Efficient Engineering has been certified to ISO 3834 Part 2 for many years and had its first recertification earlier this year. African Fusion visits the company’s Phase IV facilities in Tunney, Germiston.
Efficient Engineering was established in 1968 as a small company manufacturing cabs and operator cabins for forklifts and trucks. Demand for the company’s high quality products has seen the business grow into a world-class steel fabrication, machining, manufacturing and heavy engineering works, constituting a total floor space of some 25 500 m2.
As the official supplier to many national and international original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the mining, materials handling and engineering industries, Efficient Engineering has continued to build its business name on a reputation of quality and reliability.
“The company promotes quality excellence from the ground up,” explains the company’s quality manager, Louis Smuts. “We follow stringent procedures to ensure uniformity. For example, each welder signs off on the quality of his work before an inspector is called. This is what has emerged from honing our products and processes for nearly 50 years,” he adds.
Facilities and growth
Having started out as a small-scale engineering firm, the company experienced high demand, which led to the establishment of a new factory in Sebenza and a shift in focus to heavy engineering.
Due to continued demand from major industry players and the need for significantly larger production space, October 2006 saw the development of Phase I of Efficient Engineering’s newly established 6 300 m2 headquarters in Greenhills, which would allow the company to manufacture larger components than ever before while consolidating its machining, blasting and painting capabilities.
Continued increases in demand necessitated the construction of the 4 200 m2 Phase II development, completed at the end of 2008, followed in March 2009 by its 2 000 m2 Phase III facility, which is focused on sheet metal fabrications.
Efficient Engineering’s Phase IV and V developments, with a combined floor space 13 000 m2, constitute the latest state-of-the-art facilities.
The continued success of Efficient Engineering over the decades has drawn keen interest from a number of high profile investors during the company’s history. In order to effectively accelerate this growth, Efficient Engineering agreed to sell 26% of the company’s equity to investment expert, RMB Corvest, the private equity division of FirstRand Limited, in September 2009. At the same time, B-BBEE private equity company Shalamuka Capital acquired 29%.
Efficient Engineering’s non-executive chairman, Tony Cimato, retains a 25% shareholding in the business, while the remaining 20% was offered to senior management as part of an internal buy-in. This ensured improved job security and increased loyalty to the Efficient Engineering brand while enabling the current leadership team to flourish in a corporate environment where they have been exposed to new learning opportunities and decision making responsibilities from within the business.
The net result is B-BBEE Level 2 status with total black ownership of 36.82% and black women ownership of 11.58%, a R400-million turnover for 2013 and 2014, and a likely turnover of R350-million in 2015.
Products and capabilities
Efficient Engineering’s activities can be categorised into four main product lines. These include large bulk materials handling systems, such as stackers and reclaimers, mostly manufactured for local OEMs servicing the mining and bulk materials export industries; earth moving equipment, such as dump truck bodies, dragline buckets and excavators, predominantly for the mining industry; process equipment, such as reactors, heat exchangers, columns and pressure vessels, for the oil and gas industry; and, finally, modular and non-modular electrical substations for mining operations, and PV boxes for processing energy generated in photovoltaic applications. “This last offering is a new and exciting area for us. It will allow us to generate our own IP and become a leading OEM in our own right,” explains Smuts.
Dump truck bodies, earthmoving equipment and related components still make up a major percentage of the company’s turnover. “The smaller dump truck bodies and materials handling equipment is handled in our Phase I workshop, which also houses the machine shop,” says Smuts. “But most of the big buckets, for Komatsu 960s, for example, are fabricated in Phase II, which has six 32 t cranes. We strive to do all of the welding on these huge buckets in the flat position, so we needed high shop cranage to turn the buckets.
“This is a differentiator for us. Since adopting this approach, our weld quality has improved significantly,” he adds. “We strive to keep our welders as comfortable as possible to give them the best possible chance of producing flawless welds.
“While submerged arc welding is used to fabricate the bucket floors, the majority of the welding on earthmoving equipment is done using flux-cored arc welding (FCAW).”
Efficient Engineering’s current flagship project is for the Meerkat antennas for the Square Kilometre Array project (SKA) under construction in Sutherland in the Northern Cape of South Africa. “We received the order for the fabrication and full electrical and mechanical integration of the yokes and pedestals for the first 64 Meerkat antennas,” says Smuts. “This involves fabrication of the support pedestals and the yokes to extremely tight tolerances; a dimensional accuracy of 1.0 mm on a 7.0 m length is required on the pedestals, which are fabricated in 50 mm steel and joined using submerged arc welding. This work is currently being done in our Phase IV workshop.”
On the oil and gas side in the Phase IV workshop, the company has completed numerous Class A pressure vessels for companies including Sasol and Natref, which, typically, have to be manufactured to ISO 3834 Part 2 and ASME VIII, Division 1, Appendix 10 quality standards. “We recently completed a heat exchanger tube bundle project for Natref at 24 MPa (240 bar),” notes Smuts.
“Most of the welding for this type of work is done using gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW); autogenously for the root runs and with filler for the seal weld on the surface. We have very good welders for this work, whom we train ourselves.”
Smuts explains that his team has also successfully completed a super-duplex column for Process Plant Technologies (PPTech) that had to be joined to a titanium lower section, where they applied SASTEC’s special specifications for the welding of duplex stainless steels.
“Currently, in our workshop, we are busy with two very awkward finned tube bundle heat exchangers for Natref, which involve a lot of GTAW mirror welding.” He goes on to describe how the welders need to manufacture 585 U-bend joints per bundle, which is nearly 1 200 tube-to-tube butt welds, achieving a very low weld repair rate – an impressive feat for mirror welding and illustrative of the training and expertise of the team.
Efficient Engineering has also taken on the fabrication of five ‘bullet’ LPG storage tanks for Sunrise Energy’s new LPG import terminal being built in Saldanha Bay. “We are now responsible for completing the five bullets and delivering them to site. This entails completion of fabrication, non-destructive examination (NDE), heat treatment and final assembly,” explains Van der Walt, the recently appointed MD of Efficient Engineering’s latest acquisition, Trotech Engineering, now known as Efficient Trotech.
He goes on to note that, “These are the largest vessels we have ever built. At 7.5 m in diameter and 68 m between tan lines, and a wall thickness of 40 mm, the total empty fabricated mass of each vessel is approximately 580 t.
“Since our establishment in the 1960s, our growth and success has been built on ever improving quality standards. We know this is the right approach because people come back to us time and time again,” Smuts concludes.