“Environmental control in earthmoving, mining and military vehicles,as well as in the rail industry, is completely different to the standard type of automotive or commercial type air-conditioning systems,” explains Booyco Engineering MD Jeremy Pougnet.
“In our specialist niche industry, it is important not to overlook the amount of custom engineering that goes into our units,” he adds.
The company explains that thereare certain areas where a commercial unit can be selected and then appro-priately modified to cope with theoperating conditions.
Pougnet emphasises, however, that this is the exception to the rule.
Booyco Engineering has built areputation based not only on selling top-quality air-conditioning systems but also on its ability to providecomplete solutions, which spanconsultation on customer requirements, supply of the appropriatehardware solutions, technical backup and field-service support.
Pougnet tells Engineering News about some of the company’s highlights over the past 20 years.
“Because of our specialist focus, highquality standards and stringent attention todetail, we have managed to reach the signifi-cant milestone of 20 years in business this year,” says Pougnet. “We have been involved in the provision of numerous custom-designed air-conditioning systems for some of the heaviest openpit and underground mining machines in Southern Africa.
“We designed and developed the environ-mental control system for South Africa’s Rooivalk attack helicopter and developed the crew-cooling system for the main battletankof a major South Pacific country.
The company also developed theinnovative Mikroklim personnel body-cooling system for use in ultradeep mines and supplied explosion-and flameproof air-conditioningsystems for Mossgas.
“We have managed to put ourselves at the forefront of mobile air-con-ditioning and environmental control systems technology in these harshenvironments over the past 20 years,” says Pougnet. Technical expertise, which thecompany has built up over the years, has put it in a position to provide the best solutions to environmental-control challenges.
A natural progression has thusbeen to develop a range of standard systems, which are availableex-stock.
“Unlike other mass-producedair-conditioning systems, ours are suitable for the harsh operatingconditions encountered in military,mining and other heavy-duty mobile applications,” explains Pougnet.
“Our customers now have the best of both worlds, where we can supply equipment at short notice as well as being an established, crediblesupplier of field-proved systems.” Pougnet voices his concernswith regard to working in such aspecialised niche market.
“Companies need to make surethat they are dealing with reputable engineering concerns that have the necessary experience and capability.
“It is problematic that this industryis so specialised as it is easy forcompanies to pull the wool overcustomers’ eyes as the customerdoes not always have the necessary expertise to make a judgement call.” The company feels strongly that customers should be aware ofwhat they are actually buying, and that it isessential to give customers sufficient technical information and knowledge to enable them to make an assessment for themselves.
“We often have customers visiting ourfacility and we welcome this type ofinteraction as it can only uplift the general standard in the industry,” explains Pougnet.
“When we first started, we were supplying air-conditioning units exclusively for military applications, we then expanded to railways and then mining and earthmoving equipment.
“Being an established supplier to themilitary did not give us instant credibility when it came to underground or surfacemining. Fortunately, our experience allowedus to invest in the necessary research anddevelopment (R&D) for the diversification process and we have continued to commitresources to R&D,” explains Pougnet.
The company noticed during this development work that the most glaring difference in operational standards between military and mining applications was that militarymachines, although robust, are used mainly for training and do not operate for long hours under tough conditions as is the case inmining.
“Some mines run for 24 hours a day and, to keep the operators comfortable and henceproductive, air-conditioning units have to be extremely reliable,” explains Pougnet. In term of industry trends, the companysays that it has observed a move in the mining and earthmoving sector towards using service contracts for the maintenance of air-conditioning units on machinery.
It has also noted a marked increase in the flow of orders from the rail sector, with most of the company’s contracts involving retrofitting new units to refurbished rolling stock, both coaches and locomotives. The company has placed a heavy emphasis on engineering and has managed to continue to be profitable.
“I am happy to say that Booyco Engineering is now reaping the dividends of our extensive investment in our engineering capability,” says Pougnet.
The company had, previously, experienceda bottleneck within its engineering processes. “The implication of this has been that if there was an increase in capability, then the team could produce more concepts, leading to prototypes and ultimately greater production,” explains Pougnet.
He adds that the reverse is now true, withthe company’s investment in engineeringhaving paid off, and there being a markedincrease in orders, the technical expertise and resources in place are being translated intoincreased demand.
“We have invested in resources such asengineering manpower with the necessaryexpertise and experience in this sector of the industry.
“It is our philosophy to employ skilled and experienced personnel and we have several graduate engineers on the staff,” says Pougnet.
The company also operates one of the few in-house climate chambers in the industry and feels that it is services such as this which have set it apart from its competitors. “We are the only supplier in this sector of the industry that is ISO 9001:2000-accreditedand has proper project and quality-management systems in place, which is critical to the operation,” claims Pougnet.
“Without the engineering aspect we would not be able to offer engineering solutions. However, we do not charge customers aconsulting engineering fee as we areeconomically-viable through the sale of our products,” he explains.
The company proved itself last year when it received Gold Supplier status from Bell Equipment.
“All the products supplied by us to Bell Equipment are custom-designed and developed to meet Bell’s specific design requirements for each vehicle,” explains Pougnet.
“I am proud of the fact that we have builtthe infrastructure to enable us to engineer products capable of providing the bestenvironmental control solutions for mobilemachinery and equipment.
“We intend going on for the next 20 years and beyond,” he concludes.