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Critical compressed air from Rand-Air ensures consistent production at platinum mine

The mining industry is a vital cog in the economic workings of South Africa, in particular platinum mines, of which the country has significant reserves, that are among the largest worldwide. 

Yet, if critical machinery breaks down – such as compressors – the resulting downtime could potentially significantly impact productivity and revenue. 

Therefore, when a customer in the platinum mining sector recently made the call for reliable and easy-to-use compressor equipment, following a critical compressor breakdown at their operations, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of portable air, power, flow and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division – was there to answer the call.

“In this new hire to what is already a long-standing customer, we ‘sparked’ to quickly provide 17 diesel compressors within 24 hours,” says sales representative Marinda Enslin, who collaborated closely with the mine to ensure that their requirements for a swift response and efficient supply of compressed air were met in record time.

“Compressed air is the ‘beating heart’ of every mine, factory – in fact, of every industry. Therefore, if the compressor breaks down, it is like a heart which stops beating,” Enslin emphasises.

Therefore, in order to secure the customer’s operational continuity with the required 17 000 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air, Rand-Air’s strategic solution included various oil-free, oil-injected and high-pressure diesel compressors. 

While Rand-Air maintains strong and intuitive relationships with its customers, resulting in the company being able to anticipate customer needs, the magnitude of this latest hire resulted in the company sourcing additional compressors from its branches in Gauteng and the North West. 

The hire comprised three PTS800Mk1 D800 CFM (cubic feet per minute) compressors, three XAMS527 D1000 CFM diesel oil-injected screw compressors, two XRHS3662 HP750 CFM compressors, one ZATS377 D1000 CFM compressor, one PTS9 D1500 CFM compressor, one PTS800 MK1 OF800 CFM compressor and one PNS1 OFH 1200 CFM compressor. Another five D1200 compressors were also provided.

The Atlas Copco-manufactured diesel compressors are ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001-certified; and feature the latest compressed air technology. Meanwhile, the compressors’ technical design results in economic fuel consumption, while their full portability allows for easy transportation and convenient on-site installation. 

Rand-Air also supplied more than 300m of hoses and compressor coupling accessories.

For short-term hires, as in this particular case where the compressors were used for nine days, the use of diesel compressors is ideal, Enslin points out: “It is ‘a plug-and-play’ solution, as the customer can connect the compressors immediately without worrying about an electric connection, which may be time-consuming.” 

As the compressors were also supplied with a same-day turnaround delivery, this ensured a smooth operational transition, while no stoppages or losses in production for the next shift were incurred – a key advantage to the customer.

“Moreover, the investment in this hire from a cost perspective is money well spent from the customer’s perspective, given that these compressors are used in a mission-critical application,” Enslin points out, highlighting the savings achieved by the customer in hiring the compressors from Rand-Air. 

With the guiding ethos of making agility count for customers, Rand-Air has a continuous commitment to quality customer service, by ensuring the availability of its technicians on site to assist with the connections and start-ups in all hires. “We will never ever leave our customers to do an installation without our assistance,” Enslin emphasises.

In addition to providing this 24/7 technical assistance, Rand-Air anticipates and plans for additional equipment rental requirements, Enslin says – adding that the company provides quick release couplings with its compressors to ensure fast and time-saving connection of the compressors. 

In a further reflection of the company’s exceptional customer service, Enslin notes that Rand-Air’s speedy response does not only lie in sourcing and providing the appropriate equipment tailored to the customer’s specific needs; but in continuously keeping the customer in the loop with detailed and transparent communication throughout the hire process – right from when the equipment is sourced – to when it is loaded, transported, delivered and installed.” 

This dedication in providing top-class rental requirements ensures that the customer can focus on their core business, with the peace of mind that their needs are being taken care of, Enslin points out.

“With this hire, the customer was extremely happy due to our quick response, efficient logistics, the excellent quality of compressors and our dedicated service,” she comments.

To this end, Enslin believes that this particular hire has also “placed Rand-Air on the map in terms of being a reliable and efficient supplier of compressed air to the wider mining sector”.

“Based on the success of this hire and our sound track record in the mining sector, should there be any unforeseen breakdowns, I am confident that our mining customers will contact Rand-Air because they know they can rely on us to meet their needs and keep them up and running,” she concludes.

Agility and teamwork key to success says Rand-Air’s Salesperson of the Year

As winner of the prestigious Rand-Air Salesperson of the Year award, seasoned sales representative at the company’s Mpumalanga branch Chantal Bekker believes that one has to be willing to change the way one has ‘always’ approached and managed customer relationships and sales.

The past year was punctuated by fluctuating lockdown restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and worldwide. The sales team of Rand-Air – leader in the field of portable air, power, flow and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division – had to quickly adapt and evolve their sales and communication strategy to meet the needs of customers remotely during this time. 

“Using technology has definitely been part of the answer,” says Bekker, noting that despite being used to spending a lot of her time ‘on the road’, she quickly adapted her sales style and focused on establishing and maintaining contact with customers through Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp messages, email and phone calls. 

In line with Rand-Air’s corporate ethos of making agility count for its customers, the sales team were also given access to some of the best technology tools available, among others. 

“This allows us to have professional product information, calculation tools, references, application videos and case studies, readily available to share with customers in their industries,” Bekker points out.

She also credits the virtual business card application, which she believes is key to establishing successful contact.

“By sending out virtual business cards after conversations it meant customers had our information and could log into our website directly on their phones or email by clicking on the professionally designed business card,” she says.

Further adapting to the changing communication needs of customers, Rand-Air also sent out technology-based, customer- and industry-specific designed campaigns to target certain market segments and inform customers in those sectors about how Rand-Air’s technology solutions can address their industry-specific challenges, such as in the mining and power industries. These were very well received. 

However, Bekker believes not only in using technology but also adding the personal touch, such as phone calls. “People still need to hear each other’s voices and to feel connected,” she emphasises.

“It took hard work and determination to make changes in the way I used to do my job and to ensure we still secured the business. However, I was very determined to make it work,” Bekker points out, adding that her consistent imperative is to be “pro-active, positive, energetic and to care for customers by taking their call day or night !”

She furthermore emphasises her dedication to her customers, noting that even if a call comes in after office hours, she provides accessibility and assistance with product specifications or quotations.

“I work because I care, because I want to be here – and because I am part of a great team – and every link in that team needs to be strong to ensure that we and our customers can not only survive but thrive. 

As a sales representative, I need to feel good about myself,  and I need to practice habits of courtesy, use positive communication, listen, question and perform professionally at all times,” she maintains, adding: “Very importantly, I also need to know my products’ technical specifications and believe in that product being the best possible solution for the customer.”

She highlights a key accomplishment for Rand-Air in 2020, which was the participation in business strategy and upliftment of B-BBEE Level 1 companies. 

“We accomplished this in Mpumalanga in 2020. As these companies hired Rand-Air’s specialised product oil-free compressors and dryers, we have enabled them to increase their air volumes by 100 percent. We also guaranteed the provision of our Class Zero oil-free compressors,” Bekker says. 

She further believes that her determination, organisational skills, discipline and – notably – her focused attention to customers gave her the competitive edge over the past year. “Every single customer is important, I listen carefully to their needs and ensure I do follow up calls,” she points out. 

In addition, “a continuous hunt” for new business and new customers is critically important to Bekker, who says that asking customers for referrals boosts this endeavour.

Bekker, a multi-award winner at Rand-Air since 2002 – including achieving the highest annual revenue, service excellence, best internal and external sales awards during that time – is “humbled and honoured by the 2020 Salesperson of the Year award!”

She furthermore acknowledges the efforts from other representatives who also worked hard in 2020, while various departments – such as the service department, internal sales, credit control, and the management team –   enabled and contributed to her achievement.

In a further reflection of the above teamwork, Bekker also assists fellow colleagues by sharing leads and project information she hears of in their relevant areas. 

“Without everyone’s support I would not have been able to reach my goals – and I would not have won Salesperson of the Year.  I would like to thank my colleagues and the management very sincerely. Teamwork and the ability to adapt quickly to change is all part of our recipe for success at Rand-Air!” she concludes.

Nifty Nitrogen! Rand-Air’s nitrogen generators offer agile advantages to industry

It is crucial for companies, whether they specialise in chemical manufacturing, electronics, fabrication, food and beverage or other sectors, to have a reliable and specific supply of industrial gas for production purposes. Notably, oil refineries and other industries have very specific and exact operational requirements for the use of nitrogen gas in particular, to enhance safety and reduce the risk of fires or explosions.

To support these requirements, leaders in the field of portable air, power, flow and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division Rand-Air is able to supply a safe, high-quality solution for industry.

Rand-Air Sales and Marketing Manager Byrone Thorne explains that nitrogen is used for inerting, blanketing, and purging to suppress flammability, by reducing oxygen levels to a point where combustion is no longer possible.

“As Rand-Air recognises this critical operational and safety consideration, we provide an agile answer in our range of premium quality nitrogen generators,” he advises.

“These Atlas Copco nitrogen generators are mobile or stationary production units that convert compressed dry air into nitrogen by separating oxygen molecules from the nitrogen molecules. These units therefore enable companies to control the amount – as well as the pressure and purity – of nitrogen they need to produce.”

Moreover, as the global economy battles through the current Covid-19 pandemic – with industries not only focusing on staying afloat, but on streamlining their businesses in order to ensure their continued sustainability – high-quality, high-efficiency products and services remain vital.

By supplying Atlas Copco’s range of nitrogen generators, Rand-Air focuses on meeting these needs, enabling clients to have their required supply of nitrogen, while optimising their production process at the same time, Thorne emphasises.

“The nitrogen generators can be adapted to meet a customer’s specific applications, and they offer an excellent return-on-investment due to their lower operating costs,” he says.

“For our nitrogen generator customers, there are no additional costs regarding the supply of nitrogen – such as order processing, refills or delivery charges – while maintenance costs are minimal. Companies are also no longer subjected to the gas market volatility and price fluctuations.”

Meanwhile, the potential safety hazards which can come with the handling of high-pressure cylinders are also removed, Thorne points out.

Superior Supply

To support efficient and safe manufacturing and maintenance, Rand-Air’s range of nitrogen generators include membrane nitrogen generators, such as the NGM, NGM+ and the NGM models,  which use a proprietary membrane separation technology; as well as the PSA, NGP and NGP+ nitrogen generators, which are based on Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology; and the new-generation NGP+ nitrogen generators.

“The membrane nitrogen generators are ready for immediate use, as they only require a supply of dry compressed air. They are also fitted with a pre-filtration pressure gauge and flow meter, to ensure accurate system monitoring at all times,” says Thorne.

A focus on quality is also very evident in the nitrogen generator range – as the NGM and NGM+ models – and the mobile NGM280, for example – offer between 90% and 99% nitrogen purity. It is important to note that the flow is substantially reduced with an increase in purity. However, the nitrogen supply can be tailored as needed, and units can be set up for other purity levels.

Moreover, the various generators can cater to different flow requirements.

“The membrane nitrogen generators – with their high-flow capacity – are ideal for applications such as fire prevention, tyre inflation, oil and gas, maritime and others. Conversely, the NGMs are suitable and efficient in low-flow nitrogen generation.

“The PSA nitrogen generators (NGP and NGP+) meanwhile, offer the required purity with a high-flow capacity, making them suitable for a range of applications,” reiterates Thorne.

As oil refineries and industrial sectors cannot afford inefficient shutdowns and unforeseen operational downtime, a key advantage of the nitrogen generators is also their continuous availability.

“Nitrogen can be produced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on site. This availability ensures that the risk of production breakdown due to gas running out is eliminated,” Thorne points out.

With companies also focusing on energy savings and sustainable production, the new-generation NGP+ nitrogen generators feature premium energy efficiency, with an automatic start-up, and are the ultimate energy saver: “The generators also have a self-protective monitoring of feed-air quality, back-flow pressurisation, and control and monitoring – among other features,” he says.

“Rand-Air constantly seeks ways to help customers make agility count: by this we mean, we help them to meet their industry challenges, while also optimising efficiency, quality, health and safety. We also seek to incorporate environmentally-sustainable technology and practices in our offerings. The use of the nitrogen generators fulfils all these objectives,” Thorne concludes.

When Class O means top-class medicine!

The pharmaceuticals industry requires a pristine manufacturing environment to ensure the integrity of the final product, which must meet the strictest levels of hygiene. A key enabler in producing these sterile ‘clean room’-standard manufacturing conditions lies in the application of oil-free compressed air.

Leaders in the field of portable air, power, flow and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, Rand-Air plays a major role within the pharmaceutical industry, delivering agile, customer-centric solutions across every aspect of this demanding manufacturing environment.

Rand-Air Sales and Marketing Manager Byrone Thorne says: “Wherever industries demand the highest air quality for the end-product – and throughout the production process – Class 0 oil-free air is the solution. This includes within the pharmaceutical and food and beverage processing industries, and others.”

As world focus intensifies on the medical and allied sectors to produce a vaccine for the current Covid-19 pandemic, and in support of guaranteeing sterile and safe manufacturing conditions, Rand-Air supplies Atlas Copco Class 0 oil-free compressors to the pharmaceutical industry, where the demand for medical products and services is growing.

Thorne adds: “Within the pharmaceuticals sector specifically, there is zero tolerance for any contamination during manufacturing, and this is where Atlas Copco’s internationally-recognised TUV Class 0 oil-free compressors have made their mark in various aspects of manufacturing, including packaging and conveying the medical product during production via systems using pneumatic valves. Also, in the production of a variety of medical accessories such as the sachets used for intravenous drips, oil-free compressed air is a major part of the manufacturing process.

“Rand-Air supplies the PT- PN- and Z- range of compressors which are Class 0 oil-free. We focus on quality, health and safety, with solutions ranging from the lowest to the highest flows, and we keep abreast of technological advancements in key target markets, such as in the pharmaceutical sector,” he adds.

To this end, he notes that Class 0 oil-free compressors guarantee 100% oil-free, dry air, as they comply with ISO 8573-1:2010 certification, a stringent standard that each compressor must meet. The standard specifies purity classes of compressed air with respect to particles, water and oil. It also identifies gaseous and microbiological contaminants.

Thorne adds: “The PT range of portable oil-free compressors – both in diesel or electrical options – have a Teflon-coated air-end, and contaminants such as dust, oil or water vapour do not come into contact with the customer’s product on the production line, thereby removing any contamination risk.”

He explains, “At the intake section that draws in ambient air, a combination of driers which are only compatible with this range of compressors adsorb 70% of any moisture that is present (much like silica crystals found in some packaging); and the air that comes out is 100% clean and dry, obviating the need for extra filtration. As this moisture-absorbent material regenerates, it can be re-used several times, making it environmentally-approved, unlike technically oil-free compressors, where airborne oil is removed afterwards, using a variety of filtration processes,” he says.

Furthermore, Rand-Air’s Atlas Copco Class 0 oil-free compressors come with a reduced carbon footprint and are also the most cost-effective answer to compressed air requirements, while adhering to the strictest environmental regulations.

Thorne notes: “A technically oil-free compressor is potentially prone to failure as the result of poor maintenance and filter cleaning – amongst other factors -, creating a contamination risk within the environment in which it is operating. There is also the high energy running cost to consider,” he points out and adds: “Rand-Air’s class 0 oil-free compressors have a number of features – including variable-speed drives (VSD) – which make them energy-efficient, increasing their environmental and energy compliance.”

Thorne observes that there is a growing demand for long-term hires into the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, specifically the ZT class of fixed compressors for use in applications such as critical care units, where reliable air flow can be controlled and is consistently safe for the environment.

“The Class 0 oil-free range offers long-term hire customers long-term peace of mind, which is a cost saving in itself – along with the other support services that Rand-Air offers, including 24/7 technical support and the option of a replacement compressor should the need arise. The long-term hire option compares favourably with purchasing which, at a time when finances are generally tight, entails significant capital outlay,” Thorne points out.

“Rand-Air takes care of all aspects of compressor hire for the pharmaceutical and other industries which we supply – allowing our customers to focus on their core business – while we guarantee a long-term, safe, continuous supply of Class 0, totally oil-free, sterile air,” he concludes.

Handwashing CSI initiative – keeping communities healthy!

While good hygiene is always recommended, the stark reality is that in South Africa today, many of our schools do not have access to safe, clean running water. This fact has been exacerbated more than ever during 2020, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, when washing hands is a priority first defence against the virus and, not only recommended, but mandated by the government.

Having already teamed up in 2018 with Atlas Copco’s ‘Water for All’ initiative, as the key sponsor, this year Rand-Air saw the opportunity to once again make a meaningful contribution to the community, by providing disadvantaged schools – particularly in outlying rural areas – with handwashing facilities to enable them to meet this vital hygiene criteria. This was done in an effort not only to counter the spread of the virus, but to instil a mindset of cleanliness and good hygiene among the children.

“It has been amazingly rewarding working with our co-sponsor Atlas Copco and proudly South African Filpro, the inspirational company behind the manufacture and distribution of the handwashing units which we are sponsoring – while knowing that we are empowering children to wash their hands and take responsibility for ensuring their own health and safety,” says IPR Accounts and Communications Manager Mpho Ngamlane, the driving force behind this project from Rand-Air’s side. 

“One hundred schools have each been the recipient of an innovative, robust, mobile handwashing unit, that were Filpro’s brainchild. Coloured bold orange so that you cannot miss them, with a stainless-steel basin, each unit has the capacity to wash 9 000 hands per tank of clean water, and each unit is operated via a foot-pump with a refillable, hygienic, integrated soap dispenser. What makes the unit user-friendly and practical, is that each one is mounted on its own trailer, making it mobile and easy to position in the most opportune location within the school premises,” Ngamlane explains.

“In addition, this year, Filpro gave hugely of their time and effort to assist Atlas Copco and Rand-Air to identify schools in need within in Mpumalanga and Gauteng and to get the units distributed accordingly,” Ngamlane points out.

In 2021, Rand-Air will begin by distributing units to schools in Limpopo province, and will thereafter identify schools in other outlying rural areas of the country to which to distribute units.

“We feel strongly about this initiative, and believe that it does not have to end here! In fact, we believe it should start here! We challenge every person and company, whether in the private or government sector, to come on board and do their bit to provide clean, running water to disadvantaged communities and schools, by sponsoring the roll-out of these incredible units!” Ngamlane urges.

“We will never ‘wash our hands’ of ensuring the welfare of children, preferring to ‘get our hands wet’ to ensure their ongoing health and well-being,” Ngamlane concludes.

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