Structural steel fabricator and erector Cosira Group provides in-house training on efficient project planning and implementation, to instill a holistic knowledge of the construction process, says Cosira Group GM for planning Mike van Vuuren.
Van Vuuren manages an in-house project-planning school, where, every six months, selected trainee project managers are enrolled in a three-year programme. This will equip the trainee with the necessary skills and knowledge to become project-planning leaders at Cosira in future.
“About five years ago, it was a challenge to source competent project-planners and we found that a great many candidates were simply not up to standard,” he notes.
Van Vuuren started the project-planning school in 2005. Each trainee was provided with theoretical and practical training, with the practical aspect requiring that the candidate acquire experience in all the company’s departments.
“By spending at least six months in each department of the company, the trainee gained comprehensive knowledge of what the overall project-planning process entailed. Further, training was conducted on the construction sites. Trainees therefore gained an all-encompassing technical knowledge, as well as expertise in the necessary hardware, software, site planning and schedules,” he explains.
Currently, Cosira supplements the in-house training programme through the University of Pretoria’s courses, a programme in project management and an advanced programme in project management.
In time, the trainee candidates are expected to assist the company in providing turnkey structural, mechanical and comprehensive project management solutions. As Cosira aims to provide the necessary logistical and infrastructural support to its clients, the company’s employees need to know how to manage all components on site. Management of subcontractors is also necessary.
Cosira CEO John da Silva concurs with the importance of providing extensive skills training to its staff. “The company has recognised that for the successful future of the industry and of South Africa’s sustained growth and development as global players in the steel construction sector, the exchange of skills and the transfer of accumulated knowledge are paramount,” he adds.
Further, Van Vuuren says that it makes financial sense to have an in-house training facility for the company’s employees. “We believe that Cosira Group can provide the entrepreneurial spirit, experience, skills and resources to provide efficient construction solutions in Southern Africa,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Cosira is aiming to achieve a certain level as a broad-based black economic-empowerment (BBBEE) supplier.
Cosira corporate strategy director Gift Phenethi notes that the company is pursuing enterprise development for this reason.
The BBBEE Act states that if a business organisation embraces enterprise development, the organisation will gain more than 15 points on its BBBEE scorecard.
Cosira has to make contributions to a smaller enterprise, with the aim of assisting and accelerating the development, sustainability and ultimate financial and operational independence of such beneficiary entities.
This is through the expansion of these beneficiary entities’ financial and operational capacity.
Currently, the company is involved in a number of initiatives contributing to black enterprise development. “These initiatives will, over time, stand to benefit the construction industry as a whole. We are presently investigating the establishment of a BBBEE supplier development programme to further cement our commitment to black-owned businesses,” says Phenethi.
In 2004, with the conclusion of a black economic-empowerment (BEE) deal with construction company TIH, Cosira became the first large BEE structural steel fabrication, mechanical, platework and piping construction company in South Africa.
Further, the company reports it has developed a robust skills development programme, linked to its Workplace Skills plan, aimed at developing representation of previously disadvantaged people at senior management level.
Cosira has also established preferential procurement policies as a cornerstone of its supply-chain management practices. This policy means that preference is given to BEE-compliant enterprises, small to medium-size enterprises, and black-owned enterprises.
Meanwhile, Cosira’s new Vul-cania premises have expanded the company’s facilities and fabrication capacity.
The premises cover an area of 36 000 m2 to accommodate machinery, handling and mobile manufacturing cells. This 4 500-t/m facility is situated on 150 000 m2 of ground to accommodate future expansions.
The company reports that this facility has one of the most modern automated materials management and handling systems for structural steel in South Africa. It has four purpose-built production bays, one of which is a purpose-built heavy-production bay with a 100-t lifting capacity to handle elements for power generation and other work. The plant features three in-line beam lines, four in-line saws, two plate-processing machines, two submerged-arc welding systems and four angle-matics.
This facility services the power station, mining and other construction projects in South Africa. Further, the company is equipped to export its products and services. Phenethi notes that in the current economic downturn, it is critical to be equipped with export capacity.
“This has always been one of the company’s long-term visions,” he adds.