This month, geotechnical contractor Franki Africa celebrates seventy years of continuous operation in Africa. The company highlights that it is more motivated than ever to move forward vigorously in spite of challenging times in the construction industry.
“Seventy years is a significant milestone and a time to stand back for a moment and reflect on the attributes that have made Franki so successful down the years – attributes like customer focus, technical excellence and product innovation,” states Franki Africa MD Errol Braithwaite.
He adds that, while the construction industry both in South Africa and on the rest of the continent is facing challenges on every front, Franki Africa is convinced that the attributes that have served it so well in the past will continue to do so in the future.
In addition to its traditional piled foundation projects, Franki has constructed several massive basements in Sandton and completed important marine projects in Port Elizabeth and Durban and ground improvement work in Cape Town.
“Our growing list of successful projects outside South Africa is equally noteworthy,” highlights Braithwaite. He adds that, in most cases, this is no easy accomplishment, especially in regions where the logistical challenges associated with the movement of large and specialised machines are acute; not to mention exchange-rate and legislative challenges, as well as security and disease concerns.
Nonetheless, Braithwaite points out that Franki is well represented on the continent, having recently completed projects in Mauritius, Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, Botswana and Zambia.
“It is the company’s seventieth birthday ‘resolution’ to build on this footprint wherever opportunities arise.”
The company’s 2013 acquisition of global independent geotechnical contractor Keller greatly enhanced Franki Africa’s portfolio of products and its access to high-quality expertise.
“There is no doubt that we are able to bring the most cost-effective and technically appropriate solutions to almost any geotechnical project almost anywhere in Africa,” enthuses Braithwaite.
Moreover, the Keller-Franki partnership enables Franki to bring best practices and expertise in health and safety, quality, and technology to these locations, which, combined with Franki’s experience, constitutes a compelling service offering for its customers.
The Blue Book
Franki’s ‘Blue Book’ is the definitive guide to practical geotechnical engineering in Southern Africa. Franki’s recently retired technical director, Gavin Byrne, who now consults to the company, says that the book’s purpose was initially, and still is, a reference with a wealth of practical information on geotechnical topics, which countless readers over the years have found to be very useful.
Along with fellow coauthors, Byrne was extensively involved on the third and fourth editions, which were rewritten and updated in 1995 and 2006 respectively. He is currently working on a new edition which will provide insights into some newer technologies including vibro-compaction, vibro-stone columns and rigid inclusions.
The Franki Pile
“The Franki pile – with its characteristic enlarged base – has been the cornerstone of the company’s success in Southern Africa,” says Byrne.
He explains that the Franki pile is a unique system for generating excellent load capacity and the company has developed a number of techniques to install the Franki pile in a variety of soil conditions.
“This is a very flexible system and its key advantage is that the large base enables one to found the pile at approximately half the depth of other piles, making it more economical and much faster than alternative cast in situ methods,” says Byrne.
Changing of the Guard
Meanwhile, at the beginning of this year, there was a change of guard at Franki, with Braithwaite taking over as MD from Roy McLintock, who retired in December last year.
Braithwaite says that one of McLintock’s most important legacies was decentralising operations, which has been key in the efficient running of Franki.
“Each of Franki’s divisions, big businesses in their own right, is run autonomously by experienced and highly competent managers and this is fundamental to Franki’s efficiency and excellent service delivery,” he says.
He adds that Franki Africa is stronger, more focused and better equipped in skills and machinery than ever before. “Our in-house design capability – probably our most significant market differentiator – enables us to develop technically robust and cost-effective solutions in collaboration with our clients and consulting engineers. This routinely results in real benefits for the project.”
Franki offers a comprehensive range of geotechnical and marine engineering services, including both design and construction for the general construction, civil engineering and mining industries.
Franki’s work in both commercial and infrastructure projects is implemented to the exacting standards required by its ISO 9001 accreditation and undertaken with safety as a major priority. Franki is Occupation Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001-certified.
“Our motto is ‘Quality is our foundation’. This refers not only to the installation of our various products, but also to our culture of working successfully together with all our stakeholders in producing quality work in a friendly and productive environment,” concludes Braithwaite.