Owing to the growth of the mining industry in Ghana, more companies are investing in the resource-rich country, says South African condition monitoring specialist WearCheck, which recently expanded its African footprint into West Africa with the opening of an oil analysis laboratory in Ghana.
Since its inception in August 2013, the Tarkwa-based Wear-Check oil analysis laboratory has successfully serviced mines in the surrounding areas. The laboratory is strategically situated near goldfields, several hundred kilometres inland and west of the capital, Accra. The company’s Ghana-based division, Wearcheck Ghana, which incorporates the laboratory, is geared to service the local mining industry, including the country’s largest gold mine, the Tarkwa gold mine, which is owned by Africa’s biggest gold producer, Gold Fields Ghana.
WearCheck MD Neil Robinson says the capital investment in building and equipping the Ghana laboratory was about $750 000.
Local businesses in the mining industry and other potential clients were invited to the August launch, which included a guided tour of the laboratory and an explanation of oil analysis.
“The concept of analysing oil samples from a machine or component is similar to that of taking a blood sample from a person – the results determine the ‘health’ status of the unit and the condition of the lubricant,” says Robinson.
He adds that WearCheck’s skilled diagnostic team analyses the results and advises companies on how to rectify any abnormal findings.
In addition to the mining industry, other Ghanaian industries, including the construction, automotive, shipping, aviation, industrial, electrical and petro- chemicals industries, are set to benefit from WearCheck’s services, says Robinson, who regards the laboratory in West Africa as the next step in the company’s ongoing strategic expansion.
“The stable Ghanaian economy and political environment were important factors in our selecting Ghana as a starting point in West Africa,” he says.
Robinson adds that WearCheck plans to initially introduce the concept of oil analysis to a few key customers, with the company’s capacity for processing samples being developed as demand increases.
The WearCheck network cur-rently spans nine countries and includes ten laboratories, all located in areas best positioned to service particular industries or industry clusters. Demand for WearCheck’s services has played an influential role in deter-mining new locations for laboratories, he notes.
Services Provision and Training
WearCheck Ghana offers an on-site sampling service and a 24-hour sample turnaround time. Oil samples are processed in the laboratory, which has the full complement of laboratory equipment, as do all WearCheck laboratories.
All laboratory work in Ghana is overseen by laboratory supervisor Daniel Boakye – a Ghanaian national who has undergone extensive training at WearCheck’s facilities in South Africa and Zambia.
“All the laboratory staff who conduct sample testing at the Ghana branch have incorporated their experience gained from one of the other local oil analysis laboratories,” says Robinson, adding that Boakye underwent training, valued at about R100 000, at the Zambian facility, in Kitwe, owing to the similarity of the two operations.
Meanwhile, Boakye says WearCheck Ghana has improved the condition-monitoring options for Ghana-based industries by introducing the first world-class oil analysis facility in West Africa.
“This has increased the reliability of machinery in local industries, particularly in the mining industry, where oil analysis has already been instrumental in predicting machinery failures, thereby helping businesses avoid catastrophic component failures and costly downtime.
“I believe WearCheck will continue to help local businesses to save money and improve productivity by boosting the reliability of their equipment,” says Boakye.
Robinson is confident that Ghanaian busi-nesses will reduce clients’ operating costs using oil analysis as a key proactive maintenance tool. “The ultimate goal of oil analysis is to save customers money. By reducing unscheduled downtime, oil analysis increases the availability of machinery, which subsequently improves productivity and boosts the bottom line,” he says.
The first WearCheck laboratory opened its doors 40 years ago in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal, which helped to position WearCheck as a key oil analysis specialist for the African market.
“This was the start of an illustrious corporate journey, during which international recognition and the demand for oil analysis have led to steady organic growth in new locations. “It also motivated us to expand our range of services and evolve our condition-monitoring capabilities to meet industry demands,” says Robinson.
WearCheck maintains its status as the only laboratory on the African continent with an ISO 9001 quality certification, ISO 14001 environmental certification and ISO 17025 accreditation for its fuel and transformer laboratories.
“Supported by endorsements from several international quality organisations, our qualified and experienced staff members, who work across an international network of laboratories and offices, have contributed to WearCheck being acknowledged as genuine oil analysis experts,” adds Robinson.
“In addition, a network of duplicate instrumen- tation across multiple laboratories serves as backup, where necessary,” he says, adding that WearCheck’s diagnosticians have extensive product knowledge about all types of equipment brands and models.