By using virtual design solutions, consulting engineers are now in a position to shorten lead times and lower costs by collaborating with clients to jointly make design choices. In fact, Royal Haskoning DHV MD Salani Sithole tells Engineering News that building information management systems within the virtual design arena has allowed consulting engineers to cut design times by up to 60%.
The technology allows for designs to be shared and worked on simultaneously by parties based anywhere on the globe. This, he explains, allows for skills and expertise to be more easily leveraged from distant locations and increases the efficiency of the design and planning processes.
One of the proudest achievements for the company, Sithole says, has been its involvement in the Ingula pumped-storage scheme, in Lesotho, which plays a significant role in the supply of energy and is partly responsible for resolving the load-shedding problem in South Africa. He explains that, during off-peak times, water is pumped back to the upper reservoir, while, during peak times, when electricity requirements rise, water is allowed to flow back down, turning the turbines and generating power.
Alongside this achievement, Sithole states, the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project is also a showpiece for the company, adding that the transportation and power sectors are key business areas for Royal Haskoning DHV.
Despite these sections being the active market for consulting engineers, consulting engineering firms in the country have experienced challenges of late. Sithole states that government has restricted the flow of work by failing to honour expenditure promises made three years ago, when it announced significant infrastructure expenditure plans. Failure to follow through has meant that consulting engineering firms have ramped up in anticipation but have not seen any real capital flowing towards infrastructural development.
The plans are there, says Sithole, but there is no one willing to fund the infrastructure. “With the depreciation of the rand, it also cuts back on whatever work was already put forward,” he explains, adding that he sees the value of the consulting engineering industry as a whole decreasing in the next few years.
In efforts to further cement its place in the market, the company, having been in operation for 134 years, aims to be ready for the new technologies that are beginning to surface in the industry, and to be equipped to investigate how it can make better use of the newest technology.
Sithole also highlights that the company has standardised its practices across international locations, using a common human resources system, as well as the same platform in terms of information and communication technology. He concludes that this kind of integration will help the company reach its goal of consolidating its presence in African and international markets.