By Marine and Refrigeration Engineers (MRE)
Global trends in cooling projects are rapidly moving towards hands-on design and supply solutions. This requires both knowledge and experience.
In the ever-changing economic environment, and specifically under current conditions, added costs should just not be an option on any project, and specifically specialist refrigeration applications.
Design and supply companies, like MRE that has a growing national footprint, employ qualified and professionally registered engineers that specialise in the refrigeration space, with the advantage of the ‘hands-on’ approach of implementing their designs out in the field – thus adding the valuable element of experience that further enables quick turnaround on any elements that may require adjustments for a particular project.
Companies with these services and skill sets are hastily becoming the go-to for project owners because of the varied experience available, but also because the business environment has changed. In the modern context, the days are gone for shared responsibility on projects. Clients want to engage with a single line and vest responsible in that one line. This also eliminates project delays where discussion or disagreement on either design or installation challenges becomes evident through different parties’ views or interpretations.
Design and supply companies, having to follow projects through and where maintenance is considered, are often also more mindful of the total cost of ownership and not only that of the capital costs. Facility owners are much more aware these days of lifetime operational costs and efficiency, and therefore move to partner with companies who offer this insight – with a long term view as these are up to 30-year investments.
There is the added advantage of not only the hands-on practical side – in seeing designs in application that offer continual experience in technique development and product evaluation – at MRE specifically, we have a team of very experienced engineers that have specialised skills in a wide range of sub-disciplines and this enables an environment for not only excellent brainstorming from participation in the international project context, but further the insight into latest trends and creative engineering concepts to provide un-matched solutions to client needs.
There is never only one engineer allocated to any given project to ensure all component details meet the necessary criteria, and many a time in design and supply environments our experience and knowledge shines through. It is often not taken into consideration that the years of experience, involvement on an international level, and supplier product knowledge that companies like MRE have built over the years, provide direct access to a number of additional and instantaneous knowledge network resources.
One of the biggest advantages of the supply side is the opportunity to fully evaluate various configurations on procurement, capital costs, operational costs, what brands partner well together and those that have many shortcomings, use of a variety of brands without being limited to choice, quality, and importantly – systems that operate efficiently overall.
Why the shift to design and supply
A big evolution in the industry over the last 25 years has been the amount of large and ‘good’ consultants that have reduced in size because of the changing business environment, and further electing to specialise in particular engineering disciplines.
Today, further burdened by the countries ‘brain drain’ and lack of mentorship opportunities, many organisations have lost a lot of their influence. Business sectors have adopted different strategies in achieving their own objectives and growth at the same time, and are also far more aware of their own overall interests being met.
Over the years with the advance of available information and media platform access, clients and project owners have also walked the block, and through various project challenges have themselves identified the need for a single line supply and design concept. Many multi-national companies have already adopted this strategy, and don’t often consider offers where there is a separation of roles.
Design and supply also often incorporates day to day service and maintenance aspects and therefore offer clients the comfort that the service providers they engage with will not disappear overnight, which is an unfortunate reality in a lot of sectors. This essentially means continual maintenance of relationships and service levels over an extended period, which is what ‘new-age’ clients are looking for. They want to know that they have access to backup service and advice, rather than a one time interaction.
Leading in the industry
Companies servicing any sector should promote their strengths and not other companies’ weakness. Design and supply organisations have the ability to offer advantageous benefits to client. Our business at the end of the day is industrial refrigeration systems and so as part of our service, as an example, is that we don’t charge clients for design work because we back our concepts, experience and knowledge, knowing that we can provide exceptional solutions. This would be a challenge for companies offering a single aspect approach.
As mentioned already, ‘brain drain’ is becoming a greater and greater challenge for the industry, not only in South Africa, this is a regular topic of discussion between companies around the world. The shortage of qualified engineers and technicians in this industry has become evident and those new engineers and technicians that are in the industry – in reality are often inexperienced and untrained.
Hands on experience in both design and supply scenarios enables generation of engineering concepts that will be guaranteed to work in application, avoid any need to re-design systems that can be costly down the line, and avoid contravening legal and hazardous aspects that govern the industry, therefore ensuring safety of people and the environment.
MRE has taken the stance of being realistic and forward-thinking. In order to remedy the skills shortage across the board we are continually engaging in training of staff on a daily basis. From junior engineers to the accounts departments, and from technicians to production team members, all staff gain learning. This not only develops individuals within a company, it enables longevity for the industry while supporting local communities through skilled labour.
Many other companies are not engaged in any development programmes with their staff and some companies are just too small – being a one or two-man business. Training and up-skilling of staff not only ensures the future of a company, it uplifts industry quality as a whole. More companies therefore need to put training on their priority list. This is also an important strategy of a world-classed design and supply company where these initiatives will be important for the client in time too, and where leading companies will strive.