Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for small enterprises

When there’s a big competition, it’s all systems go

Probably the biggest competitive advantage of a small engineering development company like Air Blow Fans is agility and responsiveness compared to larger rivals in the industrial fans field. Agility is not necessarily a question of size, however. Rather, it’s a matter of achieving that end-to-end seamlessness that is so talked about but so challenging to actually accomplish.

“Everything has to tie up. It’s all those interconnected things that feed into each other so that we can act fast and respond to clients’ unforeseen needs,” says Gavin Ratner, managing member of multi-award-winning Air Blow Fans.

The operative word here is “unforeseen”. There is no set formula for fixing the massive centrifugal and axial flow fans that mining houses, power utilities and the like use to keep their plants running smoothly. Every situation is different and every solution has to be approached on its own merits, making those interconnected processes and systems all the more important.

Technology is a big part of this, but so is the human element, says Gavin.

Most plants have remote monitoring systems so that pre-emptive maintenance can be scheduled before there is a breakdown, but in practice, relatively few companies do regular checks. So when their mission-critical fans start vibrating more vigorously than they should, or some of the moving parts threaten to malfunction, Air Blow Fans will receive an emergency call.

That often means racing off to the client’s site for an on-premises, eyes-on assessment, after which technology can take over. “We feed the information from the site visit into a computational fluid dynamics package so that the computer can run different scenarios and devise a mechanical engineering solution that is reliable and fit for service,” Gavin says.

Next comes the design of the system, ordering of the materials, manufacture and installation of the equipment, underpinned by quality assurance. Air Blow Fans has ISO 9001 certification, which is unusual for a small engineering company.

Let’s not forget the people management part. “In a small group like ours, we are all interdependent. While a big organisation can compensate for one or two rotten apples, we cannot and it’s really important to have the right people working together for a common cause.”

With all the moving parts in synch, human and machine, it’s all systems go and no spanners in the works.

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