Ensuring a smooth flight
ADB Airfield Solutions ensure that airports around the world maintain a high standard in both construction and technology products
Writer Matt Bone & Emily Jarvis
Project manager Nick Norris
ADB Airfield Solutions (Pty) Ltd is the South African registered entity of the multinational ADB Airfield Solutions, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The parent company manufactures airfield lighting equipment in Belgium, China, and USA. The South African based part of the company is responsible for projects and sales in sub-Saharan Africa, headquartering in Rivonia, Johannesburg. With a team of 50 direct and contract workers and revenue of R180 million, ADB have been providing vital solutions for airports for over 65 years.
Nel Kotze, the Chief Operating Officer for ADB Southern Africa, explains what sets them apart from other airfield construction companies: "ADB serve a niche and specialized market with full turnkey solutions that revolve around all the electrical and electronic aspects for a modern runway. Our strength lies in not only providing high quality equipment but also in offering the full project to the client providing end to end, integrated and sustainable solutions for visual guidance; this includes design and advice, project management, installation, commissioning and maintenance."
ADB have formed a strong focus on technology, quality, processes and people, powering a series of innovations ranging from individual light control and monitoring systems to advanced surface movement ground control systems; and from the first LED airfield lights to runway incursion systems. "Every aspect of our business is attuned toward innovation from ideation and execution to delivery. This is reflected in our well-defined Idea Management and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) processes, our strong R&D focus and efficient global supply chain," Kotze cites.
The main scope of activities is for the supply and installation of various ADB products which include Airfield Ground lighting (AGL), Control systems for Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to control the AGL, Automated Weather Observation Systems (AWOS) for use next to runways and Instrument Landing Systems (ILS). More technical still are the surveillance systems such as surface movement radar, multilateration systems for ATC to track aircrafts en-route in conjunction with secondary radar and Terminal building equipment such as baggage handling systems, flight info displays and security equipment. "In addition to these services, we also supply electrical and power backup systems for airports, which is critical for safe and reliable airfield operations," says Kotze. In the last five years, ADB has emerged as a preferred AGL partner for Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana with the successful completion of four major AGL modernization projects at key international airports. These include Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA), Maun International Airport, Kasane International Airport and Francistown International Airport. ADB has delivered AGL, signs, AGLCS systems, apron floodlighting and LED lighting, power equipment, as well as Automated Weather Observation Systems.
An Innovative Team
"Every innovation starts with a winning idea. At ADB, we realize the need to nurture ideas from our employees so we can truly realize their value and help our customers. A simple and practical Ideas Management program encourages our sales teams to present their ideas on new products or suggest improvements to existing products, and highlight its potential benefits to customers. Ideas are evaluated by a cross-functional global panel of experts and those with potential are explored further, and if feasible, integrated into our product vision and roadmaps.
"A strong Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) process forms the foundation of our product vision, design, production and delivery. Every new product we bring to the market satisfies customers' needs in terms of performance, reliability and affordability, and corresponds to the quality we as a company have set forward." - Nel Kotze, COO
Many clients do not wish to work with a lot of subcontractors, so a single contractor is hired to manage a project and then subsequently appoints additional subcontractors, who then coordinate the entire project. This is commonplace in African industry and ADB have made project management and oversight a key faculty.
As with any project undertaken in any industry, there can always be aspects that require specialised knowledge or skills that a company may not have. ADB use such specialist subcontractors in order to get a project finished. "We are a specialist company but there are times that we need an even more specialist service, after all we are not expert in every aspect of the industry. We then sub contract a professional firm with excellent reputation to help us with this service request. But all the time ADB manages the project and all processes from start to finish to ensure our name and reputation are always maintained at the highest level by all our subcontractors," Kotze explains.
With the rate of exchange between the Euro and local currencies fluctuating on a daily basis, ADB have developed a systematic approach to cover the volatile financial climate with its clients. "We negotiate a contract with clients and subcontractors that make provision for adjustment of our local currency invoice to the prevailing exchange rate. Not all customers accept this negotiation, so we organise forward cover and we can additionally attach an extra payment clause should prices vary radically." Kotze cites, and is keen to point out that normally "our clients are happy to have this security in place with regard to the finances."
Establishing Long Term Relationships
The key to a good business model is having strong and beneficial working relationships with your suppliers and clients. ADB have such a business model and Kotze is proud of how the relationships that he has overseen has been carefully nurtured: "We are attempting to establish ourselves as the long term partner of airport authorities. We believe that a relationship based on honesty and guaranteed quality is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. We have a number of suppliers who have been working alongside us for a number of years and likewise airports who continually request our services based on outstanding previous work," he cites.
Demand for Investment in African Airports
There is a need for greater investment in African airports to improve safety, reliability and availability of airside infrastructure. Projects are, however, taking many years to get off the ground due to several reasons including political change, infrastructure costs and a lack of investment in the country. The main challenges lie in convincing Governments and companies to invest greater amounts in the upkeep, expansion and renovation of the airports in order to cope with this influx.
The main challenges lie in a more positive outlook connected with the rapid growth of the African continent and investment necessity has been seen in countries such as Zambia and Botswana; where Governments and foreign investors have injected much needed capital into aviation projects. South Africa will hopefully begin to see further investment based growth in the aviation industries in the coming 12 months.