29 Jul Company’s expertise wins multimillion-rand project
BY: MANDISA NYATHI
Diversified engineering company Iritron has defied the odds brought on by supply chain challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, by winning a multimillion-rand, cross-border project that will assist Gabon-based manganese mining company Comilog in increasing its yearly tonnage, says Iritron CEO Alwyn Rautenbach.
The project was designed by global multidisciplinary consultancy Hatch, which tasked Iritron, in late 2021, to deliver the project across multiple engineering disciplines with tight deadlines.
The supply of motor control centres, control systems, closed-circuit television and network cabinets all formed part of Iritron’s scope of work.
“The company’s experience, combined with the fundamental understanding of processes, complex calculations and networks, as well as hardware and software applications, ensure the delivery of fit-for-purpose and sustainablesolutions, resulting in operational excellence,” Rautenbach tells Mining Weekly.
Meanwhile, the state of the Central and East Africa miningregion has been favourable for Iritron, as it created additional opportunities for the company.
These opportunities have enabled Iritron to work with major international stakeholders in the metals, minerals and mining sectors, as well as in the fast-moving consumer goods sector on national and international projects.
“The projects range from the detailed design, engineeringand supply of electrical equipment to the manufacturing and commissioning of process plants. As an engineering and a manufacturing company, Iritron can analyse customer requirements and engineer a solution accordingly.”
Rautenbach says Iritron is continuously developing new solutions that simplify processes and ensure efficiency, as well as an improved return on investment for customers.
The company has a national and international geographical focus, with a strong presence in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The market has been very interesting for us as a detailed design engineering house – we have provided services for other international engineering consulting houses, as well as for the end-users and mining houses that are active in East Africa.”
Challenges and Solutions
Rautenbach says the manufacturing industry continues to feel the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting lockdowns, despite a move towards fewer and eased regulations.
Other aspects, such as the shortage of electronic components, global shipping delays and overall uncertainty, have also affected the growth of the sector.
The pandemic also resulted in there being a scarcity of equipment available, owing to a global shortage in semiconductors.
“The shortage prompted Iritron to look for alternative component suppliers – semiconductors form an integral part of the microprocessors in products such as programmable logic controllers, variable-speed drives and various other control system hardware devices.
“This shortage has been challenging to manage, particularly because customers often have a preference for particular product ranges, the supply of which has been delayed by the international shortage.”
He mentions that, to meet customer requirements, in addition to sourcing alternatives, Iritron provided value-added engineering, which mitigated some of the impact caused by the shortage.
“Iritron assembles its products at its premises in Pretoria, Gauteng, and services customers locally and internationally. Certain equipment is required for the company to meet international quality standards. Such equipment was difficult to acquire, owing to global shipping delays, which, in turn, exacerbated manufacturing delays.”
Further, the Russia-Ukraine war has affected the company on a specific mining project, owing to the nature of the sanctions imposed by European original-equipmentmanufacturers.
However, Iritron found an alternative engineering solution that was in accordance with specification and operational requirements.
In terms of future growth, the company will look to organic growth for the immediate term.
“While we acquired control room solution provider Oculus in 2019, the company has refrained from more acquisitions since the pandemic. As a result, owing to the uncertainty and challenges associated with the pandemic, the company has prioritised growth in the form of attracting and maintaining customers as opposed to pursuing acquisitions.”