very large and highly complex installation. Because of this complexity and the nature of the process, shutting the plant down for ad hoc repairs is not an economical option. Oil and gas refineries are designed so that they will run uninterrupted for a period of 18 months to two years, after which sections of the refinery are shut down for scheduled periods of repair and maintenance. During what is invariably a period of frenetic activity, all repairs, upgrades and maintenance are carried out. These pre-emptive measures prevent the eventuality of unscheduled (and extremely expensive) down time.

As a shutdown at a major refinery could disrupt the flow of fuel to the nation, these events have to be meticulously planned and timed.

This is according to Rudi de Vry, Rand-Air’s Area Manager in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal.

“Before a shutdown, the oil refinery contacts all the repair and maintenance subcontractors that will be needed during the shutdown. In order to ensure that the shutdown proceeds as swiftly and smoothly as possible, these contractors need to ensure they have the tools and equipment with the correct capability and the highest levels of safety,” de Vry explains.

He adds that, to give an idea of the scale of a refinery shutdown, often thousands of contract workers are involved, who in many cases need to be supplied with temporary compressed air and power, as well as other tools and equipment.

For Rand-Air Durban, situated strategically near a number of major oil refineries, shutdowns are therefore critical events in their annual project hire planning.

“For these, before the shutdown starts, we need to assemble a specific ‘fleet’ of rental equipment which can include dozens of items. In terms of this, the logistics can be very challenging, as often equipment items have to be brought from our other branches in order to meet refinery shutdown requirements. Once in Durban, these will have to be checked to make sure they meet the refinery’s scrupulous quality, safety and reliability standards,” he advises.

“We been in business for some 46 years and, during this time, we have become the preferred rental equipment partner to many South African oil refineries,” de Vry continues.

For example, in July this year, South Africa’s largest refinery completed a month-long shutdown, during which contractors worked on site around the clock. With its reputation for supplying high quality, ultra-reliable generators and compressors, Rand-Air was called upon to hire out significant quantities of equipment to the refinery.

“With the immense deadline pressure, equipment downtime had to be avoided at all costs – something which Rand-Air managed to do with great success in this instance,” he adds.

During the shutdown, various sections of the refinery needed to be activated temporarily for testing purposes. Here, compressed air is used for driving the refinery’s control systems. Ironically, though the installation is an oil refinery, the air used in control systems has to be absolutely free of oil vapour and other contaminants. “Fortunately, we are able to meet this requirement with our Class-0 oil-free compressors. Our ability to supply absolutely pure, clean, dry compressed air has built up a strong niche for Rand-Air in the refinery market,” de Vry continues.

Similarly, during the shutdown, temporary power was also needed for various functions in the refinery. These included extensive welding for repairs and maintenance, the execution of which was also achieved more efficiently with the use of Rand-Air portable generators.

On a second refinery shutdown-related hire by Rand-Air this year, contractors working in the tank section of the refinery also needed compressors to carry out cleaning, shot blasting and spray-painting. Furthermore, this refinery’s alkylation unit was shut down completely for maintenance and upgrade, and Rand-Air’s generators were used for chemical washing in the alkylation unit and for the change rooms.

Apart from compressed air and portable power, Rand-Air – through parent company Atlas Copco’s global rental network – is also able to supply nitrogen generators to its refinery customers. Nitrogen is used for inerting, blanketing, and purging, the aim being to suppress flammability by reducing oxygen levels to a point where combustion is no longer possible.

“Refineries are, after all, in the business of producing highly flammable liquids – and therefore the potential for risk is high unless very stringent counter-measures are taken. Rand-Air recognises this critical operational and safety consideration – and therefore every single equipment item that is sent to a refinery is checked and double-checked to ensure that it meets with the customer’s safety, health, environmental and quality standards,” he comments.

De Vry also explains that Rand-Air goes to considerable effort to familiarise itself with the refinery’s safety standards, so that it can be 100% compliant with its customer’s all-important safety requirements.

“During nearly five decades of operation, Rand-Air has developed and nurtured a close relationship with South Africa’s oil refineries, including those in Durban,” observes Rand-Air’s General Manager Louwrens Erasmus.

“At Rand-Air, we have achieved this through scrupulous adherence to one of our fundamental business tenets – to always exceed what our customers expect of us, in every single area of the business,” he concludes.

Excellent service ensures Rand-Air is the supplier of choice in South Africa’s dry docks

Those who have worked in shipyards, harbours and dry docks will be familiar with the pressure and constant urgency, which is exacerbated by frequent delays due to anything from weather to a backlog of vessels awaiting maintenance or repair.

When it comes to corrosion control, it is not something one can simply postpone and do later. The shipping industry’s natural environment of saltwater means constant and precise corrosion prevention and maintenance is required.

This is according to Craig Swart, Fleet Manager at Rand-Air, a hire industry stalwart and provider of compressed air and portable power to a variety of industries – including the maritime sector – for the past 46 years.

“Proper corrosion control is therefore vital to every vessel’s safety, and its ability to perform at sea. One of the most effective means to remove rust and corrosion from the hull of a ship is through sandblasting,” says Swart, adding that Rand-Air is a longstanding supplier of compressors used for sandblasting in the maritime industry, with fast response times, superior standards of quality and safety, and a depot in close proximity to the docks.

“We understand the importance of corrosion control, as well as the challenges our customers sometimes have to contend with. Customers often cannot tell for sure when a vessel will dock, so we sometimes need to provide equipment a day or two before the vessel actually docks. Weather plays a vital role too – should it rain, the customer cannot continue working – so again, this poses a challenge to operational efficiencies.”

By making it their business to support maritime customers by offering a range of high-quality equipment and personalised service, Rand-Air has become the supplier of choice for many companies in the maritime sector.

“Our maritime customers place great importance on reliability, prompt back-up service and value for money. We work with them to ensure the necessary equipment and service is there when they need it. In addition to compressors for sandblasting, we also provide lighting kits for working at night,” says Swart.

Swart points out that, while typically in the local maritime industry, sandblasting is not done using oil-free air extensively, but rather using filters and moisture traps – possibly due to cost considerations – technically, and in the interests of optimal equipment efficiency and life, 100 % oil-free air is definitely preferable, and recommended, for the following reasons:

100% oil-free compressed air, which is a requirement in the maritime environment as any oil residue in the compressed air would contaminate the abrasive and blasted surfaces. Moisture in the abrasive blasting process causes flash rusting on the blasted surface and blast pot clogging. With 100 % oil-free air, blasting equipment efficiency and life is prolonged and equipment maintenance costs are reduced.

Compressed air volumes from 750 CFM to as high as 1600 CFM or more at 7-10 bar (100-150 PSI) per blasting set up are typically supplied.Diesel units are the predominant choice unless the term of the rent and availability of power provide the option for electric-driven ones.Oil-free compressed air is used throughout industry where the purest compressed air quality is critical to the end-product and to the processes involved.

“As the leading provider of portable power and air solutions in the country, Rand-Air has the right solution for our customers, in that we are able to supply oil-free compressors which have a TUV Class 0 certification under the ISO 8573-1 standard. With this assurance, customers can have peace of mind that they are guaranteed 100% oil-free compressed air,” explains Swart.

In additional to compressor, generator and lighting kits rentals, Rand-Air works closely with its maritime customers to ensure industry best-practice is adhered to. These include special attention to safety, environmental concerns, and security.

According to Swart “Our maritime customers appreciate that we understand their industry. We know that most shipyards and industrial facilities are extremely concerned about any materials that end up on their property. This emphasises the need for spill containment on the rental equipment; as well as electric-driven units were applicable. We also pay close attention to safety and security and ensure that proper identification and check in/out procedures are met.”

With its keen knowledge of the needs of the maritime industry, Rand-Air has built a reputation as the ‘go-to’ supplier when vessels require corrosion control and maintenance.

“We have worked hard to ensure we understand what our customers require in this demanding and fast-paced segment, and we are proud to be first on the list when they need assistance,” Swart concludes.

Rand-Air’s training – investing in the ‘art of management’ to remain fresh and relevant

For any company to function successfully – and continue to be fresh and relevant in today’s ever-changing and challenging economic climate a range of skills such as those found in sales or in the technical disciplines are required. However, these will not be effective without effective management expertise to integrate and provide strategic direction and leadership – which is one of the scarcest skills in the corporate field today.

The art of management is a very particular asset and requires a wide range of capabilities. In addition, companies usually have very specific requirements of their management team, and therefore organically developing in-house potential and capability is often preferable to importing management expertise from outside.

Leading provider of portable air and power Rand-Air is part of the Atlas Copco Group, a company with a history dating back to 1873. Throughout its history, Atlas Copco has placed a strong emphasis on training, a strength that has seen it grow from manufacturing steam engines to the major industrial corporate it is today. The importance of training is also key to Rand-Air, which has long been known locally for its consistent investment in employee development and its people-centric ethos.

In late 2017, Rand-Air Sales Manager Kim Coetzee was selected to attend training at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in 2018. The SSE’s FEM Executive Management Programme is part of an international development programme for managers at a range of leading Scandinavian companies.

“There were participants from six different companies, and ten different countries who attended the course over a period of four months. The course embraced a variety of active learning approaches, such as case studies, group work, experience-based learning, structured reflections and project assignments,” explains Coetzee.

With the rapid industrialisation of Europe at the turn of the last century, the Stockholm School of Economics was founded in 1909 to develop Sweden’s management echelon. The purpose of the SSE’s FEM programme is to develop and enhance general management and leadership skills from a multi-financial perspective and thereby enhance the participant’s ability to lead a team in a multi-national context.

To be selected for this course requires two key characteristics from participants: a track record of successful management experience and high motivation for continued development.

Coetzee explains that the FEM programme developed the following key areas:

  • Business environment and global outlook
  • Corporate and competitive strategy
  • Business model development
  • Financial strategy and financial analysis
  • Business control and performance management
  • Industrial marketing
  • Innovation and the network economy
  • Leadership and personal development
  • Virtual distance leadership

These themes are woven seamlessly into the program forming an ongoing process of growth through dialogue, structured learning reviews and reflection. The delivery is provided through a blended learning approach.

“During the course, we were involved in short remote sessions and webinars to complement and complete the delivery done in the face-to-face programme days,” she continues.

“Another very beneficial aspect of this training is the global network that was created as a result of our participation. We connected and formed contacts with participants from companies all over the world.”

“As a result, you get new ideas on how to implement different things in your own business, because you are exposed to other environments and other ways of doing things. It enhances and enriches you as a person – and enables you to think differently and approach things from a different perspective,” she enthuses.

“When I returned from the training, I was very excited and keen to try new things within Rand-Air. We conducted a workshop within the company, and selected people from our various branches and operational areas.

From there, we looked at ways in which we could do things differently and improve. As a result, we have developed project teams, which are duly incentivised. This provides an effective and ongoing mechanism within the company to foster innovation and drive creativity.”

She explains that there are certain requirements that have been identified where Rand-Air could improve their customers’ experience. The company also has a team working to develop a viable solution to this challenge, as exceeding customers’ expectations remains a key organisational imperative for the business.

“Training stimulates new ideas upon which the current and future industry growth is based. You have to find new ways of doing things if you want to grow and ensure sustainability. We are fortunate in that Rand-Air has always seen the benefit of continuous learning, development and looking for new and innovative ways in which to improve our customer service and remain fresh and relevant,” she concludes.

Opening up on shut downs: Rand-Air takes the stress out of mine shutdown equipment hires

With the vast amounts of capital invested in them, the production pressures on major mines are immense and unscheduled production stoppages need to be avoided at all costs.

However, a mine’s major plant installations such as compressor and metallurgical facilities are pivotal to production. Breakdowns in these areas can be hugely expensive to recover from. Planned shutdowns provide a mine with the means to avoid unscheduled stoppages, as these allow for maintenance, repair and upgrading of plant and facilities, which, because they often work a 24/7 duty cycle,  cannot be taken out of service in the normal run of duty.

Rand-Air, during its 46 years of operation, has proven itself as a valued partner in the service of many mines during both planned and unplanned shutdowns.

“The keys to a successful scheduled shutdown are meticulous planning and effective communication,” says Rand-Air Internal Sales Consultant Adele Matthee, who speaks from vast experience as every year, for many years, Rand-Air has partnered with many of its mining customers to ensure their planned shutdowns are successful.

“With many of our mining customers, we have been involved in their planned shutdowns for many years and have a very good knowledge of the type and quantity of hire equipment they will typically need,” says Matthee. Many of Rand-Air’s mining customers have the foresight to start planning a shutdown months in advance. “This is immensely valuable for us at Rand-Air as we can plan to have all necessary equipment ready at the due date,” she continues.

Often with planned shutdowns, specialist contractors are brought onto site to carry certain specific contracts. However, to avoid the unwieldy situation of contractors hiring and rehiring equipment, mines tend to place a single order for hire equipment which they then put at the disposal of the contractors concerned.

However, even with planned shutdowns, the parameters involved can change from one year to the next. In the light of this, Matthee explains that experience has taught Rand-Air staff what salient questions to ask mine engineers who are planning a shutdown.

Having really good knowledge of a mine’s operations is very valuable when preparing for a shutdown, explains Matthee. One needs to know practicalities such as how hire machinery will connect to a mine’s reticulation systems or whether a mine will be able to use electric machines or not.

Rand-Air has a long-standing reputation for supplying high-performance, reliable equipment. This factor is critical during mining shutdowns as servicing or repairing a machine in the middle of one of these events would be prohibitively disruptive for the customer. “Even if it means servicing a machine prematurely, we would rather do this than risk interrupting a shutdown,” she continues.

With both planned and unplanned shutdowns, the volumes of air that a mine requires can exceed what Rand-Air can supply from its own fleet. However, Rand-Air has other trusted suppliers from whom it can hire additional compressors to make up the volume required.

Once the necessary hire equipment has been sourced, the next challenge is to transport it, often from various distant locations, to the mine itself. “Here, once again, we have years of experience of working with certain trusted logistics companies who we know will deliver safely and on time.” In this respect, Rand-Air’s knowledge of specific mines safety and permitting requirements is of great assistance. “Many mines are sticklers for safety and so truck drivers carrying out Rand-Air’s deliveries need to be equipped with the correct PPE and paperwork before they will be permitted to drive on to a mine,” she continues.

Once the machines are on site, should a mine hire more than a certain number of machines, Rand-Air will place a full-time technician on site as well as a containerised mini-depot stocked with all the spares that the technician is likely to need. Usually shutdown projects work around the clock to ensure rapid completion. When this is the case, Rand-Air will ensure that technical support is also available on a 24-hour basis.

Unplanned shutdowns place entirely different demands on Rand-Air. Matthee explains that the first notice Rand-Air often receives is a phone call asking for immediate help.

As Rand-Air hires out portable compressors, the largest being a 1,500 cfm model, this means sourcing and delivering many compressors to make up the volume on these occasions.

When Rand-Air receives an unplanned shutdown call, Matthee immediately consults with Rand-Air’s logistics section to establish what equipment is available within the company. “We have a computerised system operating throughout Rand-Air which we call our ‘fleet board’, which tracks the bookings and the availability of all our equipment. This is essential as we do not want to be taking a compressor, for example, from one of our depots for a certain hire when it has been booked for another,” she says.

And then again, if Rand-Air does not have the fleet available at that specific time, Matthee and her colleagues have the experience and know from which suppliers they can cross-hire reliable, quality equipment. In this instance, Rand-Air takes on the role of the project manager. “For our customers, it means that they can make one phone call and know that, for a shutdown, they can source all their hire equipment from one reliable supplier,” she says.

“Over time, the role of project consultant is one we are increasingly taking on,” Matthee explains.

As mentioned, continuous effective communication during the planning and execution of a shutdown contract is essential for success. Matthee explains that Rand-Air has developed a system which allows everyone involved from both the supplier and the customer sides to be fully apprised of exactly what is happening at any given time. If for example a compressor is being sourced from a distant site, the customer will know when the truck has been dispatched to fetch it, when the compressor is being loaded, when the truck is once again on the road and what the estimated time of arrival is. “This affords the customer peace of mind so they can concentrate on their core activities,” she says.

An advantage that Rand-Air has is that, for many years, the company has had a consistently low staff turnover. When a mine contracts with Rand-Air to supply equipment for a shutdown, it will benefit from the accumulated expertise of Rand-Air’s highly experienced staff.

“For us at Rand-Air, mine shutdowns, while they are challenging, are also very exciting as they give us the opportunity to show what our company is capable of,” explains Matthee.

“The achievement of finding 50,000 cfm of compressed air for a customer at short notice and getting it safely to site on time is a satisfying and rewarding experience both for ourselves and, ultimately, for our customers,” she concludes.