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Aug 31, 2012

Steel fabricator accelerates welder training programme

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A local steel fabricator has trained 45 welders in its newly opened welding training facility, in Vanderbijlpark, and aims to train welders from all its sister companies under industrial holding company VBV Holdings, says Carbon Steel Fabricators (CSF)GM Duncan Viljoen.

CSF is in the process of building a boilermaker training facility, which will be operational by the end of the year.

Viljoen says that the training achieves two objectives, namely to train welders, thus, creating employment opportunities, and to sharpen up the skills of its own welders for its large-scale contracts to fabricate high-pressure square ducting, pressure vessels and heat exchangers, beside other components, for State-owned utility Eskom’s new coal-fired power plants Medupi and Kusile, as well as for the petrochemicals industry.

The company must produce ducting units totalling 150 t a month for the power stations, with the first units ready for delivery by the end of August, he adds.

“We are installing a large-scale computer numerically controlled plasma cutting machine before the end of the year that will have two 14 m beds and will enable us to do tight-tolerance flat cutting. The machine also has a facility to do pipe cutting and the three-dimensional head enables preparing pipes prior to welding activities, which improves the fabrication process and delivery times,” Viljoen says.

The company adheres to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Section 8 code for its square ducting and pressure vessels manufacturing and American Welding Society requirements for welding, which is why effective training to sharpen the skills of welders, as well as train new non- and semiskilled welders, is important, he says.

Further, the company has a graduate training programme with the University of Pretoria’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering, under depart- ment head and welding expert Professor Madeleine du Toit. Students are exposed to a functioning steelworks at CSF during their vacations and can see how large-scale structural steel fabrication takes place, Viljoen says.

He notes that CSF still considers itself a niche fabricator for the petrochemicals and power generation industries, but has also begun building square ducting and other structural steel components for the mining industry.

“The short- to medium-term looks promising and we are part of a direct chain of suppliers for the Kusile and Medupi projects under [German power plant construction company] Hitachi Power Africa and the end-user, Eskom,” Viljoen says.

To expand CSF’s capacity and ensure it can meet and grow its monthly targets, VBV has bought a similar facility in Sasolburg, which has twice the undercrane height of the Vanderbijlpark works, and will enable it to build the larger units and accommodate the wide ducting being built for the power stations.

CSF has restructured its internal departments to ensure effective quality control and quality assurance in its factories, with a commensurate focus on safety, he adds.

“The focus on quality and safety is a top- level management decision that encompasses all our employees and processes, which is part of the reason for our focus on training to ensure the technical competence of our artisans.

“However, this cannot be divorced from the socioeconomic benefits that training provides. We have two workers with us who started out doing odd jobs. “We encouraged them to identify for themselves which jobs they believe they can do. One of the workers is well on his way to becoming a qualified electrician, the other is already a semiskilled welder and both are permanently employed with promising prospects,” concludes Viljoen.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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