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Rand-Air provides compressed air for environmentally friendly East Rand dump reclamation project

Rand-Air, a leading local provider of portable air and power and a responsible corporate citizen welcomes the opportunity to be involved in projects of an environmentally-friendly nature, which, at the same time, also benefit the community.

The project concerned involves the reclamation of four historical mine dumps at the site of the former Zincor zinc refinery just to the south of Springs. The refinery was constructed from a former uranium plant belonging to the defunct Vogelstruisbult gold mine. These dumps include a high-hazard certified waste tailings dam, two gold tailings dams and an iron/lead/zinc residue dump.

The initial phase of the project entails hydro-mining the neutral leach dump, which comprises 2.5-million tons of zinc material that will be processed over an eight- to nine-year period. The neutral leach dump was formed between 2000 and 2010 as a result of zinc/copper ore treatment from the effluent plant. The zinc tailings will be treated with acid leach filtration followed by hydroxide precipitation and filtration.

This metals reclamation project is being carried out by EBM Projects, a subsidiary of Vele Private Equity which is, in turn, a subsidiary of Vele Investments. The project has a net present value is in excess of R1-billion and the estimated value of the property’s remaining in-situ lead, silver, gold and iron-ore resources is estimated at about R22-billion.

By removing potentially hazardous metals from these defunct dumps, EBM Projects is eliminating a potential environmental risk, while at the same time creating direct and indirect work opportunities for some 700 individuals. This initiative is welcome in a region where job opportunities are relatively scarce.

“We are hiring out three of our top-of-the-range compressors, two GA315FF and a GA160VSDFF. The compressed air is being used to operate the filter presses which remove water from the mineral products,” explains Rand-Air’s Business Development Manager Henry Fourie. The rental contract commenced in February this year and will continue for a five-year period.

In line with Rand-Air’s long-term rental solutions ethos, all support and necessary maintenance is undertaken by Rand-Air. “We have made commitments to rapid response in the unlikely event of a technical issue and – if we are not able to provide an immediate solution – we’ll provide EBM Projects with an exchange unit,” he adds.

One of Rand-Air’s top-of-the-range compressors hired out to EBM Projects

By doing this, Rand-Air relieves EBM Projects of the burden of sourcing compressed air, allowing the minerals company to concentrate on its core business.

“By providing EBM Projects with these three technologically-advanced Atlas Copco compressors, we provide our client with the lowest cost cubic-metres-a-minute compressed air possible,” he continues.

The provision of the latest most advanced compressors and generators is a key part of Rand-Air’s service strategy. “When customers rent equipment from us, it is imperative that the equipment concerned give the user an ‘as new’ experience,” he elaborates. By doing this, Rand-Air meets the terms of its frequently quoted marketing slogan: ‘Exceeding Customer Expectations’.

“We are very pleased that through our offering to EBM Projects, Rand-Air is able to contribute to the creation of employment while also making our contribution to a cleaner, more pollution-free environment,” concludes Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus.

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 remains sustainable and ahead of the curve with ‘positively disruptive’ business ethos

The local market leader in portable air compressors and generator rental, Rand-Air, was established 45 years ago – long before the concept of so-called ‘positive disruption’ became a trendy topic of wider business discussion in MBA classes around the country and internationally. However, in many aspects, Rand-Air has in fact been a quietly efficient and self-styled ‘positive disruptor’ in the equipment rental business for over four decades.

“In the past, we actually built up a reputation for being something of an innovator, in that we have always sought to exceed our customers’ expectations – no matter how tough the requirement, or the innovative solutions we had to come up with – in order to provide unmatched service excellence,” says Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus.

The company has been striving for continuous improvement, in line with its ethos, more recently too – particularly in the face of the avalanche of information and resulting change driven by today‘s social media and general digital interconnectedness.

“When it comes to customer service, we realised the people who hire our equipment have instantaneous access to information about competitors too; and are therefore able to make comparisons very quickly and easily. We protect our reputation as a leader in our field very assiduously; and offer customer service which stands up to, and exceeds, any comparisons,” he continues.

For this reason, the company ethos of ‘exceeding customer expectations’ is not merely a smooth slogan, but is translated into action every single day, by staff throughout the company.

The management echelon of Rand-Air has for some time intentionally driven an ethos and practice of ‘internal’ improvement within the company. “We are grounded and given direction by the intention of what we are doing, and gain much inspiration from the energy and momentum this provides within the context of our daily responsibilities and our longer-term goals,” adds Rand-Air Sales Manager Kim Coetzee.

At the same time, there has been a concerted effort by the company to ensure that this ethos is embraced at all levels of the organisation, and not just by its management; as globally, this is not a new idea, and it has been found many times over that companies with a more innovative, free-thinking and motivated culture – and which are also more open to the introduction of (positively) disruptive changes – tend to thrive.

Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus

“However on a day-to-day, practical level, it does mean disrupting conventional ‘9-to-5’ attitudes; for example, delivering service excellence to our customers often means working unconventional hours and going to exceptional lengths,” Coetzee continues, adding that by the same token – and sometimes even in quite small ways – if one is not an agent of change, there is a real risk of very quickly falling behind and becoming stagnant and outdated.

Furthermore, to make any level or degree of advancement work within a company requires highly functional communication between all levels of staff: everyone must be aligned and support new initiatives, even though these may, in the short-term, mean taking the more difficult route ‘less travelled’.

Coetzee explains that the first step is the determination to make hard changes in the company environment. “Development does not mean discarding everything that has gone before; but it does mean looking critically at all areas of the business. There are some areas that will be doing extremely well and others that may be lagging. It is in these latter areas where positive disruption is likely to be highly beneficial,” she adds.

Furthermore, in a move contrary to the severe cost-cutting of recent years in the corporate world – which has often seen people development suffering as a result – Rand-Air invests substantially and consistently in superior staff training. By doing this, the people working for the company remain fully motivated and engaged – which is ultimately not only to their benefit, but that of the business.

Erasmus emphasises that international companies such as Uber and Airbnb are certainly the classic industry disruptors, which brought about completely new approaches and sweeping change to their industries.

However, he adds that the cumulative effect of small enhancements effected continuously over time, have contributed substantially to the company’s overall success.

“We have seen that many consistent, small changes or refinements really add up – to something maybe not as dramatic – but equally profound,” he adds.

“In addition, in Rand-Air, what we have encouraged is a culture where employees are able to question the status quo without the fear of negative repercussions. Within this environment, innovation, creativity and individual thinking is highly respected and valued; although any proposed changes must be based on a sound business case,” he emphasises.

In the past, in general, rental equipment had a second-rate reputation. Rand-Air realised many years ago that it also had to adjust this pattern and negative stereotypical perception. Today, if one hires a compressor or generator from the Jet Park-based company, the equipment features both the appearance and performance of being newly-purchased.

By very effectively changing or disrupting traditionally negative perceptions, the distinctive ‘Rand-Air experience’ presents customers with a positive route to conserving capital and limiting the number of depreciating assets on their books.

Rand-Air Sales Manager Kim Coetzee

“We conduct our rental business with a level of excellence that allows our customers the absolute peace of mind to concentrate solely on their core businesses,” asserts Coetzee.

“At Rand-Air, in 45 years of operation, we have always realised the importance of continuous improvement, as it has invariably allowed us to serve our customers more effectively. When they compare us to others in our field, we want to be known as the leading provider of mobile air and power, in which our customers can place their absolute trust,” asserts Erasmus.

“It is from this well-spring of trust that our service excellence, customer relationships – and the innovation and courage to make positively disruptive changes when required – have flowed – all of which have sustained our company,” he 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.

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