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Visible Felt Leadership is a philosophy that Concor Construction drives and an excellent example of a project where this is reaping significant rewards is the Concor Buildings Makro Riversands contract.

Concor Buildings, previously known as Murray & Roberts Buildings, is part of Concor Construction which was recently acquired by a consortium led by Southern Palace Group.

This is an extremely busy construction site with activities on all faces with people and machinery moving everywhere, yet it does not seem congested and everyone seems to have a thorough knowledge of what needs to be done and why. It is apparent when one walks through the site that there is ongoing interaction between all levels of personnel on this contract and this high level of communication is ensuring the success of the project.

When completed the massive new Makro will be a 12 metre high single storey structure that includes the store, offices and outbuildings. Roadways and parking areas are also included in the scope of the contract.

Scaffold activities for brickwork and plastering.

The contract was awarded to Concor Buildings by Massmart in February 2017, however external issues outside of the contractor’s control led to a delay in being able to start concrete casting.

This, according to contracts manager, Martin Muller, had a 41 day impact on the critical path of the baseline programme but also provided the opportunity to showcase Concor Buildings’ flexibility and responsiveness to the changing needs of the project due to the delay.

“We were able to mobilise the necessary competent core team initially, and implement the necessary acceleration in the programme to bring it back on track to ensure that the newly agreed store opening would not be compromised,” Muller explains.

He say that the original sequence of works had been to proceed from the east to the west but, because of the unprecedented delay, the programming was resequenced with construction starting from both ends at the same time.

This required a change in the level of resourcing on the project to accommodate the accelerated works programme.

“The resequencing and accelerating of the programme has crashed all the activities with some of these now completely out of sequence. This has put pressure on ensuring that all information is received on time and requires monitoring of all activities on site to ensure that everything is done correctly the first time,” Muller says.

Formwork being stripped and stacked.

One of the primary challenges on the project is to keep close track of the actual costs versus the budget especially because of the accelerated programme. Also important is the close management of people and productivity including sub-contractors. There are currently 565 people on site, but this is expected to increase to over 1000 at project peak.

Muller says that several initiatives have been implemented aimed at keeping rework and wastage to an absolute minimum. One of these is the daily monitoring of brick and concrete usage, while another is tracking of the labour cost to complete these elements.

“These are important aspects on this contract and have involved the ongoing education and training of both our people and sub-contractors. Often the focus is on construction methodologies only but we believe it is essential to empower all our people on site to understand the ramifications of wastage and rework,” Muller says.

Following site establishment, the contractor started on the foundation work while simultaneously procuring the long lead items.

Levelling off the external hard stands in preparation for concrete casting.

The first concrete was eventually poured on May 3rd and shortly thereafter the structural steel and concrete structure activities began concurrently.

Significantly, on the Makro Riversands structure the complete perimeter walls are being constructed with brick and mortar as opposed to the use of conventional dry wall and sheeting above the three metre level.

Muller says that not only is this type of building activity more labour intensive, the height at which these construction activities is taking place has necessitated the use of additional access handling equipment to be able to access the full extent of the 12 metre structure. Increased focus has also been placed on all activities related to working at height.

Safety has also been a critical element of Concor Buildings approach to all projects, and this one is not different.

Services and other trades working together to achieve the end date.

Muller explains that contractor has mitigated the risks with the high number of people on site, the accelerated programme and the fact that construction is being undertaken on more than one face, by increasing the number of safety officers and representatives on site.

“In addition to the daily site task instructions which are held every morning by the respective foremen and the weekly toolbox talk on site, there is a high level of interaction from supervisory level as well as management, and this visible felt leadership is paying huge dividends in terms of productivity, quality workmanship and safety,” Muller says.

A significant portion of the labour force on site is from the local community, and while largely unskilled people, wherever possible skills transfer is being done to ensure sustainability of the community.

In addition to this, there are a high number of interns on site as well. This is an extension of the existing Concor Construction programme with Go for Gold students and underpins the company’s commitment to supporting continued knowledge sharing, development and up skilling of graduates.

Commenting on specific construction activities, Muller says that the actual monolithic concrete floor which is an important element for Makro is on the critical path of the project. The floor is designed to accommodate the high levels of vehicular traffic and storage as well as the requisite load bearing capacity of the store.

Before the floor can be cast it is essential that the entire structure be completed; this includes the roof structure and all the perimeter walling and ensuring that the entire construction is watertight. The flooring itself will take about three weeks to be cast under stringent quality control measures, and this one of the reason why the contractor is pushing to complete the programme.

Once the flooring has been cast, access will need to be given to Makro so racking and other internal structures can be assembled.

Once completed Makro Riversands would have consumed a total of 1 million cement stock bricks, used 9 000 m3 of readymix.

Muller is ably assisted on this project by site agent, Andrew Kagaso and general foreman, Petrus Nthombeni.


Marthinusen & Coutts, a division of ACTOM (Pty) Ltd, is consolidating its role as an integrated electrical and mechanical services provider across Africa, and internationally. Together with subsidiary, ACTOM Turbo Machines, the division offers the full range of maintenance, repair and special manufacturing services of electric motors, generators, turbo machinery and other high speed mechanical rotating equipment.

Richard Botton, Divisional CEO, Marthinusen & Coutts, says both Marthinusen & Coutts and ACTOM Turbo Machines have a long and proud history of serving customers on the continent. He ascribes the ongoing success to a combination of diligent planning, a culture of problem solving and providing innovative solutions; a sense of urgency, industry-leading skills, and having the necessary infrastructure and resources in place, both in South Africa and in strategic African countries.

Marthinusen & Coutts is unique in that it is the only independently owned service provider that is capable of providing extensive maintenance, repair and special manufacturing solutions for all electrical and mechanical rotating machinery.

“We are well positioned to carry out critical projects both in Africa and globally, having access to all our resources in South Africa as well as our well-equipped facility in Zambia, which provides immediate services to our customers in that region, with all the sought-after advantages of a local facility, plus the full backup of M&C and ACTOM’s resources in South Africa,” Botton says.

Marthinusen & Coutts has an extensive reference base of successfully completed projects, innovative maintenance solutions, record turnaround time breakdown repairs, and numerous on-site maintenance contracts.

He is quick to caution about the difficulties of providing maintenance services in African countries, with some companies lacking the necessary infrastructure, expertise and extensive experience that Marthinusen & Coutts is known for on complex projects and emergency repairs.

“A critical factor is that Marthinusen & Coutts has been involved in Africa for more than a decade, and as such have a sound knowledge of what it takes to deliver a quality solution to our customers in the countries in which we operate,” Botton says. “It is our in-depth understanding of African conditions that allows our teams to get there, make a plan, manage and execute projects; and that is on an ongoing basis with numerous repeat customers.”

The key differentiator for Marthinusen & Coutts is its rapid response time, inherent sense of urgency, culture of dedicated customer service and ability to mobilise quickly and efficiently in tackling critical projects. “We understand our customers’ business needs and that they cannot afford unscheduled downtime. Many of these projects are vital to ensure regular power supply to mining projects and other sectors, so our speed, understanding and service delivery are all essential,” Botton says.

In addition, all Marthinusen & Coutts branches have direct access to the Centre of Excellence in Cleveland, Johannesburg. Critical equipment at this facility includes a 32 ton balancing machine, extensive testing capabilities and a fully equipped machine shop including CNC machines.

“While these advantages give us the competitive edge, Marthinusen & Coutts is also adept at thinking out of the box and renowned for its flexibility and ingenuity,” Botton says.

“Our long-term strategy is to become the preferred integrated electrical and mechanical services provider for the power generation and mining industries in Africa and across the globe,” Botton notes. “What gives us the leading edge in terms of these African contracts is that we can leverage the other divisions within the ACTOM Group to provide us with additional manufacturing capability, products, and expertise,” he concludes.


The introduction of Trafo dry-type transformers to the African market comes just at the right time for the end-user, as a number of industry sectors embrace the growing trend towards modularised substations.

“Due to the various benefits and the cost effectiveness of modular substations – which are fitted into either a marine container or a specially fabricated E-house – dry-type transformers are becoming more popular,” says David Claassen, managing director of Trafo Power Solutions. “The Trafo dry-type transformer is ideally suited to this application as it can be mounted inside the modular structure; this cannot be done with the traditional oil-filled transformer.”

Claassen highlights that safety is the prime concern in the design and construction of substations. Due to its design and the absence of oil as a coolant, the dry-type transformer is simple and safe, allowing extensive test work to be conducted with the modular unit prior to the full solution being sent to site. This in turn reduces the costs associated with site installation, assembly work and commissioning.

“There is an historical misconception that dry-type transformers are too large to be housed within a container, but this is not so,” he says.

Including the dry-type transformer inside of the modularised substation has the cost saving benefit of eliminating the need for civils infrastructure that is needed for oil-filled transformers have to be located outside of the substation for safety reasons. This type of civils work includes foundations and a plinth on which the unit can stand as well as special purpose bunding walls to contain oil leaks This not only increases the cost of the installation, but lengthens the time frame in which the substation can become operational, and the cost of this additional civils infrastructure in the more remote areas of Africa is also particularly high.

The Trafo dry-type transformer is ideally suited to this application as it can be mounted inside the modular structure.

Sourcing dry-type transformers from industry pioneer and leader Hammond Power Solutions (HPS) gives Trafo Power Solutions the flexibility to meet specific and unusual requirements from customers.

Drawing on the depth of technical expertise within HPS and its manufacturing facilities in Italy, an appropriate solution can always be found without compromising the quality of the product.

“In a recent E-house application that Trafo Power Solutions provided for a mining project in Sierra Leone, a 2,000 kVA dry-type transformer was specified as part of the mobile mining unit,” says Claassen.

“We supplied four dry-type transformers in total: two 800 KVA units, one 1,600 KVA unit and one 2,000 KVA unit. The unusual voltage levels that were required – 13,2 KV/480 V at 60 Hz – demonstrated our flexibility in meeting specific customer requirements.”

The focus at Trafo Power Solutions is all about finding a solution for the customer, he says, outlining other elements that made this project a success. The scope of supply included temperature control units along with cooling fans. These will be automatically switched on in the event of a failure of the master cooling system and will ensure minimum downtime while the system is repaired.

Another useful function of the cooling fans is to allow the transformer to increase its power output in the event of an overload situation. Surge arrestors for each transformer were supplied as an added protection against the risk of an unstable voltage supply.

Parts of the substation such as potential transformers (PTs) are specifically designed and manufactured for outdoor use with a rating 13,2 KV/110 V AC, 500 VA for protection purposes mounted near the auto reclosers.

Including the dry-type transformer inside of the modularised substation has the cost saving benefit of eliminating the need for civils infrastructure.

Claassen says that because these mobile mining units are transported to site and in some instances moved from area to area within a mine, it is critical that the structural integrity meets this type of arduous application. “Trafo transformers are engineered to withstand harsh vibration and are robust in construction, however where required it is possible to reinforce the rigidity further.”

“We find solutions and offer flexibility through understanding the customer’s specific needs and applying an agile approach,” he says. “Traditionally, this type of equipment would be on the critical path for a project, but we managed to have them manufactured within a five-week window, which allowed for a rapid delivery to the customer.”

Claassen emphasises the high energy efficiency of these transformers, leading not only to lower energy consumption but also to less energy loss through heat; this means less is demanded from the ventilation and cooling systems on these units.

An extra benefit – especially for remote sites such as mines in rural areas of Africa – is that a dry-type transformer is virtually maintenance free, significantly lowering its operating cost.