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Rand-Air oil-free compressors assist luxury motor vehicle manufacturer’s ‘drive’ to achieve a perfect finish

For any company it is gratifying when customers request repeated service. When that customer is of the calibre of a well-known luxury motor vehicle manufacturer, it is a very sound endorsement indeed!

Leading local provider of portable air and power Rand-Air was recently requested to hire two diesel oil-free compressors to a local facilities management company, for use at the end-customer’s local motor vehicle manufacturing plant.

The vehicle manufacturer’s plant has become the nerve centre of the company’s South African operations. Over the past four decades, it moved from operating as a production plant assembling vehicles with limited customisation possibilities for the local market only, to a world-class facility, capable of producing customised cars for discerning customers across the globe.

“Although the hire was to the facilities management customer, the request for our services came from their customer in turn; to which we have hired compressors a number of times previously,” says Marinda Enslin, the Rand-Air Sales Representative responsible for this particular hire.

“The customer required two of our largest Atlas Copco 1500 cfm compressors over a period of some two weeks.

We immediately sprang into action, and were able to deliver the compressors the same day that they were requested,” she says, pointing out that the compressors are noteworthy in that they are truly oil-free.

A PTS 800 oil-free compressor from Rand-Air.

“This is something which was vital for this end-customer, as the compressed air is being used by the automotive manufacturer’s paint shop,” she explains.

“While other companies might offer oil-free compressors, their air output does not have the same 100% contaminant-free air quality which our Class-0-rated oil-free compressors have.

A contaminant in the paint could have very serious consequences,” Enslin points out.

“With the number of vehicles that are produced at the plant, were a contaminant to find its way into the paint, the consequences for the manufacturer could be serious indeed.

With a production capability of up to 75 000 units a year, and over 85% of all vehicles produced destined for the end-customer’s international markets in the USA, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Canada, the South African plant has to meet the highest international quality standards,” she elaborates.

The two oil-free Rand-Air compressors allowed the plant to continue manufacturing motor vehicles while its own compressor was out of service for extended maintenance.

Before the compressors were delivered to the plant, they were first scrupulously checked by Rand-Air’s skilled technicians.

“No machine goes out of our yards unless it has been through a rigorous checking schedule,” she continues, adding that with all Rand-Air machines, when they reach a certain number of operating hours they are automatically replaced. “This way our customers, when they hire from us, have an ‘as new’ rental experience,” she adds.

With this particular hire – as with all others – the customer has the peace of mind of knowing that if there is any sort of issue with the rental, Rand-Air staff are contactable around-the-clock, 7 days a week, to deliver a solution. 

“I have been with Rand-Air for 21 years now, and all my regular customers have my phone number. If there’s an issue, they can phone me at 2 am in the morning and we will have a technician on the road immediately to ensure our machines continue to deliver consistent, quality and safe service,” she emphasises.

When the two compressors were delivered to the motor vehicle manufacturer’s facility, they were also accompanied by a Rand-Air technician who made sure the coupling of the compressors to the plant’s reticulation went smoothly. 

“However, because we supplied diesel compressors, connecting them was a very simple ‘plug and play’ operation,” Enslin explains.

Asked about customer feedback, she explains that the company was very happy with the standard of Rand-Air’s reliable equipment and excellent service.

“While we are always pleased to be of service to a prestigious company such as this, we make a point of offering the same standard to all our customers irrespective of who they are. Ultimately, it makes us very proud when our customers look to us to sustain the productivity of their operations,” Enslin concludes.

Rand-Air long-term equipment hire an ‘ore-some’ cost-saver for mining operations

Mines require a range of hire equipment from time to time. Precisely what equipment is needed depends on the type of mine, explains Rand-Air’s Business Development Manager for Long Term Rental, Henry Fourie. For instance, on an open-pit mine, generators and lighting plant are most frequently hired. “Some of the mining contractors also use our high-pressure diesel compressors for exploration as well as blast-hole drilling,” he explains.

On surface during shaft sinking, the mines use electric 1,500 cfm machines. Once the mine is established, then Rand-Air is also capable of supplying air from surface for the underground mining operations to power rock drills of various types. “For this, a popular choice is the 1070cfm electric machines which we have supplied in various quantities, from as few as two units up to 10 units on a compressor bank,” he continues.

Rand-Air also has specially modified electric units for use underground. A major deep-level gold mine, for example, will have a two kilometre deep shaft down to a certain mine level. And then from the shaft, it can be as far as a kilometre or more to the rock face where drilling is actually happening. Many older South African mines have been in existence for decades; and, over time, the compressed air pipe systems have deteriorated, allowing air to escape and pressure to dissipate from numerous leaks before air actually reaches the driller.

In these cases, it pays the mine to place a rental compressor at a location close to the working stopes. The miners then benefit from air at the correct pressure, which invariably gives a very substantial boost to productivity.

Some of South Africa’s older mines also have fairly elderly surface compressors feeding air underground. With these compressors, there is a much greater chance of periodic failures which can take some time to repair. During these periods, hire compressors can play a cardinal role in keeping the mine operational.

Regarding efficiencies, electric motors used to power large installed mine compressors and generators consume a substantial amount of diesel. Being able to switch these large machines off and source air or power from smaller hire units – particularly in winter when electricity rates are high – can be highly beneficial from a cost point of view.

Asked what hire period constitutes a long-term rental, Fourie explains that there is no given period – although the minimum is usually 12 months, which can be extended to some years. With longer rental periods, Rand-Air will give the mine an option to renew the rental contract if it so wishes. “We have one mining company on our books who has had long-term rental equipment from us for 12 years,” explains Fourie.

Long-term rentals come with the benefit of a lower rate to the mine. With long term rentals, Rand-Air offers very favourable service level agreements which it takes pride in honouring. “Our rapid response times, which we take pride in meeting, form a key part of these agreements,” continues Fourie.

A further factor in favour of long-term rentals is that the mine does not have to employ skilled people specifically to service and maintain compressors or generators.

The challenge that faces Rand-Air with long-term rentals is that production pressures on mines are invariably immense – and both men and machinery sometimes have to work in exceptionally harsh environments. However, with both short-term and long-term rentals, customers are always assured of a Rand-Air machine that will look and perform as well as a brand-new unit.

There are many benefits to mines hiring equipment on a long-term basis from Rand-Air

Rand-Air sales representatives are assiduous in supporting both short-term and long-term rentals. Should a customer ever experience difficulty with a rental unit, the Rand-Air staff member concerned is prepared to field calls from the mine – even in the middle of the night. If need be, after such a call, the sales representative will phone a technician on-call who will immediately drive to the mine and rectify any issues forthwith.

In terms of any responsibility the mines have for Rand-Air’s hire equipment on a long-term rental, Fourie explains that, apart from not intentionally damaging the machines, they have none. “Rand-Air takes full responsibility for maintenance as we pride ourselves on our service levels, response times and knowledge of our equipment,” he explains.

Depending on the number of machines on site, Rand-Air will have a dedicated staff member on site to ensure continuous faultless functioning of any hire equipment.

Regarding whether Rand-Air carries out long-term hire contracts outside of South Africa, Fourie explains that the company has done this in the past where it serviced a Botswana mine from South Africa. However, further afield, Rand-Air would look to its parent company Atlas Copco to service long term contracts.

“Anyone who works in the mining environment will know what a challenging environment it is in which to meet demanding production targets,” asserts Fourie.

“So having someone to provide trouble-free compressed air, power or lighting benefits the mine in every way. Should the mine expand, and it needs more equipment, this is a phone call away without having to find additional capital first.

Rand-Air’s contaminant and oil-free air makes for good medicine

In the process of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, every input into the final products has to be scrupulously hygienic and sterile, from the start to the end of the manufacturing process.

Leaders in the rental of portable air and power solutions Rand-Air is proud to have been able to contribute to South Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry this year. The company supplied an Atlas Copco ZT315VSD oil-free air compressor to Adcock Ingram, a major South African pharmaceutical manufacturer, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange which manufactures, markets and distributes a wide range of healthcare products and is a key supplier to both the private and public sectors.

Rand-Air Marketing Manager Byrone Thorne explains how this came about: “Towards the end of last year, Rand-Air’s Business Development Manager for Long Term Rental, Henry Fourie approached the customer, as the pharmaceutical industry is an important vertical target sector for us. He established that, at Adcock Ingram’s Steriles and Critical Care Manufacturing facility in Aeroton, there was a requirement for a standby compressor.

Adcock Ingram’s Aeroton facility plays a key role in South Africa’s pharmaceutical supply chain, producing a range of intravenous fluids, renal dialysis products, LVPs (large volume parenterals) and SVPs (small volume parenterals);  as well as medical-grade sheeting for steriles and blood collection bags.

“In spite of some competitor competition, Henry pressed home the advantage of our successful track record in terms of the provision of reliability, safety, quality and superior customer service – and won the order,” Thorne adds.

Rand-Air supplied an Atlas Copco ZT315VSD oil-free air compressor to the major South African pharmaceutical manufacturer Adcock Ingram…

The pharmaceuticals facility currently has its own two centrifugal compressors, which supply oil-free air. This high-purity oil-free compressed air is fed into an extensive stainless steel piping installation which prevents rust formation, oil carry-over or other contamination. “The Atlas Copco ZT315VSD with its 1,557 cubic feet a minute, 8.6 bar supply is eminently suitable for this application as it supplies completely contaminant- and oil-free air,” Thorne adds.

 

“In this instance, we did not supply a dryer as Adcock Ingram’s takes the feed from our compressor through their own in-house dryer. While the ZT315VSD is a standby unit, in the event of an operational issue with one of the in-house centrifugal compressors, the Atlas Copco ZT315VSD would take over the supply of compressed air with minimum disruption to the facility’s manufacturing capability.

The unit is well-suited for the rigorous 24/7 duty cycle required by the customer; and its output is critical in ensuring uninterrupted production. The rental supply contract is for a period of three years.

An absolutely reliable supply of completely contaminant and oil-free compressed air is essential for pharmaceutical high-speed mixing processes – and also for blending, packaging and the in-house water plant which produces the water, combined with active ingredients used to make drugs that are injected into our bodies. This water is also used as the final rinsing agent for any component that comes in contact with the drug such as vials, ampules, caps and stoppers.

 

With the Atlas Copco ZT315VSD, the lead-time from order to delivery was a comparatively short period of 14 weeks, and the unit was modified as per the customer’s requirements.

While the customer has the responsibility to make sure that the compressor is suitably located and secure, Rand-Air’s high-quality service and maintenance service is all part of the package. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that the customer experiences any issues, Rand-Air will be on hand to supply a replacement unit in the interim. “So it really is a hassle-free service,” asserts Thorne.

“We were pleased with the way the installation went and are happy to have this extra standby capacity,” says Adcock Ingram Process Improvement Project Engineer Johan Bredenkamp.

“This is very much in line with Rand-Air’s rental ethos, where the customer is given the freedom to concentrate on their core business while leaving the responsibility for the provision of essential, contaminant and oil-free compressed air to us,” he concludes.

Rand-Air’s MIRS training investment – ‘generating’ the power behind top-quality staff

In the 45 years since Rand-Air’s inception, this market-leading compressed air and generator rental business has not only maintained a stringent focus on the quality of its products  and customer service – but also the quality of the people who provide the critical interface between the company and its valued customers.

To ensure that customer service and relationships are always fully optimised, and to support its employees’ efforts in this regard, Rand-Air invests substantially in ongoing training and development – across all relevant disciplines – including technical, safety and rental marketing.

Further to these initiatives, Rand-Air – together with Atlas Copco’s rental division – have devised a challenging MIRS (Master in Rental Sales) training programme which is used to develop promising talent in the organisation.

In 2017, an international MIRS training course was held, composed of 16 promising, high-potential sales engineers. Denise Olivier, a Rand-Air external sales representative based in the town of Kathu in the Northern Cape was selected to attend. Over a period of six months, she attended the four one-week MIRS training modules in Thailand, Belgium, Brazil and Dubai.

“It was a very intensive course, with a lot to take in and to put into practice. However, I have done so this year, and will increasingly benefit from this training as time goes by,” explains Olivier, who joined Rand-Air four years ago. She explains that the training has helped her significantly.

Sales Representative Denise Olivier with the President of Atlas Copco’s Specialty Rental Division Ray Löfgren (left) and Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus (right) during a visit to a customer’s mining site.

“To me, it is all about building that vital relationship with our customers, and ensuring they have a really excellent experience of our solutions and our service,” she affirms.

During the MIRS programme, Olivier was taken through the building blocks of the sales process. Rand-Air is keenly aware of the need for a wide range of skills required by a fully professional salesperson, and for this reason, makes every effort to ensure that every one of these salespeople is as well-equipped as possible to meet the challenges of working in the field. Each of these building blocks represent one of the essentials steps that need to be considered when approaching, presenting or concluding a sale. A key component of this is gaining a precise understanding of the client’s needs and then ensuring that these requirements are met to the letter.

“This training is very practical, as participants gain knowledge in both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills; which equipped us with all the right tools and knowledge to further boost our customer relationships and ultimately, our performance,” she explains.

The training was offered by internal specialists and external trainers. The internal specialists focused on the essential ‘hard skills’ – which covered such as products, applications, segments and sales tools, among others. The external trainers presented courses on the indispensable ‘soft’ skills’, which are equally essential at every stage of the sales process.

During each session, the in-country hosting team shared their regional best practices, such as local success stories with product and segment insights, usage of sales tools and tailoring sales efforts to ‘fit’ the local market and environment.

With each module, participants grew from being a ‘sales representative’ to ultimately graduate as  a fully-fledged Rental Master.

Besides the essential skills and learning which they gained, participants were also tasked with reporting on their own personal development.

During the final graduation ceremony, each participant received an 18-month mission statement. New graduates who reach their targets will be invited for a fifth module, to take a ‘next step’ in their competence development.

Olivier explains that, based as she is in Kathu – a relatively remote branch in the Northern Cape – she has to be an all-rounder, ready to step in wherever she is needed.

“This depot feels to me like it’s my own business, so I go the extra mile. I am always on standby – customers sometimes call me with emergencies at three o’clock in the morning, and I will be there helping as best as I can,” she adds.

“One thing I have learned is that, after the MIRS training, I am more than a sales representative – I am now a Rental Master and sales professional,” she asserts in conclusion

Rand-Air moves on to ever ‘hire’ levels of customer service with brand new Durban depot

The staff at Rand-Air’s Durban depot have set themselves ambitious targets.

Branch Manager Rudi Devry and his team have recently taken occupation of new premises, a move which will assist in realising their growth objectives. Devry explains that their former premises were rented and, after six years, the lease had come to an end. “That was part of the reason for the move, but we also wanted to find premises in Durban’s South Basin which would be closer to our major customers such as the oil refineries and the motor manufacturers, and which would give us room for future expansion,” he adds.

The new premises are going to serve the Durban depot well in its future revenue expansion initiatives. Devry explains that the demand for hire equipment in Durban has been increasing recently and that the new, conveniently situated premises will assist in meeting these elevated levels of demand.

In addition to serving the Durban-based market, Rand-Air is also Richards Bay’s preferred supplier of air and power hire equipment, with a depot in Alton.

“Richards Bay not only features a world-class coal terminal but is a thriving industrial hub. We are proud to be able to supply our services to Richards Bay as it is an area that makes a key contribution to South Africa’s economy,” says Devry.

Meanwhile, the new premises in Transport Drive, Prospecton are a major upgrade for Rand-Air in Durban. The new offices have been adapted to suit staff requirements and a much larger warehouse means that the depot’s equipment will now all be kept under cover. “We have always placed a strong emphasis on excellent equipment maintenance, so we are very pleased with the new warehouse, as it allows us to keep our equipment protected,” says Devry. The new premises also have much larger wash bays, which can accommodate more machines at any one time.

However, moving the depot from one site to another was not without its challenges. Rand-Air’s overarching ethos is one of customer service so, during the move, the Durban depot continued successfully with business as usual.

The Rand-Air team at the new Durban Depot

“At Rand-Air, we need to be available to our customers 24/7, so during the month of the move, we had to plan really carefully to make sure that our customer service remained at its usual high standard. We could not take two or three days off and close our doors during the move,” continues Devry.

In addition, before taking occupation, Rand-Air had to carry out many modifications such as building wash bays and painting the warehouse floor to make the premises suitable. “At Rand-Air we set very high standards, and before we opened the doors of our new premises, we wanted to ensure that they would be a showpiece for our company in KwaZulu-Natal,” he adds.

“Rand-Air stands outside the normal rental company model as we area specialist compressed air and power supplier. However, we are always responsive to our customers’ requirements; and for that reason we have been looking at supplying other types of equipment such as trailer-mounted welding sets,” he explains.

“With our 45 years of experience in the hire business, we are well suited to serving large companies which have specialised projects such as major plant or refinery shutdowns, where we can partner with customers to assist these projects through to successful completion,” continues Devry.

Running an equipment hire business requires a delicate balance. “Ideally, we would like to see our equipment yard completely empty but, in practicality, we need a reserve to ensure that our customers’ requirements are catered for.

Among the Durban depot’s key customers are the local petrochemical refineries, for whom the convenient availability of hire equipment – for example, during annual shutdowns – is a real value-add. The move has therefore brought Rand-Air’s services even closer to these key target sector customers.

Devry comments that the effort involved in the Durban depot move was really worth it. “We look forward to welcoming our valued customers to our new premises, as these will enable even more excellent Rand-Air service through the improved facilities and the convenience and accessibility of our new location,” he concludes.

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