APE Pumps is a manufacturer of specialist pumps, and an estimated 25% of its business is either directly or indirectly linked to the mining sector.
It has both the experience of a long history, and the energy of a new and dynamic company. APE Pumps’ history goes back to its formation in the United Kingdom in 1878, and it opened its first South African office in 1892. In 1952 the company began manufacturing in South Africa, under the name Sangus. However, APE Pumps is also only in effect nine years old as it took its present form in 1997, following a management buyout. Today the Gauteng, South Africabased company employs 65 people, in addition to the 54 people at its forge, where it manufactures the castings for its pumps. APE Pumps’ casting facility uses some 60% to 65% of its capacity on APE products and also does work for other companies that are not direct competitors. The castings factory does some 60 tonnes a month of castings.
APE Pumps is thus a wholly South African-owned company, and it achieved BEE accreditation some two years ago. This was done by implementing education and training initiatives and staff empowerment schemes. APE Pumps has been approved by the South African Manufacturers’ Preferential Producers Forum, and it has been awarded BEE status by the Department of Minerals and Energy.
The company is not a supplier of off-the-shelf units, but specialises in producing pumps for industrial conditions. It produces a comprehensive range of pumps using a variety of materials, including cast iron, bronze and alloys. APE’s pumps are often found in processing plants as the company makes units that handle corrosive fluids such as sulphuric acid solutions. It also makes pumps to deal with fluids containing abrasive particles and salt or brine water.
APE has a strong presence in the area of mine dewatering. Here it serves mines ranging from Great Noligwa in the Witwatersrand goldfields to the very wet mines on the Zambian Copperbelt.
APE Pumps, which has the ISO 9001:2000 quality control and the ISO14001 environmental accreditations, is thus well established in South Africa’s mining sector at a number of levels. The company, which is now working on its ISO18001 health and safety accreditation, deals with all the major project houses as well as mining companies in the gold, platinum and coal sectors.
The company is also well established in other parts of Africa, and Namibia and Zambia in particular. In Namibia it supplies Rossing Uranium with its pumping requirements and was the supplier for the Skorpion zinc project. It also does business with Canada, the Middle East, India, and the USA. The fact that the company exports its specialised pumps to countries that themselves are formidable pump manufacturing centres, for example, Germany and the UK, demonstrates its technical proficiency in manufacturing specialty pumps.
APE is considering expanding its role in Zambia and Namibia with joint ventures with local partners. At the moment it provides on site consulting and maintenance, and for major refurbishment and other work sends the items to its factory in South Africa. The company is also looking to expand further into other parts of Africa and internationally.
As a supplier of made-to-order pumps, the largest unit it has supplied to the mining sector was a 2 MW submersible dewatering pump for Great Noligwa. It has also supplied multi-stage high pressure units for dry well applications, of 100 Bar, that offer a head of 1,000 metres. It supplies its split casing pumps for high volume medium pressure applications. APE Pumps’ vertical turbine pumps range from 6 inch to 42 inch units
In addition to manufacturing some 350 new pumps a year, it also services and refurbishes an average of 200 units a year.
However, APE’s strength is not restricted to its wide range of pumps. Managing director, Eric Bruggeman, says that APE Pumps has three or four of the best pump engineers in South Africa. The company has a pool of engineers who will design a pumping system for an application. The company’s directors also have an open line policy, and are accessible; they do not have secretaries buffering them from clients.
“We are available to discuss a pumping related problem any time of the day or night,” Bruggeman says. An example was when the Lonshi mine in the DRC was threatened with flooding, which would have seen the mine lost. Instead of spending half a million rand on a new pumping system, APE responded to the emergency and was able to devise a system with the mine’s existing pumps to save the operation.
This is typical of the consulting capability and service that APE offers. This is part of the company’s business philosophy. It offers its consulting service free of charge to any customer, or potential customer in the mining sector.
“There are no conditions attached and if a solution involves using a competitor’s unit we will recommend this and point the client in that direction,” Bruggeman says.
APE Pumps’ success lies in the fact that it can design and upgrade a pumping system for an operation based on what the current state of that system is. Unlike other suppliers who would attempt to get the client to adapt to another system to suit the supplier APE Pumps is prepared to devise a system that works best for the client.
“Not only do we offer our consulting services to clients without strings attached, but we ask ‘what if’ questions and lead customers towards thinking about potential future problems and contingency planning relating to their systems,” APE Pumps sales director Dave Murphy says.
APE Pumps also has all the CAD, CAM and 3D design infrastructure necessary to back up the expertise of its systems pump engineers. Because it relies on its engineering expertise instead of mass production of units APE remains completely up to date with all developments in its field. The company is also capable of undertaking full project management of a pumping system, including mechanical and electrical aspects, though not civil engineering aspects.
In addition to this APE Pumps has a number of competitive advantages in supplying the mining and related sectors. One of these is the fact that all its pumps and systems are locally manufactured; it thus has the necessary backup inventories to respond rapidly to any contingency. Because of its in house expertise, it can find the best technical solution to any pumping situation. And its range of pumps, which encompasses high pressure and low pressure units, all centrifugal pump permutations and positive displacement pumps, is well suited to the needs of the industry.
Because APE Pumps is a producer of specialist pumps it is very flexible in adapting its solutions to the customer’s standard. It offers on site service and a full back up.
A couple of trends in the mining sector also favour APE Pumps. One of these is the increased understanding in the sector that dealing with original equipment manufacturers does in the long term save money. Another is the increased focus by mining companies on dealing with capable suppliers on a centralised basis, with these suppliers increasingly being expected to add value in a partnership through their technical input rather than just supplying products. This fits in perfectly with APE Pumps’ philosophy.MRA