According to a well-known adage: ’Success doesn’t come to you; you go to it.’ This very much applies to Vital Engineering, which has gone more than the extra mile to successfully complete the 2 largest gratings, handrail and stair tread supply contracts so far in Africa. The contracts in question were to supply 100,000m2 of grating panels per power station; as well as some 70km of hand railing and over 8,000 stair treads to Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power station projects. To date, feedback from the client has been uniformly positive.
“I would ascribe the success of these seamless supply contracts to Vital Engineering’s long history and experience of over 75 years of supplying to power generation projects both locally and internationally,” explains Dodds Pringle, Managing Director of Vital Engineering.
“Success breeds success and, on the back of these two massive contracts, we soon won various large mining, materials handling, food and beverage and infrastructural water treatment, bridge and shopping centre contracts,” Pringle explains.
Combined with Vital Engineering’s experience and track record, the company’s value-added services, quality management, capacities, open and transparent communication channels, reporting functions – as well as attention to detail in ensuring first-time fitment during the installation phases – have all been pivotal deciding factors in winning these contracts.
He adds that many of Vital Engineering’s products were used in these projects: from GRP or FRP fibreglass gratings and accessories, to mild or stainless steel and aluminium gratings, stair treads and expanded metals. Adding value to these products were Vital’s unique, copyrighted sealed unit tubular stanchions. The stanchion product range comprises ball-type angle stanchions and solid forged stanchions, which were supplied with solid hand rails and bends to construct complete walkways.
With any construction or engineering project, the parameters of ‘on time, in budget’ are not negotiable, and definitely not during any of Vital Engineering’s projects.
“Fourteen years ago, we invested in highly sophisticated IT controlled production tracking systems, which we keep updated constantly,” says Pringle.
This gives the company the ability to accurately review and track the progress of client’s orders, ensuring that both product delivery commitments and budgetary targets are achieved without fail.
Safety was a key aspect in both the Eskom power station projects. Vital Engineering strove to work proactively with the principal contractor, MHPSA (Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa), to meet and surpass specified quality and safety goals.
”Having said that, all the stringent safety procedures, systems and quality controls applied to the power station projects are also applied without fail to every other project which we undertake for our loyal and valued local and international client base,” Pringle explains.
“This ensures that our service levels and deliverables remain consistent. Furthermore, we have always adopted pre-emptive safety and quality practices, instead of leaving this responsibility solely to the main contractor,” he continues.
Regarding product quality, Vital Engineering’s high manufacturing standards, total quality management (TQM) philosophy and strict adherence to systems management have become an industry benchmark for client satisfaction.
“To the best of our knowledge, as at the time of going to press, we are the only ISO 9001 design-related grating, handrail and expanded metal manufacturer in Southern Africa; and our checks and balances regarding our product performance and safety ensure that our customers have peace of mind at all times,” he adds.
“Extensive time and study has been undertaken to develop the very highest manufacturing standards, specification performance and criteria. More importantly, the regular testing and certification of our product performance gives clients the reassurance that they are receiving a product that performs in accordance with international standards,” he says.
An example of the attention to detail which Vital Engineering implements is the practice of always carrying out pre-trail layouts.
“Our pre-trial layout policies have resulted in more satisfied clients than we can name – both on the local and international fronts. This is one of the factors that allows us to retain long-standing clients and win new ones,” he elaborates.
However, recently, Pringle has had to caution buyers, specifiers and clients to look closely at the products they specify.
“Recent instances of sub-standard performance parameters, lower steel and manufacturing quality, and failure to carry out test procedures have led to catastrophic failures. When these occur, specifiers suffer professionally, as they bear the full brunt of the law for choosing sub-standard products,” he cautions.
In terms of performance, grid flooring and hand railings are reliant on the supplier’s integrity to ensure high standards of safety are maintained.
“Those responsible for procuring or specifying walk-way systems need to be mindful of these critically important factors. The long-term consequences of a fatal accident are always severe, including strained client relationships, delayed project completion and severe penalties. However, these are vastly outweighed by any loss of life which could so easily occur as a direct result of using sub-standard, cheap and ultimately unsafe products,” he concludes.