Engineering innovation and in-house skills puts MPS Projects ahead

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MPS Projects, a specialist division of the Mining Pressure Systems (MPS) Group, has just successfully completed two major engineering projects, both platinum concentrators in Zimbabwe; Unki in the south and Ngezi in the central region.

“When bidding for the Ngezi contract, we were highly competitive and offered exceptional delivery dates. Furthermore, we offered the client our on-site steam cured rubber lining,” says Michael Neves, Director of MPS Projects. “As a result of our performance on the Ngezi project, the client recommended that we be used for the Unki project as well.”

From this type of client recommendations, MPS Projects has been growing steadily, attracting work from both existing and new clients. Neves believes there are many factors that contribute to its growing success. “We think it has a lot to do with our safety record, our workmanship and the level of engineering skill offered,” he says. “Moreover, the division has the backing of our holding company to handle a project of any size in the world. In fact, we’ve handled some of the largest mining installation projects in the last two years.”

Launched in 2007, MPS Projects focuses on project management, site erection and commissioning for the group and selected clients. As a specialist piping installation company, MPS offers structural steel and mechanical supply and installation as an additional service. “We have a very symbiotic relationship with the supply and manufacturing division of the group,” Neves explains. “All installation contracts awarded to the holding company are channelled through to MPS Projects and, similarly, all supply and manufacture contracts awarded to MPS Projects are done by the holding company.”

Neves believes this has given the company a strong competitive advantage in the industry. “With MPS Projects added into the mix, the group now competes for supply and install contracts whereas before we were seen solely as a supply company,” he says. “Our division has definitely exposed the group to a new pool of clients.”

Effective delivery is a core ingredient in project success, Neves adds. Both Zimbabwe projects took just over nine months to complete, with the same team used on both projects, as Unki started just as the Ngezi project was coming to completion. “We had a total of 198 employees,” he reports, “with 72% being local labour, which naturally helped the immediate communities in the areas of operation.”

The Unki project lies approximately 37km from Gweru in the southern regions of Zimbabwe, while Ngezi is situated some 80km east of Selous in central Zimbabwe. Even so, MPS Projects was well poised to handle these two projects. In terms of piping installation, MPS is equipped to handle the largest piping projects on offer in Sub Saharan Africa. “By owning our own plant, we also ensure the reliability of our machines,” he says. “This greatly minimises down time as a result of a possible breakdown.”

Furthermore, as a piping specialist, MPS has focused on automating its site welding in accordance with European standards. In this respect, Neves believes MPS is leaving the pack. “A significant breakthrough is the continued successful use of our onsite mobile steam curing auto-clave,” he says. “We pioneered this concept some four years ago when we were tasked to rubber line closure pipes in past Zimbabwe-based projects.”

To avoid the time-cost involved in bringing the pipes back to South Africa, MPS designed, manufactured and commissioned a mobile auto-clave with a capability to treat 12m pipes onsite to the same specifications as the company’s Johannesburg branch. “This machine has been so successful, we are currently fabricating our second machine.”

Although the mobile auto-clave is used primarily used in neighbouring countries, Neves reveals there are plans to commence using the machines in the local market on projects that require extensive rubber lining. “This will give any project taken on an extra degree of control,” he says, “as no closures need to leave the construction site and the rubber lining turnaround time is drastically reduced, saving time and money.”

As a result of the group’s strong financial position, it has focused on expanding its assets. “We’ve done this as we have faith in the market and want to be in a strong position to service the market when new projects are launched,” he says. In terms of this strategic expansion, innovation and technological developments remain key imperatives for MPS.

“Our main focus has been on improving on installation time and overall quality,” he says. “We have visited many global institutions and invested in equipment not commonly available in South Africa. Of course, we realise that soon our competitors will follow, but it’s always good to be the front runner, simply because we have already experienced any inherent teething problems and risen above any challenges.”

Neves attributes the success of MPS Projects to working closely with the client. “We own the project in conjunction with our clients,” he concluded. “Furthermore, we never overstate our capacities and know our limitations in terms of our current middle and top management. We don’t want to jeopardise our solid reputation as a result of chasing turnover. We always do what we say we can do – and deliver on that promise.”

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