Bringing Hope to People and Communities
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: James Mitchell
Lithon Project Consultants has spent much of the past 12 months strengthening its reputation from a geographical perspective as it looked to expand its renowned service provision across both Namibia and South Africa, and is now turning its attentions towards the next five years of growth in line with the philosophies that helped incept the business to begin with.
The proudly Namibian Company has long been one of the major industry players across project management, multi-disciplinary engineering, and mining services across both SADC nations, and much of late-2015 was spent further honing this offering via extensive recruitment drives and sector expansions.
Lithon’s Managing Director (MD), Frikkie Holtzhausen recalls: “One of the more important success stories is that we have managed to recruit well-qualified and experienced staff in specific divisions, which up to now has been a great challenge due to the scarcity of such people locally in Namibia.
“This allowed us to formalise and expand our transportation division through appointing some of the critical staff needed for that sector.”
Immediate fruits of the Company’s labours were seen in the attainment of major transportation contracts across both road and railway domains, leading into what is shaping up to be a pivotal year of transformation.
“We commenced 2016 with a strategic planning session; re-confirming our focus for the next five years, the core of our business and commitment by us as shareholders towards Lithon, and towards each other as owners,” Holtzhausen says. “This was very constructive and a necessary step as we need to be aligned in mind and soul towards what we do. The strategic plan is to be completed by the end of April, 2016, approved and implemented immediately afterwards.”
A further re-confirmation of the Company’s vision and commitment among senior management was also achieved as a result of the plan’s formation, laying the foundations for what Holtzhausen believes will be a proactive period of continuous market improvement to come.
“Our current market share has been properly defined as part of the process as well as the risks associated with the same, in order to gear ourselves accordingly,” he explains. “New disciplines or services we need to be able to provide in-house will meet the changing environment and needs of our clients and we are actively putting the necessary resources in place for that.”
A strengthening of Lithon’s South African office is compounding such an ethos as the Company prepares not only for an assault on the industry, but also for any challenges that attempt to bite back at the business too.
Inevitably, careful timing and execution of works in South Africa are essential given the market challenges surrounding Lithon’s key industries in the country, but this certainly isn’t to say that the Company is struggling from a project perspective in general.
“We have competed for and were fortunately successful in obtaining major projects in the transportation sector, both roads and railways,” Holtzhausen notes. “In order to provide the services required, we established excellent and close relationships with specialist companies that provide the ancillary services apart from the normal engineering services required for such projects. This is excellent exposure for our staff and a skills transfer is taking place.
“We are also providing specialist in-house services for the compilation of Master Development Plans and Integrated Spatial Development Framework investigations which includes inundation studies for local authorities. This is specifically important for the northern areas of Namibia, where development is restricted due to annual flooding of large areas.”
The provision of flood line studies and consequential analysis further compounds works in this area and has become a pre-requisite for local authorities in terms of town development; while also paving the way for the business to develop in-house competencies in executing infrastructure auditing and assessment studies for NGOs and utility companies alike.
“This is a new field and a new market that we foresee will become more of a requirement as many institutions lose the in-house capacity to perform this themselves,” the MD details.
Another market that Lithon has capitalised on in more recent times is the aforementioned transportation sector, having become a major role player as such; but also within the residential domain, aligning itself with the Government’s commitment to provide mass housing to the people of Namibia.
Holtzhausen continues: “This goes hand-in-hand with the provision of serviced land. Everybody in the consulting engineering Industry should assist our President, his Excellency, Dr Geingob to pursue his vision in this regard by becoming involved and to support his endeavours also by advising those tasked with the implementation of his plan.”
Qualifications, skills and experience
As a proudly Namibian enterprise, Lithon has always sought to enrich the lives of those around it by aiding with such policies, and is now in a better position than ever to do so having put in place the new disciplines and services associated with its recent strategic plan.
This exists as part of an even wider ongoing strategy revolving around internal developments and the kinds of capital investments that are required to keep up with the Company’s own external, project-related growth.
This largely incorporates the continuous upgrading and improvement of both administrative systems and internal technologies, as well as a constant monitoring of the wider facilities themselves to adopt such modern practices.
Ultimately though, the success of the business from an operational point of view rests on the competency of its staff who drive Lithon forward on a daily basis.
“We believe in getting the right people on the bus and for that reason we aggressively search for the right people with the right qualifications, skills and experience,” Holtzhausen emphasises. “We have thus been fortunate in recruiting critically scarce staff for specific positions. We further identify appropriate and properly accredited training courses for our staff in order to better equip them for the roles they have to perform.
“In order to retain staff, our remuneration strategy is based on paying market-related salaries and, where necessary in critical areas, we are prepared to pay a premium in order to achieve the same.
“We also recently created an employee trust with the aim of giving ownership to identified staff on a selective basis, whereby they obtain shareholding and we thus ensure that the young team members become part of the ownership of the Company; thereby ensuring the future of Lithon.”
Hope to people and communities
That aforementioned future certainly looks bright, but in what can be a volatile industrial terrain, it has always been essential for Lithon to surround itself with equally competent and forward-thinking partners, creating mutually beneficial synergies across the board to aid not only with the physical operations, but the behind-the-scenes facets that safeguard the Company’s sustainable longevity.
“We have established excellent and close relationships with companies that provide specialist ancillary services across our supply chain, which provides us with a wider spectrum of services to provide our clients, in order to really be a one-stop service provider,” Holtzhausen says. “We are also in discussion with educational institutions to improve the quality and standard of young engineers produced by such institutions in Namibia.
“We will become actively involved in assisting such institutions in developing curricula and training programmes, and to ensure that young freshly qualified engineers are provided with the necessary practical exposure in order to professionally register.”
A further agreement with one of the larger NGOs to accommodate some of their young engineers and give them practical experience under the guidance of a professionally registered engineering firm similarly emphasises the responsibility that Lithon places on itself in Namibia’s industrial sector; and is also complemented by corporate social responsibility efforts outside of its core works via its non-profit Lithon Foundation, which aims to “glorify God by bringing his love and hope to people and communities”.
As Lithon now looks towards implementing its new strategies in 2016, it can also be safe in the knowledge that there are lucrative sectors to apply its one-stop offering and socially enriching solutions within, and Holtzhausen is as confident as ever that this can be applied in both Namibia and South Africa.
“The provision of mass housing to the people of Namibia is one key area,” he concludes. “We are in regular contact with senior Government officials and we assist them with advice in terms of effective implementation.
“We are also providing consulting services at reduced rates in order to ensure the success of the same. We are however not the only Company that assists the Government in this manner and it is encouraging to see that so many companies realise the importance of this project and are prepared to make a contribution towards it.
“Having a fully-fledged and multi-disciplinary office in South Africa that serves the rest of Africa is our final mission for the coming years. We, however, are following a responsible approach in this regard and believe in taking each step when the time is right for it.”