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Rand-Air: 48 years of ‘refined’ service to South Africa’s pivotal petrochemical sector

A substantial economic contributor to South Africa, the petrochemical sector produces refined oil products and chemicals, which provide the foundation for manufacturing industries to drive the downstream production of thousands of end-use products.

As such, the highest considerable care – combined with the most stringent safety, quality equipment and operational continuity – is non-negotiable for ensuring smooth operations at the country’s many large and highly complex petrochemical plants and operational sites.

With 48 years of operation, and extensive rental experience in this sector, 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 – has become one of the preferred and long-standing rental equipment supply partners to South African petrochemical sector.

“Due to the nature of the petrochemical sector, its ‘zero-tolerance-for-error environment’ and stringent industry regulations, customers are particularly conscious of safety, quality, time and cost. Extensive and dedicated care is therefore a top priority,” says seasoned Rand-Air sales representative Melanie Lake, who is also the company’s key account manager for a long-standing customer in the petrochemical sector.

“Rand-Air considers it a vital responsibility to mitigate any damage or risk by paying thoughtful attention to our customers, carefully listening to their requirements, and gaining a thorough understanding of these, so we can provide the optimal solution,” she emphasises. 

According to Lake, sincerely connecting and engaging with customers includes interactive communication: it is imperative to ‘dive deep’ through concise questions and constant feedback to achieve utmost clarity about the best solution to provide.

“When pairing this understanding with Rand-Air’s equipment  rental options, our service excellence and solutions-orientated approach enable customers to have the peace of mind to focus their energies and time on completing their projects or running their operations cost-effectively – rather than worrying about which equipment they may need in order to do so,” Lake points out.

As a significant supplier to the petrochemical sector – which is based on trust and the company’s intimate understanding of the industry – Rand-Air provides strategic rental solutions ranging from Class 0 oil-free compressors, and generators, to lighting solutions and more. 

“Among the most popular favourites, our Class 0, oil-free compressors have achieved preferred status, thanks to their production of high-quality, clean, oil-free, and totally dry compressed air,” Lake points out.

These rental solutions are all supported by swift, responsive and 24/7 technical assistance from qualified Rand-Air technicians.

Rand-Air’s dedication to this high degree of care is demonstrated by the company’s keen motivation to exceed requirements and surpass service expectations at all times. 

Referencing a petrochemical sector customer project, Lake notes that: “Rand-Air was proactively involved in the project, fully participating in all safety discussions. When asked for proof-of-concept to demonstrate how our compressors would function under certain industry conditions, we could provide satisfactory test results in line with the customer’s request. 

With commitment to all the steps in this process – from beginning to end – we could ensure safety and quality will be the foremost outcome,” she enthuses.

As such, Rand-Air upholds its guiding ethos of making agility count and its brand value of investing care in each customer interaction. In this way, and by remaining flexible and able to adapt to each customer’s needs, the doors of new opportunities – for greater involvement in more projects – are opened, Lake believes. 

“This not only creates new revenue streams, but customers have access to the best advice, and a streamlined, optimal course of action through the provision of the best solutions,” she points out.

Reflecting on Rand-Air’s continuous service strategy evolution to accommodate the changing needs of the petrochemical sector, Lake highlights the company’s commitment to regular fleet investments in the latest fleet – which are constantly renewed to ensure a comprehensive portfolio of solutions.

This ‘360 degree’ complete product offering, premium technology and service excellence enables Rand-Air to proactively anticipate future industry needs and adapt accordingly, Lake says.

“Underscoring our solutions-driven approach within the petrochemical sector are the cornerstones of customer care, reliability, visibility, accessibility – and the tenacity to consistently find an appropriate solution. 

It is these qualities and capabilities which offer our petrochemical sector customers the assurance that no matter the hour or the request – be it an emergency, shutdown, or new project – they can trust in Rand-Air – ‘fuelling up’ customer care with a reliable, appropriate and swiftly-delivered solution,” Lake concludes. 

‘Class 0’ compressed air from Rand-Air drives automotive production processes

An essential component to national economic growth, South Africa’s automotive industry is inextricably linked to various upstream and downstream production processes, which require ‘clean-room’, immaculate manufacturing and assembly conditions, to ensure exceptional final products. 

As an integral part of the automotive manufacturing process, the use of compressed air is present throughout – from vehicle assembly to the premium paint finishes on components. The quality of this compressed air should be absolutely pure, and completely oil-and-contaminant-free.

Considering this vital requirement, the spray painting division of an automotive manufacturing customer recently required the hire of reliable, easy-to-use and – most importantly – oil-free compressor equipment.

By specialising in the provision of Atlas Copco Class 0 oil-free compressor rental solutions locally, 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 – could meet the customer’s demand with ease.

“This new hire to a long-standing customer required a definitive solution, in the form of our Class 0 oil-free compressors,” says sales representative Marinda Enslin, who collaborated closely with the customer to ensure that their requirements were met in record time, with a swift and efficient delivery.

“High-quality, clean, oil-free and totally dry compressed air is indispensable when used to propel paint through paint guns or robots onto the clean surfaces of automotive components,” Enslin points out.

“However, compressed air from oil-injected compressors can contain or produce small oil residues or oil vapour; as well as other contaminants, such as water vapour or condensate, and dust particles. The presence of these contaminants can adversely affect the painting process and other related applications, by causing damage to equipment,” she advises. 

Contaminated air can result in the prevention of paint adhesion to parts – which in turn can result in paint cracking, surface beading, chipping, or other detrimental effects to finishes. Notably, these can also contribute to corrosion issues in the future. 

Therefore, in order to secure continuous operations with the compressed air quality required by the customer, Rand-Air’s strategic and cost-efficient solution included the supply of two oil-free compressors – one PTE 1500 electric-driven compressor and one PTS 1600 diesel-driven compressor as a temporary, yet effective solution.

In compliance with the stringent ISO 8573-1:2010 certification, Rand-Air’s oil-free compressors provide a guaranteed and stable oil-free and dry air supply – which eliminates contamination risks – and also lowers total cost-of-ownership (TCO). 

“Given that these compressors are critical to the customer’s applications, they not only achieved significant savings, but maintained uptime following a smooth operational transition – with rewarding results,” Enslin points out.

Features of Rand-Air’s range of Atlas Copco portable air compressors include the choice of either diesel or electric models, according to customers’ requirements.

Supported by Rand-Air’s continuous commitment to exceptional customer service, the company ensures 24/7 technical assistance is available if required; as well as preventative maintenance by qualified technicians every three weeks for optimal performance for the duration of the hire. 

“Should a breakdown on one of our compressors occur without being resolved within a day, we will immediately supply a new oil-free compressor. Moreover, all parts and services are included in the price, at no additional cost,” Enslin stresses. 

She adds that during long-term hires, the equipment can also be adapted as per customer requirements, to meet new or changing performance targets.

“By swiftly offering the correct, brand-new oil-free compressors which, in conjunction with free-standing driers will not only keep the air dry, but absolutely pure, we made agility count in our customer’s operation, to their complete satisfaction. 

This resulted in the customer choosing us to meet their additional future demand,” Enslin enthuses.

Consequently, this hire will be enhanced by the supply of the latest technologically-advanced oil-free compressors and driers to the customer. The additional hire includes two Atlas Copco oil-free ZT 160 STD compressors, one ZT 160 VSD (variable speed drive) oil-free compressor and three Atlas Copco BD 400+ desiccant driers, which will be delivered by the end of this year.

“Differentiating our rental solutions is Rand-Air’s reputation as a well-known, respected and trusted industrial brand for the past 48 years, an extensive, cutting-edge fleet, and our flexibility and adaptability in addressing any challenge to advance production agility,” Enslin says.  

“These qualities allowed our automotive customer to drive optimal production, with the assurance of sustainable operations which will allow for the best performance possible,” she concludes.

Rand-Air’s committed fleet renewal makes agility count for customers

As the market focuses increasingly on improving operations to ensure profitability and sustainability, businesses require swift access and reliability from the latest technologically-advanced products and solutions, which will offer the highest quality and efficiency.

As such, 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 in pursuing constant fleet renewal to ensure customers receive the best fit possible: the right fleet, at the right time and at the right price.

“Continuous fleet renewal is imperative, as this practice enables Rand-Air to retain and effectively manage a constantly updated fleet of equipment – featuring the latest world-class technologies, improved lifespans, efficiencies, reduced environmental impacts and increased user-friendliness. Such a fleet reflects our ethos and tagline of ‘making agility count’ for our customers, by ensuring lower operating costs, efficient production and sustainable profitability. This ultimately contributes to our customers’ business sustainability and, in a greater sense, to an improved economic outlook and business positivity,” says Rand-Air Sales and Marketing Manager Byrone Thorne.

“With 48 years’ experience in providing the best products and solutions to meet customers’ needs, Rand-Air continues to remain aligned with the latest, premium technologies to provide the best fleet for our customers,” Thorne explains.

Rand-Air Fleet Operations Manager Craig Swart agrees: “Accordingly, we offer a ‘360 degree’ complete product offering, with an extensive fleet comprising nitrogen generators,  pumps, electric power and diesel powered compressed air and power accessories, air dryers, generators, lighting towers, compressors and more,” he says.

The availability of a cutting-edge fleet is not only critical to a customer’s success, but underpins and demonstrates Rand-Air’s commitment to and investment in customer service which helps them to address their challenges and to be operationally agile.

“To this end, Rand-Air will take key factors into consideration, such as the size, age and reliability of the fleet. These elements are taken into account when it comes to meeting the changing needs of the customers, their desired applications and – importantly – their need for safety, quality, reliability and availability,” Swart explains. 

“As we aim to guarantee these elements are all in place, to ensure our customers’ operations to perform at their best, Rand-Air’s fleet has to reflect these commitments,” he emphasises.

To accurately address the requirements of rentals solutions for the market, Rand-air considers demand, customers’ feedback on the most effective or compatible products to be the ‘best fit’ – for example, the best compressors in terms of size, air and pressure. This meticulous strategy is however applied to all product solutions, including pumps, lighting, nitrogen generators, diesel and electric generators and more. 

While the ‘best fit’ offer is more effective for short-term rental solutions, longer-term rental solutions may be more customised according to requirements. With more specific factors taken into consideration, such as energy consumption, Rand-Air’s products may feature variable speed drives (VSDs) for enhanced energy efficiency over longer periods, Thorne explains. 

“By ensuring we invest according to the industry demand for both short and long-term rental requests and also – equally importantly – divest as and when necessary, we can also fulfil a practical, yet sustainably effective fleet utilisation,” Swart notes.

Notably, Rand-Air has not only been investing in new opportunities, such as nitrogen, steam and pumps solutions recently. The company has also added high-pressure and specialised equipment, such as the robust Atlas Copco DrillAir Y1260 variable high pressure (21 to 35 bar) compressors. 

These compressors are appropriate for applications in the mining sector, including mineral exploration drilling, geothermal drilling, construction and blast hole drilling. 

Meanwhile, with the industry move to more environmental-friendly, user-friendly (plug-and-play) machines which are cost-efficient and provide reliable uptime for increased productivity, Rand-Air has a concerted focus on driving the introduction and use of more electric-powered equipment. 

Products included in Rand-Air’s fleet renewal investment are the Atlas Copco oil-injected electric compressors, as well as oil-free electric compressors – the latter of which, following increased demand, has gained substantial traction in the market, Swart says.

“Nevertheless, demand for diesel-driven equipment remains, as although diesel fuel can prove expensive, these products are more preferred in certain industries; or in operations that are remotely-located and lack easily available and reliable electricity connections,” Thorne points out.

“As each product has its ideal applications and therefore place, a salient fleet renewal investment feature encompasses the inclusion of units designed and manufactured according to the highest specifications – with features such as aftercoolers, shutdown valves, overspeed engines, VSDs; as well as smart-managed connectivity for remote monitoring and analysis capabilities,” Swart explains.

While these all contribute to a conscientiously planned, balanced and encompassing fleet portfolio for customers, Thorne emphasises: “Underpinning this strong portfolio of products, which is paired with dedicated customer service, is the smooth ongoing interaction and collaboration of Rand-Air’s sales, service and operational departments and team members.”

Further providing a competitive edge is the world-class, latest technology of a renewed fleet, which enables Rand-Air’s service technicians to service the fleet faster, thereby freeing up time for repairs during breakdowns, enabling greater proactive and predictive maintenance and resulting in a heightened quality assurance. 

In a further reflection of this assurance, Swart highlights that customers can have the confidence, founded on a resilient trust in Rand-Air, to access the fleet they require when 

necessary and the assistance of a technically-advanced support team providing 24/7 service. 

“Rand-Air practices agile fleet renewal for swift, smooth, and user-friendly rental solutions which yield the highest levels of quality and safety for excellent performance. This enables our 

customers to focus on their core business – with confidence and a far-reaching positivity that will ripple through to the economy as a whole,” Thorne concludes.

‘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.

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