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‘Green’ industrial processes with Rand-Air steam boilers rental solutions’ environmental benefits

Local industry is increasing its efforts to achieve more effective carbon footprint reduction by using ‘greener’ equipment – or via the implementation of ‘green’ production processes. Rand-Air, an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps), steam boiler and lighting solutions – and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division – believes that advanced, energy-efficient ‘green’, carbon impact-reducing technology is vital.

Accordingly, the company’s environmentally-friendly steam boiler offering – earmarked as a pivotal new rental solution offering from the company earlier this year – can play a key role in reducing customers’ carbon emissions from manufacturing or production processes.

“Some steam boilers in use currently can consume up to 17 tons of coal each day, resulting in significant fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Conversely, the steam boilers, which are manufactured by Atlas Copco, include burners with a dual-fuel capability – natural gas-firing and light fuel oil-firing. The natural gas-firing option is particularly advantageous, allowing for steam boilers to generate steam from liquefied natural gas (LNG),” says Rand-Air sales representative for the Free State, Maria van Schalkwyk.

“As combustion of this gas emits a significantly lower amount of carbon dioxide than carbon-intensive fossil fuel, such as coal – while also delivering fewer pollutants – LNG can be very instrumental in lowering carbon emissions and improving air quality,” she enthuses.

Supporting the choice of Rand-Air’s natural gas-firing steam boiler is the substantial source, and imminent supply, of natural gas (in liquefied form) in the Free State, which customers can draw on as a clean fuel source.

“Paired with the advancing natural gas projects in Virginia, which are earmarked to produce an abundant local supply of LNG directly to customers by January 2022 at a competitive price, this ‘greener’ gas firing option of the steam boiler ensures a fantastic fit: an attractive and agile solution for customers’ manufacturing processes,” van Schalkwyk proposes.

In particular, one source of gas in the Free State contains almost only methane, and has a consistent composition with no sulphur, siloxanes or hydrogen, which makes it one of the best/most preferred options for consistent combustion, she highlights.

“The consequent environmental benefits are irrefutable, as the LNG produced has an 85% reduction in nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides and a remarkable 100% reduction in particulate matter, such as soot, dust or fumes,” she advances.

“Moreover, with the application of natural gas-fired steam boilers – as an alternative to coal-fired steam boilers – customers can achieve reduced operational costs through the elimination of continuous coal testing to ensure the grade is of suitable combustion quality for the required efficiency; as well as there no longer being a need for ash removal. In addition, less storage space (such as for coal stocks) is required.

“For all the above reasons, we are optimistic that once the LNG supply from the gas fields is directly available to customers, the uptake of our steam boilers will be substantial,” van Schalkwyk says.

She reiterates that steam boilers – as a versatile, flexible and cost-effective source of energy storage used in various applications – are an essential component of many South African process plants.

“With a design that provides a simple, yet swift and effective solution – these steam boilers provide the optimal ‘plug-and-play’ set-up for prime performance,” van Schalkwyk reiterates.

While the steam boiler rental solution currently comprises three-ton-an-hour steam boilers, Rand-Air will supply larger, eight-ton-an-hour units to accommodate larger applications – with each solution able to be customised and adapted to customers’ specific requirements.

Elaborating on Rand-Air’s approach to service, Van Schalkwyk notes that “whether for a two-day hire or a six-year hire, we are mindful of our customers’ operations and how the boilers could best fit into their specific application.”

“To this end, we will analyse the entire set-up including connection points, source and type of feed water and how condensate, for example, can best be applied via drainage or a reintroduction to save energy and water costs,” she says.

As with every unit in Rand-Air’s rental fleet on hire, customer service will include three-weekly on-site inspections, 24/7 technical assistance and maintenance from a team of skilled technicians and expert advice; as well as national and global support during the hire.

“We pride ourselves in taking the time and investing the extra effort to ensure we have all the customers’ specifications and applications to supply the required product to meet their particular challenges or for their specific applications.

In this way, we can make agility count by ensuring the ‘grass’ really is ‘greener’ for our customers using this very environmentally-friendly, ‘green’ steam boiler solution,” van Schalkwyk concludes.

Rand-Air’s roadshow highlights impactful role of service team in ensuring optimal customer experience

In industry, a collectively successful synergy is often indicated by the notion of the whole being ‘more than the sum of its parts’: the concept that more can be achieved by the joint collaboration and mutual strengthening of all departments within a company.  

For companies, exceptional customer service is not only enhanced by a sales department, but also relies on the bedrock efforts and role of the service department and technicians in forging a very strong link in the chain of customer experience. 

In upholding the principle of exceeding customer’s expectations, and with a business-centric ethos of making agility count for customers through the provision of remarkable service, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps), steam boiler and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, recently held a national customer service roadshow (workshop) for the service department.

For roadshow participants – Rand-Air service department team members Service Administrator and Support in Jet Park, Gauteng, Denise Moodley, Service Supervisor in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, Zane Hippolyte and experienced Yard Technician at the Rand-Air Cape Town branch in the Western Cape Alphons Motalingoane – the roadshow workshop provided invaluable insight into the role of the services department in contributing to and advancing meaningful customer service. 

“The roadshow emphasised that apart from perhaps more obvious aspects of the business – such as the sales team – the service department also forms an integral part of customer service and consequently, in the customer’s entire experience of Rand-Air,” says Hippolyte. 

The roadshow, hosted at all Rand-Air branches and depots across the country, was facilitated by the company’s management team – including General Manager Kim Coetzee, Fleet Manager Craig Swart and Sales and Marketing Manager Byrone Thorne. The training centred on the role and importance of the Rand-Air service department with regard to the complete customer service experience provided, the customer service interface communication and relationships, and explored positive strategies for impactful performance and success. 

“As a service department, we now view the value chain as a whole, and understand the importance of our role within Rand-Air and the impact the services team can make on a successful customer experience. Moving forward, we aim to provide our service in an amplified manner with even higher quality and standards than previously,” says Moodley.

She elaborates that further roadshow impressions include a greater understanding of providing a respectful and attentive service to both external and internal customers, such as the sales department: “By meeting and exceeding the demands and expectations of the internal sales team, we can drive this service excellence forward throughout the value chain, ultimately ‘paying it forward’ to external customers!” Moodley enthuses.

Hippolyte further proposes that this service excellence not only entails the customer receiving the best opportunity and equipment or solution, but a warm and personalised interaction in the process: “Such a dedicated and immersive service interface will ensure a customer’s return,” he advocates.

Motalingoane agrees: “The service department does have an empowered voice with the customers, through which we can make a transformative contribution. Moreover, a positive outlook – looking ‘on the bright side’ and being energetic and friendly – are all key elements in attracting the return of customers.” 

Further describing the key points of the roadshow training, Hippolyte highlights improving communication between the service and sales teams, for example: “We should disregard the notion of the sales team being the only communicators and forming the only relationship with customers – while the service department only supplies, repairs or maintains equipment. The training showed us that ensuring an optimal customer experience is up to us all,” he explains.

In aligning with the sales team’s communications with the customer, and by also knowing what the customer needs – in terms of the type of equipment and for which site it is required; and, by confirming that the sourcing, supply and delivery process runs swiftly and smoothly – we can ensure agility and make it count,” Hippolyte emphasises.

“There will always be a higher level of service poised to positively impact customers’ experiences of Rand-Air. Despite the perception of having achieved an ideal quantity of customers, customer service by its nature necessitates continuous improvement,” Moodley adds.

As Rand-Air, we have a responsibility in ensuring that we conscientiously, and continuously, provide the best customer service, to all customers and in every interaction,” she emphasises.

However, the realisation and acknowledgement that success is achieved by a team, and not an individual, is non-negotiable.

“Therefore, based on an impactful experience from the training – which also boosted our motivation and morale – we will increase our performance and productivity. By ensuring that we consistently work together as a team – from service to service – we can aspire to and achieve our ethos of making agility count and in reaching the common goals of Rand-Air as a whole,” Moodley concludes.

Rand-Air’s ‘future-fit’ females – shaping up for agility and sustainability

To successfully navigate the business landscape of the future, companies need to continuously adopt new strategies to ensure they are ‘future-fit’: enabling resilience, agility, sustainability and longevity. 

These strategies include changes in work processes, the implementation of new workplace tools, improvement in communications and the empowerment of employees – both personally and professionally – to create and pursue new business and innovation opportunities.

Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division – has always invested in people development. This year has been no different, with the company investing in Atlas Copco’s corporate training and mentorship programme for female employees – ‘Future-Fit Females’.

For the ‘Future-Fit Females’ course participants, assistant accountant Nokubonga Dlamini and seasoned sales representative at the Rand-Air Mpumalanga branch, Chantal Bekker, the ‘future-fit female’ embodies “a balanced, well-skilled individual, who is self-actualised and able to face any challenge with strength and confidence.”

Bekker and Dlamini are among 12 women from Rand-Air and parent company Atlas Copco who are participating in this year’s programme; which is being hosted in collaboration with niche training development and coaching consultancy Key Steps. 

Having worked for Atlas Copco since 2012 and knowledgeable in its various divisions and solutions, Dlamini’s motivation for participating in the programme stems from a need for growth, self-improvement and enhanced proficiency in communication and interaction techniques.

“I believe that ‘Future-Fit Females’ will provide enrichment in these skills and techniques, boost the existing rapport between Rand-Air and Atlas Copco and assist in improving self-expression and self-development,” she explains. 

Meanwhile, an open-mindedness to self-development turned interest into action for Bekker: “I believe one has to make changes to grow as an individual and ultimately reach one’s desired goals. 

Therefore, I am willing to change by learning and growing – personally and professionally. I consider that any training which provides this – allowing for growth and development – can teach me something of value.”

Getting ‘fit’

Conducted over nine months, (February until September), the ‘Future-Fit Female’ programme provides monthly training sessions which cover various themes to improve personal and professional life skills. These sessions, presented by Key Steps CEO Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, include one-on-one coaching sessions, professional business writing, constructive communication and conflict management; as well as a focus on emotional intelligence and personality, collaboration, and relationship-building, among others.

“These theme-specific sessions enable us to ‘shape up’ and become ‘fit’ for our daily interactions with customers, colleagues – and ourselves,” Bekker says, adding that for her, as a sales representative it remains vital to perform professionally by using effective communication and practising positive habits such as courtesy.

“By achieving proficiency in areas such as business communication or emotional intelligence, I become empowered: not only with self-confidence, but by my resulting ability to exert an influence in driving new business strategies and achieving not only my own goals, but those of the company, too.

“It is therefore key that as the course progresses, we reflect on the content and our participation, practice what we have learnt and evaluate how these skills can be applied in any personal and professional situation,” Bekker points out.

While benefitting from the skills acquired during this programme and committing to continuous communication, engagement and participation, Dlamini underscores the responsibility of contributing these skills to the rest Rand-Air team: 

“These experiences of professional and personal enrichment, as well as the knowledge and skills we have acquired will be shared with our colleagues throughout the company, to facilitate their growth and development and that of the organisation as a whole.”

Going for the Gold – ‘in agility’

Notably, the ‘Future-Fit Female’ programme plays a key role in aligning Rand-Air employees’ goals with the company’s corporate ethos of making agility count in all aspects of the business.

While Bekker credits emotional intelligence and business writing skills as some of the tools in establishing and sustaining exceptional customer interactions, Dlamini believes a greater understanding and appreciation of customers and colleagues augments performance:

“Each person – whether a customer, supplier or colleague – is important. By personalising and adding value to each interaction, we can make agility count in a very real, practical way,” Dlamini says.

Rooted in the belief that one can never lose out from taking a chance, Dlamini encourages women “to raise their hands when opportunities in career development and self-enrichment are presented.”

“We are blessed to have been given this opportunity. We would therefore like to thank Rand-Air’s management for this privilege. We also appreciate their support in ensuring that we have all the resources, as well as the time to participate,” Dlamini says.

Bekker agrees, concluding that: “This programme is one of the best currently available, teaching us how we can enable resilience, sustainability and longevity – to make agility count for ourselves and our customers, in a ‘future-fit’ way!”

‘Full steam ahead’ with Rand-Air’s steam boiler rental solution

Steam, as a thermal energy source, has been integral in multiple industrial processes since the 17th century. As such, its application has extended to steam locomotives, processing facilities, refineries, chemical plants, hospitals; as well as the food and beverage and textile sectors. 

The use of steam boilers is particularly popular in South African industry currently, with this versatile, flexible and cost-effective source of energy storage used in applications such as heating, sterilisation and turbine propulsion, among others. 

As steam can also easily be distributed to each point of use via a steam boiler, these are frequently preferred to other energy storage media. 

In light of this, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, has earmarked steam boilers as a vital rental solution for the local market. 

“Steam, as a significant energy source, is essential in industrial processes and systems. Steam boilers are therefore commonly considered to be an essential component of process plants,” explains Rand-Air Area Manager for KwaZulu-Natal Rudi De Vry.

“Should a breakdown occur, the production losses could potentially be substantial. Therefore, as part of Rand-Air’s central ethos of ‘making agility count’, we aim to support customers’ industrial operations through the use of this innovative new solution!”

Consequently, Rand-Air offers a well-planned and strategic steam boiler rental solution which provides swift, yet reliable 24/7 availability for the production process. 

“This guarantees that downtime is reduced while safety remains our top priority – keeping the ‘heart’ of the process plant beating!” emphasises De Vry. 

He furthermore advises that Rand-Air’s steam boiler rental solution, planned to suit a range of customers and industry sectors, came about through the company’s comprehensive market research, and the concerted teamwork of De Vry and seasoned sales representatives for KwaZulu-Natal Natlee Bennie and Liesel Johnson.

The team’s research was aided by the expertise of their Atlas Copco colleagues internationally; as well as various engineers and boiler specialists. This new market offering was also motivated by Rand-Air’s strong and long-standing customer relationships, which the company sought to further enhance through the provision of this solution.

“In finding the market demand and, by earmarking specific boilers which are appropriate for  current and potential customers as short-or long-term hires, Rand-Air can now offer a streamlined turnkey steam boiler solution,” emphasises Bennie. 

“The steam boilers, which are manufactured by Atlas Copco, complement our existing product portfolio of TUV-certified oil-free, diesel or electric air solutions; nitrogen solutions; power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, ensuring a diversified, yet comprehensive solution for customers,” she adds.

Adaptable and innovative

The steam boiler offering currently comprises three-ton-an-hour steam boilers with a service pressure of 14 bar and a design pressure of 16 bar. However, the company will expand this offering in future to service projects or market demand for larger sizes, Bennie notes.

The three-ton-an-hour steam boiler is fully integrated into a 20-foot container, (which can be shipped in break bulk) and includes the burner, the Programmable Logic Control (PLC) unit to monitor the boiler processes, as well as the blow-down tank. 

“Features of the boilers include full portability and modularity, with each solution customisable and adaptable to customers’ specific requirements, while following the same core design,” adds Bennie.

The rental offering will also include burners with a dual-fuel capability – natural gas-firing and light fuel oil-firing. 

Furthermore, all the hydraulic connections are located at the back of the container to simplify coupling on site. 

Optimal uptime

This design therefore ensures a simple, yet swift and effective solution, in the form of a ‘plug-and-play’ set-up for optimal uptime – another important benefit for customers, De Vry explains. 

“There are minimal complexities in terms of installation and commissioning, as we only need to connect the boilers into the customer’s current steam supply, electricity, feed water supply and fuel source. This is beneficial – and vital – particularly when customers are faced with an emergency,” he points out. 

Nevertheless, with every installation, Rand-Air is cognisant of customers’ operations and how the boilers will fit into their specific application, says Johnson.

“We strive to comprehensively understand each customer’s current process and set-up requirements, taking into consideration the piping systems, fuel source, and the type of burners used – among other elements – to determine and provide the best customised solution,” she explains. 

As part of the company’s customer service, Rand-Air will also provide 24/7 technical assistance from a team of skilled technicians and expert advice; as well as national and global support during the hire. 

Breakdowns or planned maintenance

“We have furthermore embarked on a dedicated customer education campaign, spreading awareness of this steam boiler solution, to provide customers with an effective alternative rental solution when faced with unplanned downtime or scheduled maintenance,” De Vry points out.  

Johnson agrees, further enthusing that: “These steam boilers, as an operational contingency, will become a game changer, making agility count through offering much-needed and enhanced flexibility to customers.”

De Vry further highlights the peace of mind that customers will have, knowing that they can draw on this rental solution, while focusing on their key strengths in fulfilling core business priorities to continue driving their businesses forward. “With Rand-Air’s boiler solutions, it will definitely be ‘full steam ahead’!” he concludes.

Rand-Air committed to excellence in safety with first female SHEQ officer and new ISO standard

While South African industries continuously focus on improving their manufacturing health and safety standards, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, aims to establish a leading role in health and safety. 

“Rand-Air, while prioritising safety at all times, strives to achieve and maintain excellence  – be it in new health and safety initiatives, or in complying with the latest industry requirements and standards. We have done so for the 48 years we have been in existence,” says Rand-Air Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager Bongani Thobela. 

“We are the compressor rental leaders and because of this, we need to ensure that we lead in terms of safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) as well. If Rand-Air is at the forefront of SHEQ, this will also lead to increased awareness of safety, with a positive ‘knock-on’ effect throughout our value chain,” Thobela says.

Among the many milestones in Rand-Air’s health and safety is an important addition to the company’s SHEQ team – the very first female Quality and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Administrator Lindi Maseko.

“Safety is in my veins – it is a vital part of who I am! With the new knowledge that I am increasingly grasping – in working with closely with Bongani and in being a member of the Rand-Air team, I see safety as an integral and essential part of life. It is not just about safety at work, but about how you can ‘live’ safety in all aspects of your life: at home, on the road and even socially,” Maseko enthuses.

Thobela agrees, reiterating that safety is one of the cornerstones of Rand-Air and cemented by the company’s culture and ethos of making agility count through its customer service and solutions.

In her role as the company’s first female SHEQ officer, Maseko not only strives to be a passionate ambassador for safety through new and innovative campaigns, but is committed to encouraging women in industry – and particularly her fellow female employees – “to grab opportunities and pursue futures in safety.” 

“Women should not be restricted by fear of the unknown and should discard the misconception that roles, such as SHEQ officers are only male-dominated,” she further emphasises.

Impeccable ISO

Key to Rand-Air’s SHEQ imperatives is the company’s impressive multi-certification in International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards, such as ISO 9000, 14000 and 18000. 

“Although we ensure our certifications are up to date and that we pass our independent audits annually, Rand-Air also continuously improves our safety practices to ensure 100 percent compliance to ISO; as well as entrench a complete awareness of and commitment to safety,” says Thobela.

Rand-Air’s latest ISO certification entails an upgrade from OHSAS 18001, the world’s former reference for workplace health and safety, to ISO 45001:2018. 

The ISO 45001 is the new standard for health and safety, focusing more on the interaction between an organisation and its business environment. 

“In accordance with ISO 45001, we need to implement systems to ensure that we reduce our employees’ and customers’ risks or hazards in the work environment, and ensure that these are removed – or at least reduced – as far as possible; as well as mitigate the risks which we cannot remove,” says Thobela.

“These are great initiatives to ultimately spark a better, more holistic understanding and continuation of improved SHEQ practices,” he adds.

Sustainable Safety 

With safety being one of the central driving tenets of Rand-Air’s ethos, Thobela and Maseko constantly promote and ensure safety in all aspects of the business by undertaking to involve all staff at Rand-Air, including customers and sub-contractors, in safety initiatives and compliance.

Thorough safety inductions are performed, while customers sign agreements to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Rand-Air’s safety standards, procedures and compliance requirements and vice versa. 

Internally, Rand-Air’s SHEQ department drafts regular reports, and informs the company of new safety directives, initiatives, and any changes at ‘MDW’ (Mission-Directed Work Teams) weekly meetings. 

Meanwhile, departmental ‘toolbox talks’, and ‘SHEQ representatives’ conversations enable the discussion of any technical safety-related issues, and are aimed at gaining feedback on risk observations.

First aid boxes are also regularly maintained and updated as required.

“As part of encouraging a passion for safety, we also draw on the suggestions from all Rand-Air branches and depots in exploring and adopting safety innovations,” Maseko says.

In a reflection of Rand-Air’s innovation, Thobela highlights the company’s Innovation system application, on which employees can register/record ideas on new safety initiatives; while another application allows them to record safety observations for future corrective actions.

Maseko observes: “In terms of driving safety procedures, we are continuously striving to achieve a conscientious approach and total commitment towards safety at Rand-Air. We ensure that employees – as well as our suppliers and customers – understand the pivotal importance of safety in all that we and they do.”

“Ultimately, safety is everyone’s responsibility – whether you are a cleaner, administrative assistant, technician, or a manager – and it should be a fundamental concern and ‘top of mind’ of with all. After all, it never hurt to think about safety, and could just save lives!” she concludes.

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