Mining specialist Ukwazi has expanded its portfolio of mining solutions to include multi-disciplinary engineering services for mine, plant and infrastructure, enabling the company to offer its clients a complete one-stop solution across the full project life cycle, CHANTELLE KOTZE writes.

According to Ukwazi’s project development and delivery (PDD) leader, Albert Jacobs, the group, which was officially launched to market on 1 September 2020, will focus on providing expert advice at every project stage – from concept through to execution – drawing on cutting-edge systems, design methodologies and controls.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10, 2020
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These approaches, in conjunction with a range of integrated software solutions, allow for the establishment and growth of a single source of truth for access by multiple project contributors.

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Consequently, knowledge developed during a project can be transferred to the operational team to a much greater extent.

Jacobs says that an increasing skills development challenge and escalating operating pressures have prompted the mining industry to seek out mining service providers that could provide hands-on guidance throughout the project life cycle, no matter the stage of the project.

Even though the PDD group was only officially launched recently, the core team has been working hard since the beginning of the year to develop efficient workflows and lean project systems; allowing for close co-operation with clients.

The demand for this arose quite some time ago, says Jacobs, with clients seeking innovative engineering and project management services in addition to the more traditional mining services already offered by Ukwazi.

This need intensified in the last few years, with clients seeking a more complete project delivery solution from a single service provider and many tenders/proposals including a larger portion of multi-disciplinary engineering services or requesting overall responsibility for project management and controls of diverse project participants.

Based on the industry’s growing need, the extension towards offering a complete project management and consulting engineering service was therefore a natural progression alongside the company’s established growth path, explains Jacobs.

Jacobs, who is an experienced professional engineer and project manager and the former owner of engineering consulting firm ATEC PMC, approached Ukwazi MD Jaco Lotheringen after observing the increasing demand for broader engineering services by the mining industry, proposing the establishment of a division within Ukwazi that could fulfil this need rather than continuing to provide a sub-consultant services to the company.

This was agreed to and ATEC PMC’s systems and resources were then used to seed the PDD division to establish this capability in-house for Ukwazi.

Through the PDD division, Ukwazi now has a skilled multi-disciplinary engineering team that has proven to effectively deliver a range of innovative design, procurement and construction management services for traditional or bespoke contracting models and implementation strategies.

Selecting and applying appropriate approaches when designing for surface and underground mining or processing plants, in both Greenfields and Brownfields environments, ensures client and project objectives are met with due consideration of budget and time constraints, whilst always ensuring the technical integrity of the solution.

“We design and engineer the preferred technical solution first, ensuring that it is executable, and then integrate tested project management systems and processes to guide implementation – all while keeping the bigger picture in mind,” explains Jacobs.

Best-practice specialist tools, software and dashboards, including smart 3D design for advanced building information modelling (BIM), are then used to plan the work, manage project challenges, costs, quality and progress against baselines.

Thus, helping to control project outcomes through the integrated coordination of all key disciplines. This unique approach will ensure that all project requirements and client objectives are regularly met or exceeded.

The ability to integrate the multi-disciplinary design concept with mining engineering earlier on in a project, allows Ukwazi to jointly develop a bespoke solution for a client that makes better technical and economic sense, ensuring that a well-rounded, more complete and seamless solution can be implemented.

Because the current environment requires instantaneous adaptability in response to changes in the project environment, external pressures or new insights gained during the course of a project, Ukwazi combines the best aspects of traditional or waterfall project management methodologies (Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBoK) with aspects of current Agile project management thinking.

This allows teams the flexibility to quickly identify and respond to opportunities for improving value, while adhering to client approved overall timelines and cost parameters.

As such, Ukwazi’s PDD clients will have access to the full range of technical and management capabilities within the PDD division, including project management, project controls, engineering design and bespoke solution services.

This includes capabilities ranging from reality capturing and conversion into intelligent 3D models, expert analysis through design software used for optimising engineering, developing risk mitigation strategies during design and cloud-based information management with integration into third-party solutions.

In addition, data-driven decision-making is prioritised throughout all project phases by making shared information visible, via practices such as earned value management cost and schedule performance dashboard reporting and forecasting.

In addition to its existing service offering to the resource sector, Ukwazi now also provides a complete PDD offering and has the technical expertise and track-record to partner with clients from design through to execution, operation and closure, ensuring success across the entire mining value chain through a single integrated team, says Jacobs.

All projects can now be managed transparently (even remotely), leveraging advanced tools and ensuring the efficient measurement and reporting of changes in scope, cost, schedule and progress for better ongoing decision making and control.

As the mining industry continues to grapple with the skills shortage, both now and as technology continues to change the way we work, Ukwazi believes that the PDD division can assist with skills development through partnering with both the client teams and the communities in which they operate.

Ukwazi is actively investigating potential opportunities to partner with local companies and help them establish themselves so that they can continue to support the operation on an ongoing basis once the construction and commissioning is completed.

Having successfully launched its PDD offering to market, Ukwazi will focus on enhancing its project management and control standing within the mining industry over the next 12 months.

It will do so by successfully completing the large projects that it is embarking on and demonstrate its capability.

Ukwazi will also focus on growing its network of skilled people to expand its specialist offering to more commodities and expand its footprint managing multiple large projects, as well as further its local partnerships to improve capacity building interventions in various locations.

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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resource sector’s response to this new operating environment, Ukwazi has already adopted fully cloud-based information management and project control systems to allow remote working and the sharing of information in this new environment where physical travel and interaction may still be restricted for the foreseeable future, Jacobs highlights.