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132 www. bus- ex. com April 10

August General Servicing of the scheduling, we find that the most effective way of producing them is not going down the CAD route but simply through the use of assembly and welding jigs." By adopting this strategy, AGS has already doubled in size and now has 120 permanent employees on the payroll with anything from 100 to 300 more casual workers needed in the factory or on site during erection. Revenue is also set to double. With expected escalation, the current work it is doing for Eskom alone could hit the magical R1 billion mark. " It hasn't been easy," admits Brandner, " to make the necessary adjustments. The work we do attracts a lot of bureaucracy that calls for systems and procedures that simply weren't necessary when we were handling smaller projects. And it's not as though you can tackle one aspect at a time. To function properly you have to have the facilities, the extra employees, more sophisticated purchasing control and effective quality control in order to do the work." But like all South African companies, finding the right skills in sufficient quantities is a constant challenge for AGS. It's the first company in South Africa to be awarded ISO 3834 part III- fusion welding of structural metals. As such, it has an obligation to hire only the best craftsmen it can find to maintain this level of quality, but it's not easy. Even a relatively small company such as this is obliged to invest heavily in training and self improvement. With the additional space the new Alrode facility provides, AGS has invested in a purpose built venue where it plans to open a training facility to further improve the skills of its employees, alongside its already established ABET ( adult basic education and training) programmes. " South Africa still has too many people coming out of state education without basic literacy and numeracy skills," says Brandner. " All employers are encouraged to play a part in countering this problem so in addition to improving their professional skills, we are also providing those who need it with English and maths lessons." Without the responsibility for design but with a full complement of structural manufacturing skills, many other possibilities are open for AGS. On the supply side of power generation, AGS has worked at a number of coal mines providing conveyors or pipe work as well as more esoteric projects such as the manufacture and erection of a fluidised bed roaster it produced for the Mopani Copper mine in Zambia. It's not the capabilities at AGS that are simple- just the way of handling them. - Editorial research by Sam Howard April 10 www. bus- ex. com 133 very consciously kept out of design. That would take us into an entirely new set of requirements and would simply complicate matters at the moment." AGS concentrates, not exclusively but to a large extent, on power station pollution control, an area in which it is already one of the leading contractors, having dealt at one stage or another with most of the air cleaning specialists since entering this market segment 10 years ago. It's not a bad area to be involved with either, as South Africa has plenty of electricity generating plants and 90 per cent of those are powered by coal. With each boiler requiring some kind of air cleaning system that has a working life of 10 to 15 years, it's a revenue source not dissimilar to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge- no sooner do you finish than you have to start again. There's also a lot of steel involved. Air cleaners generally fall into two categories: electrostatic precipitators and bag filters. The former comprises ranks of steel plates with discharge electrodes in the space between which attract the pollutant particles from the airflow. Periodically everything needs to be given a good banging to dislodge the ash into hoppers for disposal. Brandner estimates the footprint for electrostatic precipitators to be around the size of a football pitch, while the bag filters being manufactured for another power station project come in at 1,600 tons of steel each ( six per power station). The current jewels in the crown are two new coal-burning power stations being built by Eskom ( South Africa's electricity generating authority) at Medupi and Kusile in South Africa to alleviate current power shortages. The planned completion date for both power stations is 2014 and the six pulse- jet fabric filters ( consisting of two casings each) at each station will be erected at six monthly intervals starting next year. These projects alone are taking up 450 of the 600 ton capacity AGS factories can handle each month. The nature of the steel varies from heavy structural sections to platework, calling for a wide range of cutting, pressing and welding machinery. To accommodate this work, AGS has 8,000 square metres of covered factory floor at two sites: an original 3,000 square metre workshop at Tulisa Park and a more recent investment in a 5,000 square metre factory in Alrode, both towns to the south of Johannesburg. Although AGS is continually looking at ways in which productivity can be improved, Brandner says that so far, the work hasn't lent itself to a large amount of automation. " On any one project," he says, " there might be components to be made in their hundreds but because " We can and do offer an entire turnkey service of everything from procurement to erection"