A match made in heaven
A match made in heaven Editorial: Joe Forshaw Production: Chris Bolderstone
The merger between Hatch and Goba, which was finalised in April 2013, has bought renewed optimism to one of the country’s most prominent engineering consultancy firms. IndustrySA takes a look at the company’s success so far and we also look at what is on the horizon for the company that is recognised as an industry leader.
We first looked at the business of Hatch Goba back in October 2012, just before the company underwent a change in structure. Back then, the business was known simply as Goba (Pty) Ltd and specialised in consulting engineering and project management. This was before the merger with Hatch, an international organisation who supplies engineering, project and construction management services, process and business consulting and operational services to the mining, metallurgical, energy and infrastructure industries. At the time, the merger was under scrutiny from the country’s competition commission but in April 2013 the two firms, under their single new identity Hatch Goba, announced that the merger had been successful and that the entity would operate as part of the global Hatch group. When we first featured the company, it was their commitment to service excellence (which stemmed from a hardworking, committed workforce) that really set them apart from the rest; that and their unrivalled experience, working on some of the country’s largest engineering projects. In 2014, the company is looking to continue offering its expertise in the four areas that it knows best: Transportation
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(including major roads, highways, airports and bridges), Water and Wastewater, Mining, and Industrial Infrastructure. Of course, since joining forces with Hatch, the company has boosted its regional presence and expanded its client base. As a result, Hatch Goba is now able to provide a more comprehensive service to the mining and metals, energy and infrastructure sectors while ensuring that insight into worldclass project management practices is combined with a deep level of understanding of the local environment to produce excellence for both public and private sector clients. Obviously, both parties have responded in a positive manner since the merger and Hatch Goba Chairman and co-founder of Goba, Trueman Goba said in a statement: “In the public sector, Hatch Goba is now able to offer a differentiated service to those clients who need to fulfil the recommendations of the National Planning Commission and the National Development Plan which are key to the growth that South Africa needs.” Hatch Goba Managing Director, Rory Kirk was keen to point out that a strong emphasis would remain with employees saying: “Having worked together on a number of projects over the last six years, Hatch and Goba have developed a strong relationship with a good cultural fit. Hatch Goba will have a
combined workforce of over 1500 personnel in South Africa and will continue to give priority to developmental programmes and career opportunities for its employees. What’s more, ongoing investment in developing local staff will ensure that the specialist skills base in both engineering and large-scale project delivery, which is greatly needed in South Africa, continues to grow.” The relationship between Hatch and Goba before the merger was one of longstanding mutual benefit. The companies worked together on the Transnet capital expansion programme (TCP) and then began official merger talks back in 2011. Kirk says that both companies are extremely excited about the future and hope that they can contribute to a growing economy. “It has been a journey that has been travelled with vision, integrity, fairness and excitement and we look forward to what the future holds. We are committed to support the development and implementation of efficient projects, which Southern Africa needs in order to grow the economy. What’s more, our mission is to bring ‘smart’ solutions to our clients by bringing to the fore broader skills and global experience,” he said in the statement.
RAILWAY Within their transportation sector, Hatch Goba has worked on many projects that contribute to the country’s important logistics industry. Whether it’s rail or road, the company has the relevant experience and can offer state-of-the-art service. Previously completed projects include; the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, the Umgeni Interchange, the King Shaka International Airport, the T15 Upgrade, the HMG TCP joint venture, the National Stations Precinct Project and numerous other road construction or upgrade projects. One of the most recent projects that the company has been involved with is the Iron Ore Line shutdown for Kumba Iron Ore – part of the Anglo American group. The project has involved two existing railway lines being relocated to provide access to a new ore body and waste dump areas at its Sishen mine, about 600 km from Johannesburg in the Northern Cape. Hatch Goba has been responsible for the construction of a 76m long, 8x8 diameter tunnel that had to cross underneath the existing operational iron ore line. Making the challenge even more sizeable was the fact that the line could only be closed for ten days as part of an annual shutdown but this was a problem that was successfully navigated by the Hatch Goba team.
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“The big risk was that we had to do the job on a compressed schedule. There was very little float should something go wrong,” said Flip Gous, the senior Hatch project manager for the railway supply-line project in a report. The importance of the project was recognised at group level and Hatch’s global director, rail and transportation, Henk Bester said in the company’s 2013 Infrastructure Report that progress on the second phase of the project was on-going throughout 2013 with close attention to detail. “We set up weekly planning meetings to deal with the reality of the remote location and plan for possible challenges,” he said. The first phase of the project was completed in 2011 and that involved removing the existing surface line, drilling and blasting through surface material and removing the material where a new trench would be created.
FULL PROJECT MANAGEMENT Clearly, there are many aspects of the Hatch Goba business which make it a success but one area in particular has received much praise is the company’s long term focus on project management. From start to finish, on both small and large projects, the Hatch Goba team is committed to taking full responsibility for clients’ projects, so much so that the company has developed a unique project delivery methodology which it calls
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the ‘Project Lifecycle Process’ (PLP). This sees support offered to the client throughout the entire lifecycle of a project. The PLP methodology is based on a phased approach to project delivery called ‘Front End Loading’ (FEL). The basis of this idea is that the initial phases of the project can have an increased impact on the successful outcome of a project with each phase acting as a building block for the next. Hatch Goba project manager, Jan Breytenbach says that this approach allows for a focus on consistency across all projects. “The main benefit of the PLP process is that it has a consistent project delivery approach, as each project is managed according to this process. This results in a constant focus on client value, quality of work, sustainability solutions and workplace safety by ensuring that engineering, procurement, safety and industrial relations are developed from day one,” he said in a statement. The first phase in FEL practice is a conceptual phase. “We assist the client in identifying various concepts which could feasibly meet the project imperative so that these may be taken forward to the next phase for further development and elimination,” explains Breytenbach. “The next phase is the prefeasibility phase during which the identified concepts are further developed into a finally-selected preferred option that the client would take forward into execution. These initial phases are vital to ensure that no possible solution is overlooked
Hatch Goba and only that concept that best satisfies the project objectives is taken forward for implementation. “In the FEL 3 phase, the project execution plan, clearly specifying all construction management details is developed, cost estimates are refined and the execution schedules are developed.” The final phase in the process involves actual implementation and of course, everything is done to meet strict engineering details and plans that were developed in the previous phases. This phase takes the project all the way from detailed engineering and contract procurement, to the final construction of facilities, commissioning, hand over and operational support. It is not just the final phases where Hatch Goba becomes more active in the process. Breytenbach says that the company is involved, offering expert advice and guidance, right from the outset. “We do not simply construct a facility for the client to take over. We assist the client with operational readiness, and are also closely involved with the first stages of operating the facility once built. Thereafter Hatch Goba provides operational support throughout the lifetime of the project,” he says. As you would expect, every project comes with unique requirements and Hatch Goba prepare themselves for this by
undertaking specific training. “When a project is being established, a parallel training programme framework is set up for the benefit of all employees that are involved,” says Breytenbach, and this is of course a huge benefit to both the company and the employee and their community. Such an all-encompassing approach to project management puts Hatch Goba in an extremely strong position to offer services for future projects. “Hatch Goba boasts more than 50 years of industry experience, with global expertise in the EPCM field, and a proven track record on numerous projects across many sectors,” says Breytenbach.
EXPANSION IN AFRICA Before the merger, Goba was very active in Africa but its activities were mainly located in South Africa – its home. Hatch is renowned for its global presence but of course has had great successes in Africa. Since the historic merger, Hatch Goba has undertaken numerous projects beyond the borders of South Africa and it seems as though the focus for the company may be strengthening on the continent, especially when it comes to the mining and metals sectors.
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Is this because of the challenges in the global economic climate? Possibly, but more likely is the fact that the mining and metals industries in Africa are constantly changing and in some cases the risk can outweigh the rewards. “For the first time, Hatch Goba is busy with more work outside of South Africa’s borders than inside. The amount of work available has decreased significantly with many of the mining majors moving their attention to projects north of our borders,” explained Director of Mining and Metals for Africa, Lister Sinclair in May. “The one fundamental change that has been established within Hatch Goba is that our future workload for the foreseeable future will come from outside of South Africa.” Consider skills shortages, political uncertainty, nationalism, labour unrest and the lack of infrastructure in certain areas;
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all of these factors contribute to the large risks that are involved with investments in the mining and metals industry. Although in South Africa these factors present themselves on a less frequent basis, they still have to form part of any major investment decision. Looking back to 2012 and to the end of 2013, Sinclair says that despite the overall softening of commodity prices near the end of the year, Hatch Goba still had a good year and is currently working on four execution mining and metals projects in Africa. He adds that the company is closely following developments in commodities such as gold and iron ore in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mauritania, as well as copper and zinc deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sinclair says that business for Hatch globally has been on the increase and this should lead to a pickup in Africa.
Hatch Goba “Hatch globally is starting to see an uptick in work, especially in areas such as Australia and North America. With many clients starting to revisit capital projects that have previously been put on the back burner; we hope that Africa will follow suit which will materialise in more work,” he said in a statement. So, since the merger, things seem to be moving very nicely for Hatch Goba. The company’s 1500 employees continue to produce excellence in all areas and their expertise is always growing. The global knowledge that has been bought to the table from the Hatch side of the marriage helps to bring new practices and principles into consideration but one thing remains certain; the fact that the company offers an all-inclusive service, participating in projects from inception through to completion, means that relationships will continue to be built and reinforced. After all, if there’s one thing that any customer wants it’s value for money. This is a company that is set to grow and who would bet against another giant merger within the next decade? Trueman Goba himself summed up the situation in South Africa for the company very well when he spoke to Voicesofsouthafrica.com, saying: “This is a developing society. We should only get better, we can only increase our achievements in education, improve the employment rates and infrastructure. We should only improve in all respects from where we are. The opportunities for us in Africa are big.”
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