Load shedding (rolling blackouts) and power outages have almost become a way of life in South Africa. Frequent loss of electricity has rippled across South Africa since 2007, but after many groans and moans, South Africans have become resigned to the fact that it is not a case of if, it is now a case of when the next outage will be. Yes, our grim acceptance quickly transformed into justified rage in the beginning. All too frequent the headlines were: Here we go again: Eskom to implement stage 2 load shedding and similar.
But as we resourceful South Africans swiftly fathomed out, because of the poor management and corruption at the SOE, we could be in for a long haul of these disruptions and we needed to put plan B into place.
However, South Africa as a country is not alone in this crisis as the world population grows alarmingly and the demand for more power increases. Across the world, countries are dealing with an average of 5.5 power outages a month, according to World Bank data from 2015 (I can’t find more recent data). These outages, which include both emergency power cuts and planned load shedding, last an average of up to three hours.
Elegen is one of South Africa’s largest privately-owned generator manufacturers and suppliers
Elegen’s sister company Stegel Engineering, based in the same facility as Elegen, carries out most of the fabrication that is required to manufacture a genset
A more regional look reveals that high-income countries within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), which includes Australia, much of Europe, Canada, the US and the UK, hardly suffer at all, with less than one outage a month, lasting less than half an hour. Even high-income countries outside the OECD only suffer from 1.3 outages a month, for up to an hour.
Nonetheless beyond these rich countries, the performance slides. By far the biggest sufferers are countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which according to the World Bank are hit with an average of 23.5 power outages a month. That’s a power cut six days a week lasting an average of 9.4 hours.
Beyond these areas of unrest, South Asia is the next worst off where countries are hit with an average of 17 power outages a month lasting over an hour. Sub-Saharan Africa by comparison, suffers far less though notably we are still hit by more than the average 5.5 outages a month. We suffer an average of 7.8 power outages a month (2015 data), lasting around five hours each time.
If you think a home without electricity supply is terrible, a business that is hit by load shedding can cause irreparable damage to the livelihood of many. An unstable and unreliable power supply can mean the death of a business, depending on the industry in which that company operates, and at best it will mean loss of valuable time and money.
Stegel Engineering’s fabrication capacity on rolling is 40mm
Elegen founding Directors Christopher and Anna Hinckley
13 years later we still live with the threat of power outages. However, in the meantime many different businesses supplying alternative energy sources have since opened up. They certainly don’t make up the deficit of the revenue loss to the country because of the no power situation, but at least now you can continue operating to the tune and hum of a generator.
One of these companies is Elegen, one of South Africa’s largest privately-owned generator manufacturers and suppliers. Throughout Africa they deliver a key partnership to many of their customers by providing flexible power solutions through their hire, sales, service and parts divisions. Elegen’s diesel generators (also known as diesel gensets) are both for hire and for sale to private and corporate entities. They also have qualified technicians who provide after-service and maintenance to ensure your generator performs at peak efficiency.
With the threat of load shedding, rolling blackouts and power outages due to poor maintenance looming, early in 2004 Christopher and Anna Hinckley, founding Directors of Elegen, decided that they would venture into the diesel generator market. Christopher’s intuition was correct and came true in 2007 when the power utility Eskom began to inflict its misery on South Africa in earnest.
Fabrication of fuel holding tanks and generator exhausts
Elegen only uses OEM engines from Cummins, Perkins, Tata, John Deere, Deutz and Volvo
A generator is not just a modern convenience that minimises disruptions to daily life. Backup solutions help to maintain productivity and comfort. An on-site power source can be a matter of survival. For airports, hospitals, military bases, emergency workers, businesses and manufacturers, generators provide an indispensable standby power supply. Even when the unpredictable forces of Mother Nature disrupt power supply generators can be used. However, they are not limited to these circumstances. Generators have many varied uses. For example, a television outside broadcasting unit will generally use a generator to power up their equipment or have them on standby in case there is a power cut.
With limited knowledge and resources, Hinckley went about building and selling his first diesel generators. Although not a perfect product, they were functional. A generator is the combination of a diesel engine with an electric generator (often an alternator) to generate electrical energy. They need to be housed in an enclosure manufactured from durable sheet metal and various ancillary devices such as the base, the enclosure, sound attenuation, control systems, circuit breakers, jacket water heaters and a starting system make up the generator. This is referred to as a generating set or genset for short.
The Elegen brand of diesel generators had officially entered the alternative power supply market. Operating from a small premises in Eastleigh, East of Johannesburg, with five staff members initially, product was built to a maximum output of 50kVA, which took a production time of five days per generator.
Elegen has recently purchased its first laser, an Amada Ensis 6kW fiber laser, the first of this type to be installed in South Africa. It has a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm and can cut mild steel up to 25mm and stainless steel and aluminium up to 25mm
Elegen have also invested in an Amada HG1303 CNC press brake. This 7-axis controlled bender has a bending width of 3 000mm and offers up to 130 tons in bending force with automatic crowning
With the first year of business under its belt and the beginning of Eskom’s failing service, Elegen management decided the time had come to push forward in increasing its presence in the diesel genset sector. At the same time a decision was taken to only use OEM engine manufacturer equipment and this has been a key component for the rapid growth of the company in the pursuing years. Elegen only uses OEM engines from Cummins, Perkins, Tata, John Deere, Deutz and Volvo. Other OEM engines are available on request.
Orders increased and concurrently manufacturing did too, as did the pressures on the production factory and this began to take its toll. Like many businesses Elegen, had reached a stage, that in order for the business to become a larger player in the market, substantial investment would need to be made in various departments of production to fulfil its genset service offering.
“The way forward was to employ experienced tradesmen and invest in modern machinery. Whilst this may have seemed an easy proposition, it proved more difficult than one would imagine, as it was only then that we, the management, realised the reality of the shortage of experienced and qualified electricians, diesel mechanics, welders and technicians within our country. Trades that we as a country once prided ourselves on,” explained Hinckley.
“This conundrum is still true today but almost a decade later, despite these challenging hurdles, Elegen has become a major player in the genset market with total sales now exceeding 5 000 units.”
Elegen also has an Amada turret punch press and a 240 ton press brake
Fabrication of louvres for housing of Elegen generators
“We now have 20 000m² of warehouse and production facilities that we occupy in Wilbart, Germiston, which is five times the size of our first facility in Eastleigh, and we believe that we are one of the largest purchasers of OEM diesel engines on the continent. Our sales reach is the entire African continent, from corporate offices, presidential and embassy residencies, data centres, mining operations and commercial businesses, to name a few. Other sectors where we have installed our generators include the food, beverage, dairy, paper and pulp, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.”
“Currently we have a contract to implement a full turnkey operation at numerous Tiger Brands’ sites in South Africa. This includes supplying the equipment and designing the installation site, plinths, civils, cable racking, walls and fencing.”
“Our gensets that we manufacture range from 5kVA to 3MVA/20 000kVA and where possible we manufacture and fabricate all the components and products that make up a genset. This even includes the diesel storage tanks and containers, which vary in size, depending on the situation where the generator is deployed.”
“All our enclosures are powder coated and fully weather proof. All switch gears supplied are SABS approved. All alternators are imported from Stamford, and we are one of only six companies worldwide that are certified as their authorised OEMs, Marelli, Mecc Alte and Leroy Somer.”
Fabrication and assembly of a generator genset
Elegen is a turnkey company, which includes supplying the equipment and designing the installation site, plinths, civils, cable racking, walls and fencing. As a result, the company employs electricians, diesel mechanics, welders and technicians amongst its 230 staff. The company also offers a full design service
“Available voltages range from 400V and 525V and all generator sets are supplied standard with base tank, mains breaker, AMF generator controller and exhaust system. Our teams of technical staff deliver and install throughout Africa and installations are done for low to medium, and to high voltage. Generating sets are selected based on the electrical load required by the company. The expected duty of the generator, such as emergency, prime or continuous power, as well as environmental conditions such as altitude, temperature and exhaust emissions regulations must also be considered.”
Fabrication and jobbing
“Sister company Stegel Engineering, based in the same facility as Elegen, carries out most of the fabrication that is required to manufacture a genset. They specialise in cutting, forming, machining, rolling, welding, and finishing of austenitic and high alloy stainless steel metals in relation to manufacturing, repairs and upgrading of products, equipment and buildings.”
“It is in this company where we have made some capital equipment investments recently. Pride of place has been the purchase of our first laser, which is an Amada Ensis 6kW fiber laser, the first to be installed in South Africa. It has a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm and can cut mild steel up to 25mm and stainless steel and aluminium up to 25mm. It is supplied with Amada’s latest VPSS 3i programming software.”
“At the same time we also invested in an Amada HG1303 CNC press brake. This 7-axis controlled bender has a bending width of 3 000mm and offers up to 130 tons in bending force with automatic crowning. Here too, we use the Amada VPSS 3i Bend programming software, which allows for all bending programming, sequencing and tool fitting to happen in the design office, thus eliminating scrap and drastically speeding up production on the floor.”
“In conjunction with the latest Amada Sheetworks software we utilise other software including Autocad and Solidworks. This allows us to offer a full design service as well.”
“This equipment will make us much more efficient and complement our existing Amada turret punch press and 240 ton press brake. Sheet metal for our panel boxes, exhausts, canopies and enclosures, air vents, louvres, besides other components, will all be processed on these new machines.”
“We will now have excess capacity in this department but this does not worry us as we are looking for productivity and quality in our metal manipulation. However, we will look for contract sheet metal processing operations to keep the machines busy.”
“Currently we are investigating the purchase of a Sonderhoff polyurethane sealing machine for the manufacture of flexible foam seals, which are required for the enclosures and some panels and cabinets that we manufacture.”
Sister company Stegel Engineering fabricates the diesel storage tanks and containers for the gensets, which vary in size, depending on the situation where the generator is deployed
Although the majority of Stegel Engineering’s fabrication capacity is taken up by Elegen, it still has excess capacity to act as a jobbing shop. With the deployment of the new Amada Ensis 6kW fiber laser and the new Amada HG1303 CNC press brake, the company will have excess capacity in this department and will look for contract sheet metal processing operations to keep the machines busy
“You can now regard Stegel Engineering as a specialised jobbing shop because besides these disciplines that I have mentioned previously we also offer rolling up to 40mm. This allows us to offer services such as designing and manufacturing of pressurised tanks and other vessels. These tanks can have holding capacities between 500 litres and 120 000 litres.”
“The company uses advanced design, engineering and manufacturing methods to ensure its products withstand the potential wrath of severe weather. Each product is also subject to strict quality control measures and exhaustive testing and conforms to ISO 9000 and SABS standards.”
Mobile LED lighting tower
“We have also complemented our power-generation offering with the launch of a mobile pneumatic light-emitting diode (LED) lighting tower. The lighting tower allows increased visibility in areas that require 24-hour operations. It is a breakthrough innovation that meets and exceeds the stringent health and safety standards of the mining industry.”
“Compared with other lighting systems, the lighting tower’s telescopic mast is pneumatically (air) operated, which allows its four 320W LED lights to be extended vertically and remotely tilted from the control panel, improving visibility over larger areas and providing 1 280W of ultra-bright light. The lighting tower is ideal for use on remote sites, as it is not dependent on a fixed power supply.”
Currently, between Elegen and Stegel, the companies employ 230 staff and manufacture between 10 and 15 generators a day.
For further details contact Elegen on TEL: 011 455 4900 or visit www.elegen.co.za