Winner of the 2018 award for Sustainability, category for
with making changes – big and small
From behaviour change as small as putting on a jersey instead of switching on a heater to making design changes to the aerodynamics (and therefore energy efficiency) of its products, sustainability is a subject that comes naturally to engineering firm Air Blow Fans.
“A reduction in energy has a direct link to CO²,
as well as savings from lower power usage, and we have a history of energy
efficiency,” says Gavin Ratner, the company’s managing member. “Much of our
product range (of industrial-scale fans) is generally refurbished many times
before they are beyond economic repair and the material is scrapped and sent
back to steel manufacturers for inclusion as scrap materials into their
Through effective engineering, it’s possible to
significantly reduce energy consumed, and therefore operating costs, he says. ”Using
rotor designs that are more aerodynamic, we can improve the fan’s operating
point on its fan curve to better suit the required system flows and pressures.”
These benefits appeal to many users of industrial fans – but
by no means all.
“People tend not to like change and some are more risk averse
than others. Mostly, when clients become conscious of the positive implications
of the recommended change, such as greater energy efficiency and lower costs,
they make the only decision that should be made – they change,” says Gavin. “Others
will resist and want things left the way they are”
Flexibility and the willingness to explore and experiment are
key in driving greater efficiency, which almost always means using resources
more sustainably. This comes easily at Air Blow Fans. “I’m the quintessential
engineer who loves tinkering,” says Gavin. “I’m not scared of change or the
unknown; I enjoy pushing boundaries and trying new things.”
Where he has become something of a stickler is in
discouraging energy-wasting practices such as keeping the heater on when you
really don’t need it. “Put on a jersey,” says Gavin. “It sounds like a small
thing that won’t make a great difference, but change starts with us. If more
people started thinking along the same lines about how we use energy, it would
make a difference.” Small things count!
Winner of the Sustainability award for 2018, category for
sustainability from yesterday, today and tomorrow
Learn from what happened yesterday but don’t use your
rear-view mirror as the driving force.
Constantly check where you are on the S-Curve pattern of
innovation and if your products are mostly approaching the top, make sure you
are already starting again at the bottom with new ones.
Hire young, extremely talented, out-of-the box thinkers to
turn your specifications into real, sellable products, and manage these young
people extremely well.
These are some of the learnings that SVA Innovate has
embedded in its business, enabling it to feed a steady stream of fresh, innovative
and affordable new products and services to its parent company, SVA Holdings.
Armed with these, SVA Holdings (itself a tt100 winner for Sustainability in
2018) can maintain the competitive edge it has in the governance and risk
“Business sustainability means not sitting on our laurels
and expecting what we did yesterday to be good enough for today,” says Lee
McFadyen, group technology executive at SVA Innovate. “At any given time, we
have at least five new products in development.”
This is not simply a case of churning out new products but
about delivering products that disrupt the market, Lee says.
An example is SVA Innovate’s stocktaking solution, which can
predict stock take results two years ahead, with 99% accuracy. “Walmart came
back to us and said we were spot on,” says Lee.
One of the five or so new products that the company is currently
working on is a new technology solution for retail stores battling to deal with
in-store crime. The physical presence of security guards is no longer enough of
a deterrent and smart technology is increasingly filling the gap.
“All businesses say they want to use technology but having a
computer is one thing; employing technology is another,” says Lee, adding that
many companies see technology as a “forced purchase” instead of a tool that can
significantly improve their risk and governance processes – affordably.
“We don’t spend a lot on developing our solutions; actually, we operate on a limited budget and deliver products at very reasonable prices, having developed a stable framework over the past 4 years helps us in achieving this,” he says. To a large extent, this is possible because the company makes a point of hiring people with a can-do attitude who don’t demand expensive equipment to deliver. “They don’t have an 8-to-5 mindset and lack of technology is not an obstacle to them; they think differently and find a way to make it happen.”
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award
for 2018, category for medium enterprises
Our adjudicator Marilze Schwar shares with us their experience of Accsys.
How to keep your
thinking at the cutting edge
When you’re good at what you do and it’s working well, why
change? That attitude is called complacency and it doesn’t go down well at
payroll and HR software solutions company Accsys.
“We’re constantly reinvestigating our systems and processes
as if we had just bought the company and were walking in cold,” says CEO Teryl
Schroenn, who has regular conversations with fellow executives and other
employees to check what’s still working and what’s not.
Such discussions can lead to interesting solutions in unexpected
aspects of the business. “This morning, feedback received from some of our
staff is that diversity is a major issue,” Teryl says. “One of the things we
came up with is that for the next year, we will focus on one of the South
African languages so that we can all at least greet each other in it.”
Age diversity also helps keep the company’s thinking fresh and creative, she says. “The youngest people here are interns straight out of school. The oldest person is 72. This cross-generational mix is important because it provides a blend of stability and new ideas.” When some people are risk-averse, others risk-tolerant and the rest somewhere in between, the results are more likely to be working than if one or the other dominates.
And results says Teryl, are what count. “The implementation of any technology or system should be designed around outcomes and not the method. The question we ask is: What results do we require?”
That might seem like common sense but a surprising number of
companies focus on method rather than results. For example, some businesses
will automate their payroll systems but keep the old Excel spreadsheet system
just in case.
“The one system checks the other,” she says, adding that
this might sound like a good idea until you consider that it not only costs
more to run two parallel systems but it is also time-consuming – so there go
any time-saving efficiencies management might have been hoping for. “Don’t just
do old things in a new way. You’ve got to shift your thinking.”
Something else to be on the lookout for is processes and
systems that employees are supposed to be following or using but aren’t, Teryl
says. “Ensure that what you think is happening is actually happening. People
don’t like change and old habits die hard. If you change something and no one
is really watching, people will fall back into their old ways.”
Then there is the not-so-old cliché about fixing things that
aren’t broken. “Sometimes it is tempting to change something to make your own
life easier but, in the process, you might be making life more difficult for 10
other people. You have to keep on asking yourself and others: Is this really
going to drive the business forward?”
So there you have it: Go to work every day
looking at your company as if you have just bought it and are walking through
the door for the first time. What would you change and what would you keep, and
what results do you seek?
Winner of the 2018 award for
Excellence in the Management of Systems, category for large enterprises
Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of De Beers Group Technology
Even ‘trivial’ details matter with systems thinking
In most workplace settings, the
swing of the doors is probably not a particularly important parameter. That
changes dramatically in confined spaces such as ships, aircraft and underground
mines where a door with a large swing can be a serious and expensive drawback.
“In isolation, the door swing
is not a big deal, but when space is at a premium, it becomes really important
and can add significantly to your capital costs. From a systems perspective, we
have learnt not to underestimate even the most trivial parameter,” says Gordon
Taylor, Operations Manager, at De Beers Group Technology.
Understanding the bigger
picture and the detail of how everything fits together is what systems thinking
means at De Beers Group Technology, which designs and produces specialised
mining equipment such as sorting machines.
It’s this kind of thinking that
the organisation strives to encourage among its employees through programmes
such as the internal innovation system, known as Boost.
The idea behind Boost (named after
the first staff-inspired innovation to receive a boost) is to encourage
employees to think and contribute beyond their immediate jobs. “If you have an
idea in your head, use Boost to translate it into something practical,” Gordon
says. The organisation provides seed funding of say R3 000 or R4 000,
and time is set aside to experiment towards translating that idea into
A substantial amount of time and effort has gone into fine-tuning Boost so that it produces real results and doesn’t just fizzle out. The reason is that it’s important to generate new ideas internally. “The innovation industry is a multibillion-rand industry and we know we can go outside (for innovation services) but we want ideas created internally and we want to do this at a grassroots level,” says Gordon.
This means everyone in the
organisation is encouraged to be involved in idea generation, from artisans and
tradespeople to administrative staff and engineers, cutting across all age
groups. “You must have diversity and inquisitiveness to succeed, and you need
to get out of the siloes,” he says. “People should be willing to try things
that are out of the ordinary and management should make it clear this is okay.
Employees shouldn’t think, ‘Don’t worry, the management team will take care of
this’. That stifles innovation.”
The message behind all this is
that nothing happens in isolation. Everyone has a part to play in making an
organisation work better and no detail is too trivial – including the door
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
Technology is a big part of this, but so is the human element,
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.
Our adjudicator Chipa Maimela shares with us their experience of Avantcore (Pty) Ltd
Winner of the
Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for emerging
Love it or hate it, digital assets are here
Whether you love
to hate it or love to love it, digital assets are not a fad. There are billions
of dollars in digital assets already being moved around the digital universe
every day and the industry is only going to grow, says Nicholas Allen, CEO of
fintech research and development (R&D) house Avantcore, based in Kloof near
financial universe is currently in the process of being established; a paradigm
shift is going on,” he says, referring to the host of fintech exchanges,
platforms and products springing up around the world and turning traditional trading
and transactional models on their heads.
traditional models, there always needs to be a third-party intermediary.
With the emergence of digital assets, value can be transferred between two
individuals, without any intermediary,” says Nicholas. “This is uprooting the
way business is done, not just in banking and financial services but in many
other industries too, because end-users can interact directly with each other.”
is a vast gap between the conventional centralised world and the new
decentralised world of digital ledger technology (DLT) – or blockchain as it is
more commonly known. The niche that Avantcore occupies is right in the middle;
it seeks to build products for businesses to bridge the gap between the two
There is risk in
the DLT space, of course, just as there is risk in the old centralised
financial world, and businesses understandably tend to be both eager to and
apprehensive about crossing the digital divide.
is to get the balance right by staying agile and nimble while keeping control
of processes,” says Nick. “this is why everything we do involves identifying
what possible failure modes there could be, understanding the repercussions and
preventing failure from occurring.”
For example, one
of the products Avantcore has developed for a client is a digital asset
management engine that draws on and analyses massive volumes of data from
multiple sources, checking and double checking its accuracy and reliability.
implements rigorous processes and systems for conceiving the required architecture
and developing and testing DLT solutions and products, including thorough
design processes, structured development models, code reviews and evaluation
This balance between creativity and
innovativeness, on the one hand, and structure on the other, is starting to
resonate with businesses considering taking the next fintech steps. There is
still a long road to travel before this fintech finds general acceptance in
business, Nicholas says, but progress is evident. “We have been pleasantly
surprised to see how large corporations are interested in and working to get
clued up about DLT and the emergence of digital assets as an asset class. They
may not be advertising it but they are interested.”