Monthly Archives: October 2017

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Takalani Ndou

Child-headed household was the launching pad for Takalani

“Always look on the bright side,” is not a cliché for Takalani Ndou. Where others might consider it a hardship for a teenager to ensure the daily household chores were done and dusted, he believes it was an opportunity.

“Taking responsibility for running a household is like being the chief operating officer. I realised later that this is when I learnt to be a supervisor, to get people to listen when I talk and to feel comfortable with my management style. What I learnt aged 12 to 18 has been very handy at the workplace.”

Indeed it has. His leadership skills, honed as COO of the Ndou household, have brought him responsibilities and opportunities that would not normally be available to someone with (at the time) only a matric certificate. At the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which he joined in 1996, Takalani climbed the corporate ladder from operations controller to head of several departments on the strength of his leadership acumen and people management skills.

But qualifications count, and Takalani knew it. Enter The Da Vinci Institute, where he enrolled for a diploma in Management of Technology and Innovation (MOTI). “While I was studying towards my diploma, I had the opportunity to upgrade to a BCom specialising in operational risk, so I took it.”

From average to excellent

At school, he was an “average student”. At Da Vinci, he has excelled, earning eight distinctions for his BCom studies. “Da Vinci’s Mode 2 approach fits me perfectly. At school, sitting and listening didn’t work for me. At Da Vinci, I am allowed to ask those questions I need to ask. I compete better when I engage, and I’m practical. I look at things in a problem-solving way.”

The problem he sought to solve for his work-based challenge was safety related. “I chose my topic while I was head of Safety and was witnessing injuries and damage to property on site. These were, in some cases, caused by lack of compliance. This got me thinking:  Why do we continue having violations, leading to injuries and damages, while we have all the systems, policies, procedures and training available for our environment?”

So he formulated two key objectives for his work-based challenge: to analyse the airport safety culture and to identify the factors that contributed to that culture.

Takalani sifted through three years’ worth of safety records to identify safety trends, violations and serial violators. He also read avidly. “That was the best thing about my challenge. I read a lot. I’ve never read so much in my life, and my reading kept on taking me to new and different corners.”

Response points to need for culture change

The hardest part was the qualitative information-gathering, involving interviews with ACSA people in the operational, tactical and strategic (management) levels. “I appreciate everyone is busy but it was a challenge getting people to assist, especially in management levels,” Takalani says.

His main findings were that the safety culture required vast improvement due to a lack of effective communication.

Implementation is next – after some additional work. “Besides the fact that I have just completed my studies, I have realised this is a very important contribution that, if it succeeds, will form part of my legacy. I have decided to review the study and tighten some critical elements, as advised during my final presentation.

“As an example, I believe my sample size could be improved upon, and this has the potential of changing my findings, which will have an impact on my recommendations. This has now turned into something seriously personal!” he says.

“For the first time in my life, I can say without any doubt that I have done something meaningful which has the potential to not only change lives of people but potentially to save lives as well. The effective cost saving would be an added benefit for the airport community.”

*The official title of Takalani’s work-based challenge was, “The need for developing and implementing of a safety culture: An ACSA investigation.”

X/procure®: Small company, big impact

X/procure® Software (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the 2016 Rica Viljoen Award for Excellence in the Management of People

Category for small enterprises

Taking the pain out of procurement for pharmacies

Running out of stock is a nightmarish scenario for pharmacies large and small, whose customers cannot wait until the shelves are replenished to have their prescriptions filled. In South Africa, the advent of electronic procurement has taken much of the pain out of the supply chain and one company, in particular, X/procure®, is helping pharmacies keep their house in order.

“About 76% of South African pharmacies use our ordering portal, which processes around 500 000 orders a month and R10 billion worth of orders a year, consisting of scheduled, over-the-counter and front-shop items,” says JD Henderson, X/procure® managing director.

The portal’s popularity is easily explained. It seamlessly connects pharmacies to the wholesalers who supply them and provides almost instantaneous feedback on whether the required product is available.

If that product happens to be an originator drug (the original patented version), X/procure®’s portal will instantly display an advert of the generic alternative. “This is unique to our system and is a very important feature because legislation dictates that pharmacies must always recommend the cheaper, generic alternative to an originator drug,” Henderson says.

The ordering portal also helps pharmacies improve their stock management. “Our software provides a clear history of what, when and how a product was ordered and alerts the client to any anomalies,” he says. “If you typically order 10 packets of a particular product but are suddenly ordering 100, the system would query that.”

Then there’s the portal’s ability to help pharmacies buy front-shop items (tissues, cosmetics, vitamin supplements and the like) at the lowest prices. “When ordering from multiple wholesalers, the pharmacy can see the prices from all the wholesalers and choose the lowest-priced options,” says Henderson. “That’s a major advantage because pharmacies can only make a profit on front-shop products, not on the medicines they dispense.”

Small company, big impact

Despite the huge volumes of orders that X/procure®’s procurement portal handles daily, it has a staff of only 38, many of them being technical resources and all of them hand-picked for their skills and their compatibility with the company culture.

“We employ like-minded people with the same values,” Henderson says. “No matter how great your skills are if you don’t share our values we don’t hire you.”

Those values include putting the customer first (“That sounds like a cliché but we really go out of our way to make the customer feel like the only person in the world.”), under promising and over delivering (“If we say something will be ready at 8am tomorrow, it will be.”) and honesty and integrity (“We will tell you upfront if we can’t do something for you.”)

Playing for points

Innovation, too, is a core value. “It’s important that everyone on the team is part of the innovation process, so we’ve created an in-house portal where people can log new ideas,” Henderson says. “You earn points for submitting an idea – whether it’s good, bad or ugly – and more points if our innovation panel picks your idea. If it’s taken to development you earn more points, and when it’s commercialised, you are involved in that – and you earn more points.”

At the end of the year, staff members redeem their points for PlayStation games, LCD screens and movie tickets. “But if you don’t want to redeem your points, you can convert them to cash and donate it to charity,” says Henderson, adding that this was a staff idea that became reality, as was the suggestion that flexitime be introduced to avoid sitting in Sandton traffic.

Other people management practices that X/procure® takes pride in are the benchmarking of salaries, drawing up of development plans for every staff member, succession planning for every position, and a culture of celebrating successes, birthdays and other memorable occasions.

Overindulgence at staff functions is not encouraged but if a staff member is feeling worse for wear, there’ll be a designated driver who’ll get him or her home safely, says Henderson. “We have a lot of fun here. We work hard and we party hard, and when we party, we do it responsibly.”

PFK Electronics: The art of dealing with ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’

PFK Electronics

#TT1002016 Winner of the Da Vinci Award for Excellence in the Management of People

Category for large enterprises

The art of dealing with ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’

When it comes to salespeople, there are acquisition salespeople or “hunters” and then there are retention salespeople or “farmers”. Understanding the differences and, more importantly, mobilising them advantageously, is a critical success factor for PFK Electronics, South Africa’s biggest manufacturer of advanced automotive technology. PFK uses its sales force to identify and nurture partnerships around the world as it is a partner-centric business.

“Our Global partners are key to our business strategy and a key to the PFK end customer. Nurturing these partnerships is incredibly important for our success. That is why it is critical that we appoint the right sales profile to look after our partners and customers, tailored to the sales lifecycle and market they find themselves in,” says Marco Valente, Managing Director of Sales & Marketing.

“Choosing the right people for the job – whether in sales, R&D or the assembly line – is a key part of PFK’s strategy to grow into a multibillion-rand business in the next five years,” says Valente.

“No one gets it right all the time. We’ve all made hiring mistakes, but the important thing is to understand upfront what and who it is that you want and need. Once your talent engine within your business understands exactly what they are looking for by using the various talent profiling tools we’ve developed, it makes for a mutually rewarding relationship for both the employee and employer,” he says.

From semi-skilled to skilled

“We invest greatly in skills, specifically in turning semi-skilled employees into skilled employees and giving them a career path. We also pay attention to the wellbeing of employees and support the health of their families.” Recent health and wellness initiatives include factory floor talks on early screening for cancer and many other health and wellbeing related topics, in addition to the availability of qualified nurses to assist with healthcare matters.

Valente believes that while it will always matter what salaries companies pay and what benefits they offer, company culture is crucial too.

“In our company, we like to encourage debate and there is no such thing as a stupid question. The company structure is very flat and I would describe the leadership style as open and passionately communicative with the goal to challenge and grow our people to meet their career aspirations.”

About PFK

Since opening its doors in Durban in 1985, it has grown into the largest automotive electronics manufacturing company in South Africa, with solutions that include vehicle alarm and immobiliser systems, stolen vehicle recovery, driver behaviour profiling, insurance telematics, fleet management telematics, video telematics and, under the PFK Shurlok banner, Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) approved plastics, instrument clusters, harnesses, among others, as a first and second tier OEM supplier.


COLONYHQ – managing innovation: Go big or stay home

COLONYHQ (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the Henra Mayer Award for Excellence in the Management of Innovation

Category for small enterprises

Go big or stay home

First South Africa, then the world. Armed with an innovation that’s already disrupting the way local radio stations interact with their listeners, COLONYHQ is intent on broadcasting its presence globally.

“Global domination,” is how Claira Mallett, head of Client Partnerships at COLONY, puts it – and while there may be a touch of humour there, she’s not entirely joking. So unique is the company’s latest innovation that – for the time being at least – it has little or no competition.

Called COLONYLive, it was launched in 2016 as an integrated messaging tool that lets listeners engage with radio stations in whatever way they wish – social, mobile or instant messaging – instead of limiting them to calling or texting. Apart from encouraging better interaction on air, the tool also uses data analytics to help broadcasters get closer to their listeners and gives advertisers direct connection points to potential buyers.

Until now, that has been a challenge for radio. “Radio in its current mindset only offers advertisers a reach and frequency opportunity. But in the era in which we live, where targeted advertising and measurement are the buzzwords, radio just cannot compete,” says CEO Marco Broccardo.

“So, the fact remains, direct and indirect competition will place further pressure on stations to up their game and start batting faster. For radio to remain relevant and profitable, it needs to stop thinking about selling spots based only on reach and frequency. Instead, they need to think about understanding the audiences they own in order to monetise them on platforms they don’t own.”   

First radio, then TV…

Algoa FM, which has been among the first of the radio stations to use COLONYLive, has given a ringing endorsement of it: “COLONYLive has within 24 hours of being launched on-air completely transformed the mood of the station,” says the station’s Chris Wright in a written testimonial. “We have become instantly very accessible to our listeners and their ability to provide quality on-air and online content has never been easier.”

Says COLONY’s Mallett: “We’ve built something that is really, honestly disruptive to the radio market, and we did it by finding the itches – the pain points – in the radio space. We then took on key radio stations and literally built the platform around their needs. We work in partnership with our clients, seeing ourselves not as a provider but as an invisible extension to their team.”

While its heartbeat is in the radio space, COLONYLive has been designed to be just as applicable to all media types looking to engage and monetise their audiences, with TV being the next natural extension.

Mallett says COLONYLive is a logical – yet radical – step on the company’s continuum as a behind-the-scenes technology enabler of client campaigns and competitions.

“Diversifying our core campaigns platform with a version specialised for the broadcast industry has allowed us to work side by side with our customers to build a product so world-class that we have already initiated launching into the United States.”

Making innovation work

COLONY instinctively runs according to the TIPS principles, she says, inherently weaving innovation into the technology it creates and the people and systems required to commercialise.

It is constantly scanning its markets for itches that need to be scratched and does not shy away from making the necessary investments. “Innovation comes at a price.  When you are developing something from scratch, from doing the research to building, testing and taking it to market, investment is key.”

So is a questioning, inquisitive nature. “We have inquiring minds and we are always working to make to make our products better. No product will ever be finished.”

Misfits and the power of collective genius

Systemic Logic Innovation Agency

#TT1002016 Winner of the 2016 Blank Canvas International Award for Sustainability

Category for small enterprises

Misfits and the power of collective genius

Individually, the people who work at Systemic Logic Innovation Agency are a “bunch of misfits” – their own choice of words – but collectively, they’re a formidable team. “Innovation has become a team sport. It is the many little things done by many people that make a big difference. It is where enlightened trial and error trumps the workings of a lone genius,” the business incubator and accelerator services company said in its TT100 entry.

The adjudicators were certainly impressed with Innovation Agency’s clear vision, range of technologies and the way it has integrated its processes to form a cohesive organisation. Highly commendable, they said, was the patent the company has been granted for its innovation implementation approach.

Patenting is often a good indicator of business sustainability as it implies uniqueness that is protected from copycatting, enabling the holder to maintain its competitive edge.

The adjudicators also liked Innovation Agency’s strong focus on implementation, especially its emphasis on helping clients turn ideas into reality. “We bridge the gap between great ideas and real results,” the company says, referring to this space as the “dark side” of innovation.

It helps shed light on this dark side by offering incubator and accelerator services such as advice on how to turn good ideas into “great ideas with true commercial potential”, assisting with market research, business development and innovation strategy, and running practical workshops that expose clients’ employees to innovation design thinking and methodologies.

Innovation Agency works with established businesses wanting to fast-track product innovations, as well as with start-ups in the critical early stages and small businesses seeking to grow into successful sustainable enterprises.

“Business incubators are the lifeline of innovation, especially in social settings where support for start-up businesses is limited,” says the company, which has so far helped accomplish over 200 of its partners’ major innovation goals.

And it all comes back to a belief that innovation takes place through the collective effort of many people. “Ideas are everywhere. It is about our collective genius … Because no one is smarter than everyone.”


Leading Innovation

Leading Innovation
By Henra Mayer 
Da Vinci Head of Faculty: Management of Innovation
The significance of innovation is widely recognised as an important business driver in a dynamic world of rapid change and shifting business models. Many organisations invest in innovation initiatives to create more competitive and resilient organisations, but how to continuously produce repeatable, strategically significant outcomes remains a challenge for many. 

Intent needs to be supported with effective innovation practices, and at its core, this includes a focus on innovation leadership. It invariably points to the leader’s ability to enable a strategic vision for entrenching an end-to-end innovation capability within the organisation.


The annual Da Vinci Technology Top 100 (TT100) Business Innovation Awards programme was launched in 1991 to create an awareness of the role of technology and innovation leadership in South Africa.  It employs the TIPS™ model, which refers to the inter-relationships between how we manage our technology, innovation and people in a systemic way to enhance sustainable development within the organisation.

In essence, this model acts as a good starting point for focusing the leader’s role as orchestrator of innovation by integrating management disciplines that considers:

The Management of Technology (MoT)

The management of technology is all about the ‘tools’ and metrics organisations use to gain competitive advantage.  Simplistically it is “a way of doing things better” and may involve the use of anything from computers and hi-tech, to simple hand-held tools.  In this context, it refers to the small “t” in technology where organisations manage their technology to best position their products or services to maximise their market share.

The Management of Innovation (MoI)

The management of innovation is about how an organisation stimulates and capitalises on the ideation process to develop an innovative product or service which demonstrates either commercial or social value. It’s about hard metrics such as income generated from new products, processes or services as well as success rates in commercialising new offerings, coupled with the softer side of change management, co-creation and employee engagement.

The Management of People (MoP)

The management of people is all about the human technology interface.  It embraces both the employee and the end user.  It is about the processes that organisations deploy in the development of their human capital, and how they retain and re-skill existing employees, how they incentivise their people and how they plan for succession to ensure organisational longevity. 
The Management of Systems (MoS)

This is the process of synthesis, where systemic integration of all organisational activities and performance is used to solve unique problems, and where a hyper-competitive redesign of the landscape occurs. This includes internal synovation and organisational ecology that allows the parts to become greater than the whole.

It is evident from the TT1000 research results gathered over the past 25 years that companies who link their technology and innovation practices effectively tend to become more agile. Agility in this sense refers to the link between people and innovation practices so that employees become engaged in seeking solutions at work.  The appropriate linkage of technology and people practices tend to create better alignment to react to changing circumstances and this ensures that the organisation up-skills (by acquisition or development) the appropriate human capabilities to match, and even exceed the technological needs at any one time. From here the organisation develops, improves and adapts its technology needs and appropriate innovation is applied to generate real market value and profitability. 

It is about speed to market, response to change and an ability to cope with new world flexibility. But none of this will lead to real-world outputs if people do not make it so. People and innovation need to be managed in such a way that it impacts on the commitment and motivation of people in the workplace so that people take personal initiative and accountability. The TIPS™ model is graphically depicted below.
Figure 1: The TIPS™ model used with the TT100 Awards
In a sense, the TIPS™ framework could serve as a meta-framework for managerial leaders within the workplace, but leadership is about more than frameworks. It talks to the heart of an organisation.  

In the 2016 South African Innovation League Awards, administered annually by Innocentrix, innovation leadership emerged as South Africa’s strongest capability. It seems to be driven as a clear outcome by the majority of organisations who believe that overall strategic objectives are translated into innovation objectives. 

Although executives are demonstrating an intent by aligning innovation outcomes with overall organisational objectives and supporting tactical thinking with concrete strategies, leadership intent alone is not going to make innovation happen. Success lies in the execution of intent and while organisations are willing and able, it is clear from the League results that much room is left for improvement as weaknesses in execution coupled with ad-hoc activities and misaligned interdependencies needs attention.[1]

Effective approaches for leading innovation could include enabling a strategic innovation vision, a focus on the customer and creating a climate of reciprocal trust. Add to this the importance of communication, the power of persuasion and an emphasis on speed[2] and it becomes clear that the role of the leader is more about being an orchestrator and supportive enabler of success. If the point is to foster organisations that are willing and able to innovate over the long haul, then tomorrow’s leaders of innovation must be identified and developed today. Great leaders of innovation, see their role not as take-charge direction setters but as creators of a context in which others make innovation happen. That shift in understanding is critical to fostering the next generation of innovation leaders and must permeate the organisation and its talent management practices.[3]

In the end, leaders who do innovation well focus on providing an enabling environment,  they create an open culture and inspire an engaged workforce, they act with strategic intelligence and foresight.  They get the experts together and connect from ground level up to forge relationships within the innovation eco-system on a local, regional and global level. Inspiring leaders provide opportunity, mentorship, and empowerment and they act with integrity and courage in integrating these values across the organisation.

For more information on the Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme and to enter the Awards programme, visit www.tt100.co.za or email carol@davinci.ac.za. To talk innovation and the SA Innovation League, please contact Innocentrix by emailing henra@innocentrix.co.za or by visiting www.innocentrix.co.za.



[1] SA Innovation League Report (2016) by Innocentrix (www.innocentrix.co.za)
[2] Research: 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders (2014) by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman (2014): Harvard Business Review
[3] Collective Genius (2014) Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, Kent Lineback: Harvard Business Review

Nosipho’s challenge is to get everyone on board for internal audit findings

Nosipho’s challenge is to get everyone on board for internal audit findings

While company boards and senior executives generally understand the critical role internal audit plays in promoting good governance that does not mean everyone else always does. If Nosipho Kabeni had her way, everybody at Transnet Freight Rail would be fully on board in appreciating the value that internal audit adds.

“People don’t always understand that when we don’t close internal audit findings quickly and effectively, the consequences can be very serious for our revenue, reputation and certification,” says Kabeni. “For instance, if the external auditors come in and find an unresolved audit issue around quality, we could lose our ISO certification.”

Although she no longer works in internal audit, having moved on to Integrated Management Systems at Transnet Freight Rail, Kabeni retains a keen interest in the field and a firm believer in its business-critical nature. So when the time came to choose a topic for her work-based challenge as part of her BCom degree in Risk Management through Da Vinci, internal audit sprang to mind.

Seeking answers to niggling questions

“It has always niggled at me that people struggle to close internal audit findings timeously and effectively, and I wanted to find out why and come up with ways to change that,” says Kabeni, who originally trained as an analytical chemist and worked in a laboratory.

Targeting all six-business units of Transnet Freight Rail, Kabeni conducted an electronic survey among line managers, administrators and specialists. “I sent out 50 questionnaires and received 35 back,” she says, adding that the best response was from the administrative group, who load the findings of internal audits, followed by specialists who conduct audits. Line managers had the lowest response rate.

Her findings revealed a lack of enthusiasm among some line managers when it came to audits and audit findings affecting their business units. “They referred to heavy workloads and felt they are here to do transport; audits are not seen as core to their business,” she says. “Some said there are too many audits, while others said audit reports were full of jargon and were not written in a way that is understandable.”

A big problem that she identified was the “silo mentality”, especially when audit findings had to be addressed through inter-divisional collaboration.

Value of training and communication

Most of Kabeni’s recommendations for addressing the shortcomings revolved around training and raising awareness, particularly among line managers. She also recommended improving the simplicity and clarity of audit reports and involving line managers in the timing of audits so that these would not be conducted in their busiest periods.

Finally, she suggested that line managers’ performance in closing audit findings timeously and effectively be assessed as part of their annual performance reviews. Admittedly, this would not be easy to achieve. “We would need to put together a robust business case first,” she says, adding that she is still pondering how to take the findings of her challenge further. 

One thing she does know is this: she has a much better understanding of Transnet Freight Rail’s business than before. “My BCom studies and work-based challenge have helped me understand the culture and organisational dynamics, and also how to engage and relate to people. It takes an effort to work and study, but is definitely worth it.” 

Spotless tracking record takes SA technology off the beaten track

Technetium (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the Award for Excellence in the Management of Technology

Category for small enterprises

Spotless tracking record takes SA technology off the beaten track

Across Australia, it’s South African tracking technology that’s helping to keep the bathrooms of major hotel chains spick and span. In the United States, that technology is being used to keep businesses compliant with required fire extinguisher inspection codes. Here on home soil, it’s helping to reduce the time hospital nurses spend searching for missing equipment, as well as to manage the movement of smartphones in and out of retail stores. It has even been used to check when wheelie bins in Johannesburg were last emptied.

This is all a far cry from conventional asset track-and-trace, and that’s deliberate. “Although we market ourselves as an asset management and tracking company, our business strategy is not to play in a space that is overplayed by everyone else but rather in spaces that are not addressed,” says Wayne Aronson, chief executive of Technetium.

The versatility of its tracking technology is what enables Technetium to play in such spaces. Its technology is underpinned by a core generic system that, with some careful customisation here and there, can be adapted for virtually any industry. “When we develop functionality for one specific industry, we architect it so we can port it across to other industries – and we do this at no extra cost to the client,” says Aronson.

No charges for changes

This is a key strength of Technetium. “We don’t charge for user-requested additions or changes to our technology. We allow our clients to ask for new or added functionality at no cost, and we do this regularly. In this way, our clients in effect then become our R&D department, and we benefit because our technology stays at the forefront and never stagnates.”

This strategy also puts Technetium in a strong position to identify new markets that could benefit from its asset-tracking know-how. Those spotless Australian bathrooms are a case in point.

“Our client, a cleaning company, wanted to add more value to their clients, which include a number of hotel groups, one of which owns one of the largest casino resorts in the world,” Aronson says. “The problem was that the existing process of capturing cleaning records was very laborious. Every cleaner would fill in a card behind the bathroom door every time the bathroom was cleaned, and all those papers would need to be captured weekly. Going back historically was difficult, bearing in mind that in Australia you need to hold paper records for five years.”

Technetium’s response was neat and tidy. It developed a barcode-based smartphone system for all the casino’s bathrooms, dramatically simplifying the record-keeping process – and adding lots more value into the bargain. “Our client’s client, the hotel group, received the usual cleaning report and a value-added report that drilled down into the data, offering them insights they didn’t have before, such as high-peak periods when the bathrooms needed extra work.”
Lasting loyalty

Not surprisingly, both Technetium’s clients and their clients, in turn, appreciate this kind of value-add, which builds high levels of loyalty. “Our clients’ clients rely on them, and they, in turn, rely on us,” says Aronson.

Although they have won a number of awards for their technology, there’s no room at Technetium for resting on laurels. “Complacency will be our death knell. We have to maintain a sense of urgency and be willing to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, forever combing horizons to see what new technology is coming out and how we can stay ahead.”

Andries Agenbag shares his Work Based Challenge with us

How to make lighter work of a heavy load

Transporting a heavy load such as a 625-ton ship or lifting a 1 200-ton conveyor belt structure is no mean feat but lighter work can be made of it through integration and teamwork. That was Andries Agenbag’s thinking when he set out on a journey unlike any he’d embarked on before: his work-based challenge for his BCom degree in Operational Risk Management.

Like every qualification from The Da Vinci Institute, relevance to the workplace is essential. So Agenbag chose to tackle a problem that had troubled him for quite some time: the need for greater operational integration at Vanguard Rigging (Pty) Ltd, specialists in heavy lifting and abnormal load transportation.

“When planning a big lift or transportation move, there are two key components – the lifting machinery element and engineering element, on the one hand, and safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) on the other,” he says. “But, having served on a lot of SHEQ and engineering committees, I have seen that the two areas don’t speak the same language.”

The language of SHEQ is legal compliance; the language of engineering is technical. When the two are out of step, planning big lifts or transportation moves take longer and can be more complicated than necessary.

As SHEQ Manager at Vanguard Rigging (Pty) Ltd, Agenbag had noticed this and been trying to figure out what could be done about it. He had even gone so far as to complete a Lifting Machinery Inspection course and registration process with the Engineering Council of South Africa, ensuring that he understood the language his engineering colleagues were speaking. “The problem was that I didn’t really know where I was going with this.”

Finding direction

His BCom studies and specifically the requirement that he do a work-based challenge put an end to that uncertainty. “Through my challenge, I gained a proper sense of direction. My BCom gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to define the exact steps I needed to take towards operational integration.”

Agenbag’s chosen topic was an “assessment of the impact of non-integrated operational systems on service levels”. He began with a literature review and extensive consultation with subject matter experts in the SHEQ, engineering and lifting machinery sectors.

“The feedback from 80% of subject matter experts was that it is possible and preferable to run SHEQ and the engineering side as one. One of the biggest benefits of working together is the time saved on planning, and greater efficiency and effectiveness.”

After presenting his findings to the company’s board of directors, he received the green light to formulate and implement an action plan to make operational integration a reality. This included developing a software package to support integration and appointing auditors to conduct a gap analysis and identify risks.

The implementation of Agenbag’s action plan is underway, and he is confident that the company will reap the benefits of operational integration. “My BCom made it happen. The idea was there but I didn’t know how to put that into practice. My studies opened it up for me.”

Kirkonsult (Pty) Ltd: Keeping food and beverage-making clean and simple

Kirkonsult (Pty) Ltd

Winner of the Eskom Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems
Category for emerging enterprises

Keeping food and beverage-making clean and simple

When opening a bottle of beer or a can of soda, few consumers pause to wonder about the cleanness of the equipment used to make it. They shouldn’t have to: the laws around the cleaning of manufacturing facilities for food and drinks are stringent, and manufacturers are obliged to test their equipment for residual contaminants.

The downside for manufacturers is that it may take up to two or three hours to clean the equipment before starting on a new batch of product, and four to five days before the microbiological assessment results from the last batch come back. In the meantime, the products they have just manufactured sit in a warehouse under quarantine for four or five days until the equipment and process under which they were made receive the all-clear from the laboratory.

Through the ingenuity of Dr Robin Kirkpatrick of Kirkonsult, the time taken to test for possible contaminants can now be drastically shortened.  He has developed and patented Carbotect™ to do the same job in a matter of minutes.

Colour-coded test delivers quick results

“It’s a quick, colour-coded diagnostic test that picks up residual contaminants in the equipment or the water used to clean it. My technology can pick up extremely low levels of contaminants and it can do it within five minutes instead of five days,” says Kirkpatrick, who originally trained as a vet before switching to Microbiology, in which he has a PhD. He was also one of the brains behind the development in South Africa of Radical Water, which uses electro-activation to treat water and is now used worldwide.

Back to food and beverage manufacturing and the cleaning of equipment: Kirkpatrick says that manufacturers use high-pressure, piping hot water and various chemicals to clean their equipment, and at the end of the cleaning process, use more clean water to flush everything out. “That final water is tested to see if it is clear of any residue.”

Apart from affording a rapid and highly sensitive result for the detection of organic contaminants, Carbotect is simple to use and can be administered by a relatively unskilled worker. “I developed the solution in close association with South African Breweries, whose requirements were for a low skills-based, rapid and reliable piece of technology,” he says.

Plenty of scope for expansion

His technology is well suited to other high-risk, perishable products too, from fruit juices, soft drinks, soups and sauces to pharmaceutical syrups and other liquid-based preparations. It has also been used at membrane-based water treatment plants.

There is also scope to upscale this colour-based diagnostic system for more sophisticated settings, such as by digitalising it, as well as the potential for growth beyond South Africa’s borders. “I am now finalising the product for the international market,” says Kirkpatrick.

He is on a constant quest to improve and enhance Carbotect, which was in development for several years and went through a number of versions before he was satisfied it was ready to patent and trademark. “I never stop questioning the status quo and looking for new avenues and new opportunities for fresh insights. So far, I have barely scratched the surface.”