Generation leaders in critical power solutions
DES specialises in the design and manufacture of diesel and gas fuelled generating sets that are helping power South Africa
Writer Matt Bone
Project manager Nick Norris
Diesel Electric Services (DES) have gone from strength to strength since its humble beginnings in 1993 and the company has built on a legacy of excellence, experience and commitment. This wealth of expertise has enabled DES to become the market leader in the critical power industry in South Africa. DES offers customers a complete solutions package. DES specialises in the design and manufacture of diesel and gas fuelled generating sets, LV distribution boards, static and rotary UPS’s, Data centre racks and cooling, MV switchgear, solar and hybrid technologies, and associated products and services to suit the needs of practically any organisation. Richard Baxter, Sales Manager of DES is quick to point out that it is the solutions they offer to customers that have really propelled DES to the forefront of the industry: “By offering a customer a solution to their critical power requirement and not just a piece of kit or a product, we are able to establish a long term, mutually beneficial partnership with them. Our customer relationships are so important to us and that’s why we’ve invested so heavily in establishing undoubtedly one of the best service organisations around.” The company relies on a strong set of values at the centre of all its operating procedures. “The ingredients contributing to the making of the finest products include affordable business solutions, industry leading brands, excellent service, short lead times, solid relationships and attention to detail.”
Shelter from the Storm
During the power crisis of 2008, (which saw the collapse of the National Power Grid), the business grew rapidly. “To a certain extent our business in South Africa was shielded from the effects of the world recession through the various soccer world cup projects, the Gautrain projects etc.” When South Africa was awarded the 2010 FIFA World Cup, many companies in a variety of industries saw a surge in their workloads and subsequently profit margins during the construction and manufacturing stages. However, Baxter says that straight after it seems the phones stopped ringing: “It was quickly realised that the game had changed, and a new game plan had to be developed.”
After the SA power crisis companies began springing up in the industry looking to take a slice of the business. What was traditionally a relatively small competitor base quickly grew and the fight for business was on. This was not the only stiff competition Baxter and DES faced. Cheaper Asian products began to trickle into the market and some customers began to favour these imports over local companies because of the lower prices.
Baxter, on the other hand, believes that many customers have become more discerning and are more cautious about what they are buying and the service levels offered. “Customers are quickly realising that they are spending more in the long run than if they had bought our reputable products and services in the first place.”
What Diesel Electric Services offers is not just a top quality product, they offer support, servicing, maintenance and they are always available on the phone to talk to should any problem arise.
Expansion is King
Diesel Electric Services are not about to sit back and rest on their laurels though. Strong expansion plans have been put into place and DES is currently active in numerous countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Angola, where Baxter is confident the DES brand and focussed market approach can really make a mark. “We are looking at offering turnkey solutions for these countries with a simple approach, simple best-practise engineering and quality products and services, with a strong balance sheet and resources; we have the ability to finance our own projects, thus avoiding costly interest charges on loans, etc.”
With DES looking to gain a strong foothold in emerging markets, expansion is at the forefront of DES’s current strategy. Baxter is always looking at potential opportunities in countries where DES’s solutions are increasingly becoming a priority. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one such country. The mining industry there has boomed over the last 10 years, but careful consideration of all the associated business risks involved is necessary. One thing is certain – DES is looking at the opportunities from a short, medium and long term perspective. “You cannot go into a country, supply them a product, make money and then walk away. It is bad for business relationships and it is bad for the industry.”
DES and the SKA MeerKAT
One of the most complex high profile projects DES have worked on to date is the SKA MeerKAT installation. DES have been awarded the contract for the design, manufacture, delivery, installation and commissioning of the Rotary Unit Power Supply solution for the site from the 33kV incomer to the 400V distribution boards at the SKA MeerKAT. The SKA MeerKAT project is a radio telescope currently under construction in the Northern Cape of South Africa. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere until the Square Kilometre Array is completed around 2024. The telescope will be used for research into cosmic magnetism, galactic evolution, and the large-scale structure of the cosmos, dark matter and the nature of transient radio sources. It will also serve as a technology demonstrator for South Africa’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array.
Baxter is very proud of the company for being selected to work on such a prestigious project. “This is a massive project not just for us, but for Southern Africa as a whole. DES’s involvement in SKA will show that we are not just about diesel and electric solutions but that we offer a whole host of world class industry leading products and services as an integrated package.”
Proud to be Seen
In the past DES stayed away from excessive marketing and media presence. Now they are much more assertive in their approach and want all to know just how impressive their reputation is. “We are very confident in our own abilities and reputation to proudly showcase any of our services and products in the media and in public,” explains Baxter, who is pleased with how the company is now pushing its media campaigns across several different mediums. With this kind of media savvy, a well-structured management team and a strong set of core values that have repeat business and customer satisfaction ingrained, Baxter believes that DES will ensure that its name remains synonymous with market leading innovation and service.