Government spending is the main drive for construction and/or civils spending, but, as the budget is exceptionally tight, construction equipment supplier HPE Africa MD Ross Collard does not expect any growth this year.
Last year, there were limited development opportunities for the company’s plant-hire and contracting customers, with those operating in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also having to contend with the “construction mafia” burning their equipment and hi-jacking their sites.
However, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address last month highlighted efforts to crack down on the criminal syndicate that had been troubling the construction industry.
This was in addition to stimulating economic growth through an infrastructure investment fund of R700-billion over the next ten years and the construction of the R15-billion Umzimvubu water project, in the Eastern Cape.
Many large construction companies – previously seen as part of the Big Five – are facing serious financial difficulties and closing down in some instances, with companies also struggling to secure finance to buy new equipment, states Collard.
As market conditions in the South African construction industry continue to challenge the success of companies, they need to be mindful of cost efficiency in every aspect of their business, says plant-hire and construction company Pera Plant & Civils owner Ross Pera.
“We are particularly cautious in capital equipment selection, taking note of the durability of machines, fuel efficiency, the availability of spare parts and the dependability of a supplier’s service support.”
The 34-year-old Brits-based company, which started operating with a second-hand bakkie and bulldozer, has various machines in its fleet, which are “kept in pristine condition to ensure dependable operation in all conditions”.
“From the outset, the foundation of our family business was based on commitment to honesty and safety . . . these goals remain at the forefront of our success,” explains Pera.
He notes that every member of his team handles each task as if the project were for them, always considering cost-savings, high productivity and safety on site.
“A key brand of construction equipment in our fleet – Hyundai excavators and wheel loaders – has been supplied and efficiently supported by HPE Africa for many years. These robust machines consistently deliver fast, reliable operation, with high fuel efficiency and minimal downtime; they can also safely handle challenging tasks in difficult terrain,” highlights Pera.
Collard says technologies, such as telematic systems, can also help customers monitor the fuel consumption and maintenance requirements of their equipment, reducing fuel bills and limiting downtime.
“This technology also allows for the accurate billing of customers for machine use.”
Complementing the high performance of Hyundai machines is professional and reliable support from the HPE Africa team, says Pera.
HPE Africa’s critical support service encompasses original-equipment manufacturer parts, repair and maintenance throughout Southern Africa.
“Our aftermarket service (parts and workshop) remain a huge focus for us, as customers tend to repair or refurbish their equipment during these challenging times, instead of purchasing new equipment,” says Collard.
He emphasises that the company has also maintained a positive financial performance despite the current difficult economic conditions, moving its head office to a larger and better equipped facility in Spartan, Gauteng.
In addition, HPE’s field services team, which offers assistance with on-site repairs and maintenance, is supported by workshops in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, and carefully selected dealers across Southern Africa.
Repairs and services include minor and major component replacement, as well as the rebuilding and refurbishment of units. The company has also established specialist divisions for engineering services encompassing boilermaking, bucket repair and bucket fabrication.
Owing to lower equipment sales in the past few years, Collard expects the replacement of some machines in the field that have reached and exceeded their life-cycle hours.
“We will only see as the year unfolds if this is enough to improve the market,” he adds.
Pera Plant & Civils’ plans for future growth encompass continued services in plant hire, civil engineering and construction, as well expansion into the transport sector, where the company sees potential for development.