DCD Heavy Engineering, a division of DCD Group, has a proudly South African heritage as a niche supplier of bespoke-engineered heavy mechanical equipment for the mining, energy and steel industries. African Fusion talks to Rakesh Mohan the company’s quality assurance manager.
“I feel that DCD should be declared a national key point because of it unrivalled heavy fabrication capability – if we can’t make it, nobody can,” begins Mohan. “And while we are subject to the same economic challenges as everyone else in Africa right now, we are on a systematic improvement path towards being leaner, more flexible and globally competitive,” he adds.
“In the heavy engineering business, delivery times have always been a challenge, because thicker section steel has to be imported. And since we are a make-to-order company, shipping raw material into South Africa can cause delays.
“Over the past 18 months, we have turned our on-time delivery around, from an average of two weeks late to being two weeks ahead of schedule. We can now accurately predict how long a project will take. What we say is what customers will get and we never sell a delivery we can’t meet! This is because work progress is made very transparent through our improved planning and quality systems,” Mohan reveals.
Through the active stewardship of investment partner, Investec Asset Management, which strives to support its assets via ongoing evaluation, monitoring and engagement processes, DCD Heavy Engineering has developed and implemented a comprehensive and proprietary enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “Now all input materials deliveries, work schedules and deadlines are automatically generated and captured on our system, which reveals exactly where we are on every day on any project. And this system is also fully integrated with our quality system,” Mohan explains.
On the shop floor, he shows us a display screen of the day’s scheduled activities. A dragline base is being fabricated and the list of ongoing and completed tasks, individually allocated to artisans, is on display for all to see. “On projects such as this one, which involves the fabrication of a 17.7 m dragline base in 16 separate segments every task by every employee is entered into the system, tracked and checked on a continuous basis. So everyone knows exactly were we are with a project at any time,” he tells African Fusion.
Dragline bases are complicated structures that require significant numbers of internal stiffeners. And after completing the assembly, the accuracy required has to be “within 6.0 mm across the 17.7 m diameter, in terms of flatness and roundness.”
In terms of expertise, DCD Heavy Engineering is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ball and sag mills for gold, copper and platinum mining. “We are currently also busy fabricating winding drums for two man winders (6.4 m in diameter and 204 tons each) and two rock winders (7.2 m diameters and 175 t each), which, respectively, require two and four drums per winder,” Mohan points out.
On the power side, the company’s second core competency, DCD Heavy Engineering has just completed the last of the replacement low-pressure (LP) turbine cases for Kriel Power Station. Six casings were supplied in total, weighing in at 30 t each with a 4.0 m diameter – a notable achievement in that “this is the first time 30 years that these have been fabricated in South Africa”. “These were machined and welded here in Vereeniging, with the last two completed last year,” he reveals.
But, apart from some potential refurbishment work, the power work has largely dried up and, as a result of the collapse of commodity prices, mining projects across Africa are almost all on hold. “We are, therefore, busy securing work from the mining destinations all over the world.
“We have excess capacity, the skills and the flexibility to take on work that has been non-traditional for us. We are busy with and R&D project on heavy section exotic materials, for example, for petrochemical and specialist minerals processing plant equipment. This is free issue proprietary material and we are exploring how it responds to being manipulated – formed, cut, shaped welded and heat-treated.
“We have ISO 9001 and ISO 3834 Part 2 certifications, so we are also perfectly capable of fabricating pressure vessels, although these are generally made from much thinner materials,” Mohan says.
“For us, ISO 3834 is a way of life. We have always had ISO 9001, which we implemented properly, as a manufacturing process and quality standard. But in South Africa, ISO 9001 became more of a commercial tool rather than manufacturing quality system. Hence the need for ISO 3834, which deals directly with fabrication quality requirements,” he argues.
DCD is now into its second five-year certification period for ISO 3834 Part 2. “And in terms of auditing, very few ISO 9001 auditors are familiar with weld quality requirements, so the audits are not that detailed and do not focus on a fabricators core competencies. With ISO 3834, the auditors are specialists in welding, which helps our business as their advice is directly relevant to our daily activities.
“Our entire business is built on ‘right-first-time’ quality. From our ERP systems, planning, scheduling and quality are all integrated and even if we have a to do a repair, the reason is captured and scheduled before being carried out.
“This approach allows us to review and analyse every aspect of a project, enabling us to establish constantly improving benchmarks. I have now been involved in quality management for 19 years and DCD is the only company I know that has such a strong and effective focus on quality control,” Mohan concludes.