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H O W D E N s o u t h a f r i c a


Air and gas handling

powerhouse Howden Africa is a market driven, customer-orientated company. It has gained recognition in Sunday Times Top Companies and is performing brilliantly despite the global recession. Ian Armitage learns more.


Howden Africa FEATURE


owden is a major engineering force. Its equipment underpins the African continent and it has played a significant role in the development of large-scale power generation, mining, construction, petrochemical and manufacturing projects. The firm has enjoyed strong and steady growth - pre-tax profit of R40 million in 2004 has now been transformed into more than R100 million, gaining Howden Africa recognition in Sunday Times Top Companies. You wouldn’t notice many signs of the global recession in Howden Africa’s numbers, surprising given that many clients are mining companies that have had to slash production plans in recent times. “We have long-term relationships with customers in many sectors of Africa’s industrial infrastructure,” says Thomas Bärwald, Executive Director Southern Hemisphere and Chief Executive Officer Howden Africa Holdings Limited, who spoke to South Africa Magazine from Howden’s offices in Australia. “I have responsibility for Howden’s operations in Africa, Australia, South East Asia, and South and Central America. We supply expertise and experience, as well as plant and equipment, across a wide range of applications.” Howden Africa has four main business units offering comprehensive engineered systems and after-market support services, focusing on specific industrial sectors or product ranges. “It enables us to meet the needs of customers,” says Bärwald.

The Howden business units located in Africa are Howden Power, Howden Fan Equipment, Howden Projects and Donkin Fans. Two worldclass manufacturing centres, both located in South Africa, support these units and the Johannesburg operation is equipped to handle a diverse range of large scale engineered plant and products, including the design and fabrication of turnkey projects across the full spectrum of Howden’s customer industries, Bärwald says. “We specialise in the design and engineering of a wide range of equipment and have an extensive offering. We have a good reputation and we are close to the customer. Our customers are all lifetime customers.” Trading items like fans for mines, furnaces and water chillers for power plants, Howden Africa has built up an enviable reputation and offers customers a personal service and presence in Africa, with additional advantages of access to an international network of world-class technological and engineering skill from Howden Group technology in Glasgow. “Our involvement in the past development of Africa’s industrial infrastructure is matched by our commitment to the future,” the company says.

Major industries supplied include power generation, petrochemical, mining, agriculture, construction, refrigeration, water treatment, incineration and general industry

RECESSION? WE HADN’T NOTICED Steel companies and aluminium smelters have been the hardest hit over the last couple of years, as demand - particularly from Europe - has dried up. However, there isn’t much of a sign of the global recession in Howden Africa’s numbers. “It is important to remember that not every industry has slowed down, ” Bärwald says.


Howden Africa FEATURE

“Coal and gold mines, for example, have been growing. “Order book levels in the Fans and Heat Exchangers division are strong and platinum is picking up also. “There was a lot of stockpiling of platinum but the automotive industry has eaten into the available supply and so more platinum is needed. The platinum industry, we see, is growing. Then, of course, the SADC is open to us and we are seeing more development, especially in mining and infrastructure in Africa now. We have a strong position there because we have knowledge of African culture and we are already there. We are also


It is important to remember that not every industry has slowed down…. Coal and gold mines, for example, have been growing

highly innovative and have some very good new products.” It isn’t all plain sailing though and a slowdown in private sector investment has affected the Environmental Control division (Howden Projects), which continues to report a decline in its order book despite a number of promising prospects, Bärwald says. “Eskom’s need for power has provided a major boost to Howden’s order book,” he adds. “A big factor that has helped is Eskom. It needed to commission new power stations and we are involved in Medupi and Kusile.

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Howden Africa FEATURE

Wide Range Engineering Wide Range Engineering has been involved with the Howden Group for the past 21 years in the area of applied technology in the field of Application Engineering. We specialize in rolling bearings and design state of the art solutions to eliminate fan problems and concerns, such as lightly loaded Spherical Roller Bearings, high speed issues, special lubrication applications & special materials being utilized. We also design and supply market standard products. The design and manufacture of our own range of Grease and Oil bath lubricated Dual Bearing Housings to the fan industry has been one of our greatest successes. WRE has supplied Dual Bearing Housings to Australia, Russia & Chile on Howden Designed Fans. WRE products manufactured for the Howden Group give them better reliability on their own products enabling them to concentrate more on their own fan designs. This is due to the ease of compatibility of our products to their range of fans. We have enjoyed a successful 20 year partnership with the Howden Group & look forward to the next 20 years in growing our businesses together.

“We have a reasonable order book for the future, that’s for sure,” Bärwald adds. “Of course, we have just seen the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2010) published and the government has announced its intentions to focus on a expansion of transportation, energy, housing and other infrastructure, as well as mining and manufacturing. These are good opportunities for us. “We also focus on the aftermarket. Many of our machines are still in the field after 30 to 40 years and they’re still working and need servicing,” Bärwald says.

THE HOWDEN ACADEMY Bärwald has worked with Howden for nearly 20 years. Along the 6

A big factor that has helped is Eskom. It needed to commission new power stations and we are involved in Medupi and Kusile

way, he has worked in Howden’s Australian business and even headed the Chinese operations for nearly two years. “I was appointed executive director for Africa, Australia, South East Asia, and South and Central America and CEO of Howden Africa Holdings Limited in January 2009, and I’m enjoying it. “Howden worldwide has a presence on every continent and an impressive track record of innovation. To carry that forward we invest in technological R&D, innovation, and the training of our staff. “We have, at the moment, like many other engineering companies around the world, a generation change. We have a lot of people that will retire

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in the next five to 10 years and now the next generation has to take over and we want to maintain good skills. We also ensure that if you are in Europe, North America China, Australia or South Africa or South America, you will get the same quality.” Howden has long recognised the importance of allowing individuals to develop their skills and knowledge to their full potential. In 2008, it took the step of adding a formal dimension to its training capabilities by instituting the Howden Academy, a residential training course at the University of Caledonia in Glasgow in which engineers from all Howden business units are brought together for an introduction to the technologies and business practices. “It builds on the co-operation and shared knowledge that has always distinguished us as a company,” says Bärwald. Every Howden engineer is an integral part of an international pool of leading-edge expertise, he adds. END

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