Pumps supplier Mechanical Rotating Solutions (MRS) has witnessed a marked increase in refurbishment orders for its pumps division in the first quarter of 2019 – as opposed to new installations – compared with the same period last year.
“The company has invested significantly in the improvement of its technologies, which are geared towards assisting in the servicing and refurbishing of pumping equipment,” says MRS CEO Franscois Steenkamp.
South Africa is starting to find its place in the international market in terms of digitalisation and digital monitoring, with an emerging market for pump adjustment software and vibration sensors that could prolong pump life through early detection of possible pump or system failure, he adds.
“Pump technology is still very much focused on the quest to better match pump performance to a client’s system requirements. Companies, such as mechanical seals manufacturer AESSEAL, are known to reinvest as much as 7% of yearly sales in research and development aimed at finding ways of increasing pump life,” Steenkamp comments.
He adds that the industry is reaching a point where product efficiency should have a closer link to system efficiency, noting that one way to achieve this, effectively, is to vary pump performance.
As such, pumps manufacturers now offer improved motor and variable-speed drive technology that provide solutions for varying load or demand patterns on pumping systems. The future of pump technology may, therefore, be in optimal system integration rather than the pump itself, Steenkamp adds.
Having ploughed back a substantial amount of its income into new technologies, engineering, the workforce and new premises, MRS is committed to becoming the industry supplier of choice.
MRS has observed clients paying closer attention to product selection based on greater longevity and added benefits such as energy saving and decreased maintenance costs. This is owing to a shrinking maintenance workforce, labour costs, as well as costs associated with new installations, Steenkamp states.
“Faced with the decline in profits from the mining industry, as well as the continued rise in energy and labour costs, companies are considering solutions to save money to make up for this deficit.”
Steenkamp highlights that investment in new infrastructure of local mines has steadily declined over the past decade. While some of the country’s biggest mining companies have made profitable transitions to mechanisation, downsized their labour force and restructured, returning to profitability has not been redirected into new projects or mining expansion.
He adds that the latest available indicators show that, while mining production in South Africa decreased by 4.2% in June this year, compared with production in June 2018, output has decreased the most since February 2019 and declined for the eighth consecutive month.
“All these factors are coupled with uncertainty regarding investment in mining assets stemming from the requirements of Mining Charter III. One key concern that could suppress investment in mining companies is that any renewal of an expiring mining right or a transfer of those rights would trigger the requirement for new black economic-empowerment transactions to a 30% ownership level – up from 26%.”
Steenkamp also points to the South African mining sector being flagged by several lobby groups for having a substantial carbon footprint. With the Carbon Tax Act coming into force in June, he believes that this will undoubtedly have serious cost implications for mines, which will have to factor in extra tax costs in their operational budgets.
Despite the challenges that the sector faces, MRS has been able to establish a good reputation in the local pumps industry over the past ten years, Steenkamp says.
Meanwhile, MRS has also moved its premises closer to its broader customer base. The company’s new R13-million expansion project – completed in November 2018 – comprises 1 000 m2 of storerooms, sandblasting facilities and state-of-the-art office space in Pretoria, Gauteng.
The benefits of the new premises includes faster responses to call-outs, lower travelling costs and turnkey pump services – all of which translate to cost savings for the company and its clients, Steenkamp explains.
Providing a one-stop shop for “all pumping needs” creates an opportunity to source from one supplier, he adds.
“We offer our clients a well-designed piping system comprising pumps, valves, flow control and piping, besides others, all under one roof. Our product offerings work together harmoniously to meet specified design requirements and reduce total life cycle and operating costs.”
The company’s goal is to “bring the mining industry closer together”, says Steenkamp. The new premises have been set up in a way that enables MRS to showcase its complete product offering on site with working demonstrations.
“We have incorporated our pumps portfolio into our new premises’ water features and dams. Our premises are testament to our absolute trust in the quality of our product range and serve a dual purpose as active product showroom and company grounds,” he concludes.