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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 portable LED lighting units: placing mines in a favourable light

With the enormous investment placed in large open-pit mines, the pressure is on these operations to produce. Inevitably, this dictates that they work around the clock. However, working at night does present some very real potential safety hazards which are not present during the hours of daylight.

This is according to Craig Swart, Fleet Manager at Rand-Air, the leading local provider of compressed air and power to the mines, as well as to many other industry sectors.

“The most serious potential hazard in an open-pit mine – even during daylight hours – are the very large load-hall-dumpers, excavators and rope shovels used to excavate and transport broken ore. Apart from vehicle headlights, better all-round area lighting is an absolute necessity to ensure safe operations,” says Swart, adding that having clear, strong area lighting means that drivers of off-the-road mining equipment will be able to pick up the reflective strips on a pedestrian’s safety vest with much greater ease.

Rand-Air has the solution in its portable LED lighting units.

“As these units are fitted with LED bulbs, they are remarkably economical and will run for days without requiring refuelling or any other attention. In addition, modern LED bulbs last longer and fail less often than their earlier filament counterparts, and can handle harsh mining conditions without burning out prematurely,” Swart explains.

As the diesel engine, generator and lighting tower are all contained on a single trailer, there are no trailing cables to either get cut, damaged or trip over. Furthermore, as they are mounted on a robust trailer, moving them to new positions as mining shifts in the pit, takes a matter of minutes.

What makes Rand-Air portable lighting units an even more attractive rental proposition is that the company regularly upgrades its equipment fleet with new machines. In addition, Rand-Air lighting units are all manufactured by world leader Atlas Copco and, as such, these units deliver the most cost-effective, lowest maintenance service.

As Rand-Air portable lighting units are fitted with LED bulbs, they are remarkably economical and will run for days without requiring refuelling or any other attention.

Rand-Air portable lighting units are also backed up by the company’s unmatched service ethic. In the unlikely event of an issue with one of these machines, Rand-Air’s qualified technicians are on standby 24/7 to ensure that full lighting is restored without delay.

Speaking to the all-important requirement for safety at all times – particularly within the mining environment – where occupational health and safety challenges are amongst the biggest causes of injuries and fatalities – Swart makes the following recommendation:

“Outdated lighting units in any industry that are not operating at a satisfactory level pose a serious threat to the working environment and its people. A preventative maintenance strategy is therefore critical, to guarantee safe operation of the equipment – and is key to minimising the risk of injuries or accidents.”

Rand-Air lighting units are available for short-term hire, as well as via the company’s long-term rental scheme which allows customers to take advantage of considerable cost savings.

“In the past couple of years, our portable lighting units have been a boon to the surface mining industry. With proper lighting, workers can concentrate on getting the job done and being more productive, but in a well-lit and therefore far safer environment. In a nutshell – and true to our Rand-Air business ethos – we always place our customers in a ‘favourable light’,” he concludes.

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.

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