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.”