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Focus in SA shifted from execution to studies.
Author:admin  |  Release Time:15th February 2012

More companies are undertaking extensive feasibility studies before executing projects in South Africa because of the uncertain global economic climate, says consulting, engineering and project implementation firm Hatch. “Clients are doing a lot more work on validating their projects before moving on to the execution phase, project delivery group director Andries Auret tells Mining Weekly. He notes that Hatch’s clients are doing a lot of homework in preparation for projects this year, with many of the projects only forecast to start construction in the latter part of 2013. This slowdown in physical construction and execution in South Africa is regional, says Auret. “In other parts of the world, including the rest of Africa, projects are being executed. However, South Africa lags about 9 to 12 months behind with regard to experiencing the effect of the global debt crisis.” Hatch’s services and projects are diversified across the infrastructure, metals and energy sectors. However, the metals industry is currently active and the company is involved in various phases of studies and projects at different stages of completion across all commodities, states Auret. Further, as the company operates across most commodities, the current copper and zinc price decline is not having a serious effect on Hatch. While some commodity prices decline, others increase, explains Auret. Hatch’s clients also tend to plan thoroughly and study the long-term effects of commodi- ties, resulting in many more option studies with advanced planning up to ten years in the future, he adds. Project Delivery Hatch’s main focus for the 2012 financial year is good project delivery. Auret stresses the importance of ensuring clients are provided with the necessary services. Hatch recently started focusing on providing clients with encompassing solutions. Thus, the company provides a client with the complete design and implementation of a project from the mine to the export terminal. This includes rail, port, and bulk infrastructure and energy solutions. Further, to secure success, Hatch works closely with its clients. “We combine our teams with those of our clients to ensure that our project goals are aligned,” Auret explains. He notes that there is renewed interest in services focusing on infrastructure and certain commodities like coal. Significant renewable- energy projects are also starting to increase the momentum, owing to the national energy crisis. Further, the company has continued to develop its tools, people and procedures, he says. Training courses are provided for our clients through Hatch’s Project Life-Cycle Process Advancement programme to align the company and its clients’ methodologies. The programme has also been introduced to guarantee control and accuracy to achieve the desired end product, he explains. Challenges Meanwhile, one of the major challenges facing project execution in South Africa and Africa is energy supply. “It is quite common to require some form of self-generation or renewable power supply at a project’s concept phase,” says Auret. Depending on the project environment, Hatch sometimes uses self-generation and renewable power supplies. The company seeks to find the best option for the specific project. Infrastructure can also sometimes be a challenge; however, Auret points out that freight logistics group Transnet’s successful capital expansion programme has, over the past five years, resulted in a step change in South Africa’s rail and port structure. “The challenge will be for Transnet to maintain the momentum created by the programme for the next five years,” he adds. Skills Shortage Hatch is passionate about trying to alleviate the current skills shortage in South Africa, as the development of qualified engineers is one of the biggest challenges the country currently faces, states Auret. The number of bursary students generated by industry, who also undergo four years of practical experience or training after they have graduated, has reduced significantly over the past 15 years, he explains. The company addresses this challenge through its Professional Development Programme (PDP), which uses on-the-job training to transform young engineers into professionals, he says. “This has been extremely successful and we were voted as the company of choice by university students in Africa,” Auret adds. Besides the PDP programme, Hatch also provides holiday work for grade 11 and 12 learners. The company is also an active sponsor of the African Academy training institution and works closely with the facility to train new draughtspersons, while employing the best graduates of every class each year to work at Hatch. Further, the company created the Hatch Corporate Learning Centre, which provides e-learning and structured external learning opportunities for staff. These range from professional development courses to the company’s programme for adult learning in which staff members are assisted in obtaining their matric certificates..

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