As a result of the success of the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa’s (NCPC-SA’s) national internship programme, over the past three years, companies have incurred cost savings of more than R30-million, says NCPC-SA skills development manager Wynand van der Merwe.
The centre promotes the implementation of resource efficiency and cleaner production (RECP) methodologies to assist industry in lowering costs through reduced energy, water and materials use, as well as waste management.
It is hosted by scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisation the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in Pretoria.
The internship programme, now in its third year, places engineering graduates in host companies to identify and, where possible, implement RECP interventions with the assistance of industry mentors.
Van der Merwe tells Engineering News that, from 2010 to 2012, about 30 young people participated in the six-month programme. He adds that a further 20 are currently enrolled in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The programme does not have a set start and finish date, as participants in the different regions begin at different times.
Van der Merwe stresses that the aim of the programme is to “enhance the employability status of newly qualified graduate engineers; increase access to knowledge, skills, technology and best practices in RECP; and increase access to the low-cost and no-cost implementation of cost-saving opportunities, resulting in both economic and environmental savings for companies”.
He explains that, over the three years during which the programme has been running, 82% of interns have found employ-ment within the RECP space.
“Some of the interns have been employed by the companies in which they worked, others by consultancies offering these services. “Some interns have also been employed by the NCPC-SA to further increase its offering to industry,” he says.
One of the biggest challenges, Van der Merwe highlights, is that companies are often reluctant to accept candidates until the benefits of the programme are made clear to them.
He emphasises that companies achieve cost savings by reducing the wastage of energy, water and materials through the RECP methodologies and interventions applied in plants. Other benefits of RECP implementation include improving the operating efficiency of the plant, better product quality and consistency, recovering some waste materials and improving the working environment.
The NCPC-SA launched its internship programme in 2009 in the Western Cape clothing and textile sector. The successful training, placement and subsequent employment of these interns who participated in the programmes, conducted in 2009, reiterated the value of the skills that had been imparted during the training and the practical experience gained by the interns.
This success has prompted the NCPC-SA to expand the internship programme to Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and other industrial and manufacturing sectors serviced by the NCPC-SA, adds Van der Merwe.
Energy Efficiency a Key Focus
In addition to the RECP training provided for the interns, the NCPC-SA also presents energy efficiency training as part of its Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE) project. The IEE project, implemented jointly with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, capacitates professionals at various levels of expertise and experience with the skills to implement energy management systems (EnMS) and energy systems optimisation (ESO) in a variety of industrial systems used in manufacturing, mining and other industries.
EnMS and ESO training also forms part of the curriculum for the participants of the internship programme; however, it is the practising engineers who are the primary target of the specialist training.
The EnMS programme represents a methodological, organised approach to managing energy use, based on the SANS/ISO 50001 standard.
The ESO training programmes include individual courses on a number of energy systems, including pumps, compressed air, fans, steam and motors. They combine science and theory and cover management processes, case studies, training on appropriate software toolkits and practical sessions.
Delegates can also be awarded continued professional development points from the Engineering Council of South Africa, as the course is accredited by the South African Institute of Mechanical Engineers.