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Rand-Air’s ‘future-fit’ females – shaping up for agility and sustainability

To successfully navigate the business landscape of the future, companies need to continuously adopt new strategies to ensure they are ‘future-fit’: enabling resilience, agility, sustainability and longevity. 

These strategies include changes in work processes, the implementation of new workplace tools, improvement in communications and the empowerment of employees – both personally and professionally – to create and pursue new business and innovation opportunities.

Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division – has always invested in people development. This year has been no different, with the company investing in Atlas Copco’s corporate training and mentorship programme for female employees – ‘Future-Fit Females’.

For the ‘Future-Fit Females’ course participants, assistant accountant Nokubonga Dlamini and seasoned sales representative at the Rand-Air Mpumalanga branch, Chantal Bekker, the ‘future-fit female’ embodies “a balanced, well-skilled individual, who is self-actualised and able to face any challenge with strength and confidence.”

Bekker and Dlamini are among 12 women from Rand-Air and parent company Atlas Copco who are participating in this year’s programme; which is being hosted in collaboration with niche training development and coaching consultancy Key Steps. 

Having worked for Atlas Copco since 2012 and knowledgeable in its various divisions and solutions, Dlamini’s motivation for participating in the programme stems from a need for growth, self-improvement and enhanced proficiency in communication and interaction techniques.

“I believe that ‘Future-Fit Females’ will provide enrichment in these skills and techniques, boost the existing rapport between Rand-Air and Atlas Copco and assist in improving self-expression and self-development,” she explains. 

Meanwhile, an open-mindedness to self-development turned interest into action for Bekker: “I believe one has to make changes to grow as an individual and ultimately reach one’s desired goals. 

Therefore, I am willing to change by learning and growing – personally and professionally. I consider that any training which provides this – allowing for growth and development – can teach me something of value.”

Getting ‘fit’

Conducted over nine months, (February until September), the ‘Future-Fit Female’ programme provides monthly training sessions which cover various themes to improve personal and professional life skills. These sessions, presented by Key Steps CEO Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, include one-on-one coaching sessions, professional business writing, constructive communication and conflict management; as well as a focus on emotional intelligence and personality, collaboration, and relationship-building, among others.

“These theme-specific sessions enable us to ‘shape up’ and become ‘fit’ for our daily interactions with customers, colleagues – and ourselves,” Bekker says, adding that for her, as a sales representative it remains vital to perform professionally by using effective communication and practising positive habits such as courtesy.

“By achieving proficiency in areas such as business communication or emotional intelligence, I become empowered: not only with self-confidence, but by my resulting ability to exert an influence in driving new business strategies and achieving not only my own goals, but those of the company, too.

“It is therefore key that as the course progresses, we reflect on the content and our participation, practice what we have learnt and evaluate how these skills can be applied in any personal and professional situation,” Bekker points out.

While benefitting from the skills acquired during this programme and committing to continuous communication, engagement and participation, Dlamini underscores the responsibility of contributing these skills to the rest Rand-Air team: 

“These experiences of professional and personal enrichment, as well as the knowledge and skills we have acquired will be shared with our colleagues throughout the company, to facilitate their growth and development and that of the organisation as a whole.”

Going for the Gold – ‘in agility’

Notably, the ‘Future-Fit Female’ programme plays a key role in aligning Rand-Air employees’ goals with the company’s corporate ethos of making agility count in all aspects of the business.

While Bekker credits emotional intelligence and business writing skills as some of the tools in establishing and sustaining exceptional customer interactions, Dlamini believes a greater understanding and appreciation of customers and colleagues augments performance:

“Each person – whether a customer, supplier or colleague – is important. By personalising and adding value to each interaction, we can make agility count in a very real, practical way,” Dlamini says.

Rooted in the belief that one can never lose out from taking a chance, Dlamini encourages women “to raise their hands when opportunities in career development and self-enrichment are presented.”

“We are blessed to have been given this opportunity. We would therefore like to thank Rand-Air’s management for this privilege. We also appreciate their support in ensuring that we have all the resources, as well as the time to participate,” Dlamini says.

Bekker agrees, concluding that: “This programme is one of the best currently available, teaching us how we can enable resilience, sustainability and longevity – to make agility count for ourselves and our customers, in a ‘future-fit’ way!”

‘Full steam ahead’ with Rand-Air’s steam boiler rental solution

Steam, as a thermal energy source, has been integral in multiple industrial processes since the 17th century. As such, its application has extended to steam locomotives, processing facilities, refineries, chemical plants, hospitals; as well as the food and beverage and textile sectors. 

The use of steam boilers is particularly popular in South African industry currently, with this versatile, flexible and cost-effective source of energy storage used in applications such as heating, sterilisation and turbine propulsion, among others. 

As steam can also easily be distributed to each point of use via a steam boiler, these are frequently preferred to other energy storage media. 

In light of this, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, has earmarked steam boilers as a vital rental solution for the local market. 

“Steam, as a significant energy source, is essential in industrial processes and systems. Steam boilers are therefore commonly considered to be an essential component of process plants,” explains Rand-Air Area Manager for KwaZulu-Natal Rudi De Vry.

“Should a breakdown occur, the production losses could potentially be substantial. Therefore, as part of Rand-Air’s central ethos of ‘making agility count’, we aim to support customers’ industrial operations through the use of this innovative new solution!”

Consequently, Rand-Air offers a well-planned and strategic steam boiler rental solution which provides swift, yet reliable 24/7 availability for the production process. 

“This guarantees that downtime is reduced while safety remains our top priority – keeping the ‘heart’ of the process plant beating!” emphasises De Vry. 

He furthermore advises that Rand-Air’s steam boiler rental solution, planned to suit a range of customers and industry sectors, came about through the company’s comprehensive market research, and the concerted teamwork of De Vry and seasoned sales representatives for KwaZulu-Natal Natlee Bennie and Liesel Johnson.

The team’s research was aided by the expertise of their Atlas Copco colleagues internationally; as well as various engineers and boiler specialists. This new market offering was also motivated by Rand-Air’s strong and long-standing customer relationships, which the company sought to further enhance through the provision of this solution.

“In finding the market demand and, by earmarking specific boilers which are appropriate for  current and potential customers as short-or long-term hires, Rand-Air can now offer a streamlined turnkey steam boiler solution,” emphasises Bennie. 

“The steam boilers, which are manufactured by Atlas Copco, complement our existing product portfolio of TUV-certified oil-free, diesel or electric air solutions; nitrogen solutions; power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, ensuring a diversified, yet comprehensive solution for customers,” she adds.

Adaptable and innovative

The steam boiler offering currently comprises three-ton-an-hour steam boilers with a service pressure of 14 bar and a design pressure of 16 bar. However, the company will expand this offering in future to service projects or market demand for larger sizes, Bennie notes.

The three-ton-an-hour steam boiler is fully integrated into a 20-foot container, (which can be shipped in break bulk) and includes the burner, the Programmable Logic Control (PLC) unit to monitor the boiler processes, as well as the blow-down tank. 

“Features of the boilers include full portability and modularity, with each solution customisable and adaptable to customers’ specific requirements, while following the same core design,” adds Bennie.

The rental offering will also include burners with a dual-fuel capability – natural gas-firing and light fuel oil-firing. 

Furthermore, all the hydraulic connections are located at the back of the container to simplify coupling on site. 

Optimal uptime

This design therefore ensures a simple, yet swift and effective solution, in the form of a ‘plug-and-play’ set-up for optimal uptime – another important benefit for customers, De Vry explains. 

“There are minimal complexities in terms of installation and commissioning, as we only need to connect the boilers into the customer’s current steam supply, electricity, feed water supply and fuel source. This is beneficial – and vital – particularly when customers are faced with an emergency,” he points out. 

Nevertheless, with every installation, Rand-Air is cognisant of customers’ operations and how the boilers will fit into their specific application, says Johnson.

“We strive to comprehensively understand each customer’s current process and set-up requirements, taking into consideration the piping systems, fuel source, and the type of burners used – among other elements – to determine and provide the best customised solution,” she explains. 

As part of the company’s customer service, Rand-Air will also provide 24/7 technical assistance from a team of skilled technicians and expert advice; as well as national and global support during the hire. 

Breakdowns or planned maintenance

“We have furthermore embarked on a dedicated customer education campaign, spreading awareness of this steam boiler solution, to provide customers with an effective alternative rental solution when faced with unplanned downtime or scheduled maintenance,” De Vry points out.  

Johnson agrees, further enthusing that: “These steam boilers, as an operational contingency, will become a game changer, making agility count through offering much-needed and enhanced flexibility to customers.”

De Vry further highlights the peace of mind that customers will have, knowing that they can draw on this rental solution, while focusing on their key strengths in fulfilling core business priorities to continue driving their businesses forward. “With Rand-Air’s boiler solutions, it will definitely be ‘full steam ahead’!” he concludes.

Rand-Air committed to excellence in safety with first female SHEQ officer and new ISO standard

While South African industries continuously focus on improving their manufacturing health and safety standards, Rand-Air – an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps) and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, aims to establish a leading role in health and safety. 

“Rand-Air, while prioritising safety at all times, strives to achieve and maintain excellence  – be it in new health and safety initiatives, or in complying with the latest industry requirements and standards. We have done so for the 48 years we have been in existence,” says Rand-Air Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager Bongani Thobela. 

“We are the compressor rental leaders and because of this, we need to ensure that we lead in terms of safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) as well. If Rand-Air is at the forefront of SHEQ, this will also lead to increased awareness of safety, with a positive ‘knock-on’ effect throughout our value chain,” Thobela says.

Among the many milestones in Rand-Air’s health and safety is an important addition to the company’s SHEQ team – the very first female Quality and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Administrator Lindi Maseko.

“Safety is in my veins – it is a vital part of who I am! With the new knowledge that I am increasingly grasping – in working with closely with Bongani and in being a member of the Rand-Air team, I see safety as an integral and essential part of life. It is not just about safety at work, but about how you can ‘live’ safety in all aspects of your life: at home, on the road and even socially,” Maseko enthuses.

Thobela agrees, reiterating that safety is one of the cornerstones of Rand-Air and cemented by the company’s culture and ethos of making agility count through its customer service and solutions.

In her role as the company’s first female SHEQ officer, Maseko not only strives to be a passionate ambassador for safety through new and innovative campaigns, but is committed to encouraging women in industry – and particularly her fellow female employees – “to grab opportunities and pursue futures in safety.” 

“Women should not be restricted by fear of the unknown and should discard the misconception that roles, such as SHEQ officers are only male-dominated,” she further emphasises.

Impeccable ISO

Key to Rand-Air’s SHEQ imperatives is the company’s impressive multi-certification in International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards, such as ISO 9000, 14000 and 18000. 

“Although we ensure our certifications are up to date and that we pass our independent audits annually, Rand-Air also continuously improves our safety practices to ensure 100 percent compliance to ISO; as well as entrench a complete awareness of and commitment to safety,” says Thobela.

Rand-Air’s latest ISO certification entails an upgrade from OHSAS 18001, the world’s former reference for workplace health and safety, to ISO 45001:2018. 

The ISO 45001 is the new standard for health and safety, focusing more on the interaction between an organisation and its business environment. 

“In accordance with ISO 45001, we need to implement systems to ensure that we reduce our employees’ and customers’ risks or hazards in the work environment, and ensure that these are removed – or at least reduced – as far as possible; as well as mitigate the risks which we cannot remove,” says Thobela.

“These are great initiatives to ultimately spark a better, more holistic understanding and continuation of improved SHEQ practices,” he adds.

Sustainable Safety 

With safety being one of the central driving tenets of Rand-Air’s ethos, Thobela and Maseko constantly promote and ensure safety in all aspects of the business by undertaking to involve all staff at Rand-Air, including customers and sub-contractors, in safety initiatives and compliance.

Thorough safety inductions are performed, while customers sign agreements to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Rand-Air’s safety standards, procedures and compliance requirements and vice versa. 

Internally, Rand-Air’s SHEQ department drafts regular reports, and informs the company of new safety directives, initiatives, and any changes at ‘MDW’ (Mission-Directed Work Teams) weekly meetings. 

Meanwhile, departmental ‘toolbox talks’, and ‘SHEQ representatives’ conversations enable the discussion of any technical safety-related issues, and are aimed at gaining feedback on risk observations.

First aid boxes are also regularly maintained and updated as required.

“As part of encouraging a passion for safety, we also draw on the suggestions from all Rand-Air branches and depots in exploring and adopting safety innovations,” Maseko says.

In a reflection of Rand-Air’s innovation, Thobela highlights the company’s Innovation system application, on which employees can register/record ideas on new safety initiatives; while another application allows them to record safety observations for future corrective actions.

Maseko observes: “In terms of driving safety procedures, we are continuously striving to achieve a conscientious approach and total commitment towards safety at Rand-Air. We ensure that employees – as well as our suppliers and customers – understand the pivotal importance of safety in all that we and they do.”

“Ultimately, safety is everyone’s responsibility – whether you are a cleaner, administrative assistant, technician, or a manager – and it should be a fundamental concern and ‘top of mind’ of with all. After all, it never hurt to think about safety, and could just save lives!” she concludes.

Rand-Air provides efficient dewatering at Northern Cape mine

South Africa’s mining and industrial sector operates in diverse weather conditions: heat, cold, rainy or sunny.

While mining operations in the typically hot Northern Cape operate mostly in hot, dry conditions, the province has experienced unusual and prolific rainfall since late last year – with the resulting water volumes and flooding affecting several mining and industrial operations.

To mitigate the effects of this exceptional rainfall – and to ensure vital operational continuity – a Northern Cape mine recently required a fast and efficient dewatering solution on site.

Established leaders in the field of portable air, power, flow and lighting solutions, and part of the global Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division, Rand-Air took to this challenge like a duck to water, supplying a quality solution – the high-performance PAS150 HF 300 dewatering pump.

“Flooding, either via the ingress of ground water, or surface run-off and on-site pooling through unprecedented rainfall (as in this particular case) can cause significant losses to equipment, productivity and revenue. Even more seriously, severe flooding could also result in loss of life, as well as environmental damage,” advises Rand-Air sales representative Denise Olivier.

“With this in mind, we dived right in – providing an agile and robust solution for the customer in the form of the PAS150 HF 300, thereby ensuring access to a safe and dry site; as well as smooth operational continuity – ‘uptime’ secured!” she says.

“The PAS150 HF 300 high-flow vacuum prime centrifugal pump is extremely versatile, and suitable for many industries, including general dewatering and emergency applications, such as flood clean-up operations – which is exactly what the customer required in this instance,” emphasises Olivier.

The pump, which was originally hired for a week in mid-December, has been in operation at the customer’s site for the past two months. Pending further rainfall and potential flooding conditions, the pump will remain in operation indefinitely.

“True to Rand-Air’s ethos of making agility count for the customer, we were able to deliver the pump with a fast, same-day turnaround without delays; and we also provided additional support to reduce delays in production,” says Olivier.

“The customer was very satisfied with the reliability, as well as the high-flow, volume pumping capabilities of the PAS150 HF 300,” she adds.

“This pump, which has been designed and developed with reliability and ease of use in mind, also features another important advantage – a high-flow performance of 510 m³/h, or 8 500 ℓ/min,” Olivier points out.

She further explains that the pump features a high-efficiency pump wet-end, which is equipped with a diaphragm vacuum pump and separator. The centrifugal pump and separator enable air to be separated from the liquid and to be sucked by a vacuum pump. These components allow for an automatic and fast priming process and trouble-free operation.

Moreover, even if the on-site operations have suction heights of several meters, the machine rapidly evacuates the air from the suction pipe and starts to pump.

Meanwhile, the pump’s modular design offers flexibility in terms of transportation and manoeuvrability, while the easy servicing of the wear components allows for less downtime and more pumping.

Other features of the pump include a dry running system, and a control panel. The pump unit also has an integrated control and power cubicle, comprising a digital controller with standard warnings, shutdown, stop/start function, an emergency stop, as well as easy-to-access and read diagnostics.

Furthermore, a configurable set point via transducer controls the pump’s Stage 3B engine speeds.

As part of Rand-Air’s service offering in providing comprehensive technical knowledge, Olivier advised and supplied the customer with the correct information regarding the appropriate class of discharge pipe matching the pressure of the pump.

This particular hire is the second long-term pump hire by Rand-Air since the company introduced the pumps offering to its existing rental equipment portfolio.

Despite the PAS range of pumps only recently being made available, Olivier – in keeping with her proactive and energetic approach – reached out to customers when the first drops of rain hit the Northern Cape, to better inform and educate them about Rand-Air’s pump offering.

“Our sound industry knowledge and inherent intuition in sourcing and providing appropriate equipment – tailored to the customer’s specific needs – complements our proactive approach in anticipating new needs as they arise – and having the required equipment available.

“This is demonstrated by our pump performing a critical dewatering function in this instance – and also proving that no matter the customer’s challenge, Rand-Air can rise to the occasion with excellent product quality and service,” says Olivier.

In a further reflection of the company’s innovative approach, Olivier notes that Rand-Air currently has two pumps on hire; the second pump was recently rented out to a customer in the iron-ore mining sector.

“Currently – due to water or rainfall affecting operations throughout the country, we are receiving enquiries about our pump rental solutions; and customers are becoming increasing  aware – and confident – of our pumps’ capacity and performance.

“To this end, Rand-Air continues to ensure that our solutions will keep customers’ operations dry, safe and ‘afloat’,” Olivier concludes.

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.

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