Championing diversity in adversity, Raubex Infra has shielded itself against a challenging industry backdrop by building its reputation as a go-to contractor on alternative energy infrastructure projects
Writer: Tom Wadlow
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
The future prospects for companies to survive and grow in this current volatile market are bleak… every year that spend is limited on infrastructure is another year that South Africa falls behind in upgrading and developing new services to the broader population and to business.
“The poor economy and its effects have played a part in this decline. Protests and civil uprising have impacted our markets, raising questions from international investors, and this has had a knock on effect on projects not rolling out.”
It is no secret that South Africa’s construction industry is battling through strong headwinds.
In need of public and private investment to stimulate an upturn in fortunes, companies operating in the sector are facing uncertain futures and limited prospects while these economic and political conditions prevail.
However, the current climate can also be a catalyst for diversification, adaptation and innovation.
The opening words come from Ean Steekamp, Managing Director of Raubex Infra, a firm which has managed to futureproof itself by doing just this.
“We are currently in a more stimulated market than where most construction companies find themselves,” he continues.
“The alternative energy market has provided us with work opportunities which has helped Raubex Infra to have a positive outlook into the next few years. This in itself has made our work environment exciting and provided a focus on not only working hard, but working smart.”
Moving with the times
This dynamic, forward-thinking culture played an important part in luring Steenkamp to Raubex Infra in 2014.
“Proactive rather than reactive, we are at the forefront of new specialties and advantageous expertise,” he says. “We are here to enhance people’s lifestyles and the economy through our services.”
Such services include a full suite of turnkey civil and general infrastructure solutions, contracting for electrical and renewable energy projects and support in rollouts of telecoms networks.
“Our services are distinctive because they are continuous,” Steenkamp adds. “Our adaptability and the solid communication between the Raubex Group of Companies mean we deliver results against all odds and external challenges.
“Indeed, the level of service and anticipation of market development are what shape us. Why? Because we are dedicated to making sure the customer is satisfied no matter how large or small their projects are.”
Although Raubex Infra is a relatively young enterprise, it has built up a solid reputation and takes full advantage of the expertise and presence of its powerful parent firm.
This has resulted in official recognition for excellence, the company being a proud carrier of ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OSHAS 18001 international standards certificates. It has also identified and acted upon certain nuances in the market.
“During our professional practice as a construction company in South Africa, we became aware of the scarcity of national construction companies specialising in multidisciplinary projects that measure up to high international standards,” says Steenkamp.
“There was a shortage of players that could undertake the much-needed technical construction in a specialised environment in the fields of building, construction, telecommunication, civil and electrical engineering infrastructure markets.”
It is the latter subsector in which Raubex Infra has reaped particular reward in recent times.
The company is busy working on several projects in different regions of South Africa, including the 34-turbine Copperton Wind Farm in the Northern Cape, a development which will connect to the ESKOM grid network.
Raubex Infra is responsible for completing the balance of plant works to allow for the delivery and erection of the 34 wind turbine generators (WTG) and connection to the grid network.
The work, due for completion in mid-2021, includes foundations for the WTG, the relocation of MET Masts, construction of all access tracks, site entrances, crane pads and the drainage system.
The company will also be completing the collection system circuits (medium voltage and communication by optic fibre), and wind farm substations including warehouse, control room, sub-transmission line and grid connection substation.
“Through the completion of our works on this site, we will be impacting positively on all South Africans as this contributes to making cheaper electricity by adding to the availability of electricity on the grid,” says Steenkamp.
“Further, as well as having a positive environmental impact, we are providing work and transferring knowledge to the local community.”
A second project in Northern Cape due for completion in early 2020 involves the civil and electrical construction works for the Droogfontein PV Plant, while in North West Province Raubex Infra is working on another solar development, the Bokamosa PV Farm.
People and partners
Raubex Infra’s diversification strategy has led to the development of a formidable knowledge pool across many construction subcategories, a key differentiator for the business in the eyes of Steenkamp.
“We have focussed on retention of staff over the years and have built on in-depth technical knowhow to become a leading construction company, and the evolution of our expertise hasn’t stopped,” he says.
“We are committed to developing our in-house expertise to address the changing needs within our industry and those of the South African and international landscapes.”
The company has a dedicated training budget which covers staff at all levels within the organisation, who receive legal, medical, regulatory, and client- and activity-specific tuition.
Raubex Infra, being a BEE level 1 status firm, also needs to factor in budget spend on black-owned companies, helping to not only empower local people through employment, but others through continued support of these enterprises.
Such external partner companies help ensure the smooth delivery of Raubex Infra projects, and Steenkamp explains some of the criteria in the supplier approval process.
“In the initial stages of vetting suppliers and partners, quality of product is key to any form of relationship,” he says. “Price and level of service are then evaluated.”
Key suppliers will be visited and a questionnaire completed, indicating to Raubex Infra that they have the necessary resources and output to achieve its delivery goals. Through its financial system, Buildsmart, the supplier is vetted for all necessary documentation needed through regulatory standards.
“Once this vetting process is completed then the partner relationship kicks off,” continues Steenkamp. “If viewed as a supplier that fits our profile, then we tend to build long term relationships with them, thus offering us more competitive prices and secure delivery times.”
An improving political and economic picture will further help to enhance Raubex Infra’s network of suppliers and partners as more opportunities arise.
Steenkamp is cautiously optimistic regarding the future of South Africa’s construction industry, and calls for red tape in various institutions to move forwards and help steer the sector back into a phase of growth.
“Only then will the industry experience a revival and projects be opened for development,” he adds. “If all goes well in 2019 the future looks bright for construction in South Africa, not only in terms of maintaining existing services, but developing new and innovative solutions.”
Regarding his priorities for Raubex Infra, the MD concludes: “Focusing on our core business and our model of diversification we, as leaders in our industry, have the vision of remaining leaders going forward.
“We will also measure our markets on a yearly basis and evaluate ourselves to remain relevant. Further, we will assess the changing environment and ensure that we adapt and develop our company, so as to align ourselves with changing technology and the needs of the construction industry.”