Never should the task of material handling be taken for granted. The consequences, if done incorrectly and without the proper equipment, can be severe. Keeping the focus on safety should be the priority objective of all equipment suppliers at all times. “Bulk Handling Today” speaks to Rob Darby, Managing Director of Searle Hoist & Tool (Pty) Ltd.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of manual and pneumatically powered chain hoist types used in portable applications as occurs in certain South African industries are under pressure to deliver lighter, more powerful, more safety sophisticated, high durability hoists at the lowest possible price.
“It is an interesting development dilemma that we face as often these demands could lead to structural and design compromises which could affect safety albeit lighter products do reduce worker fatigue levels,” says Rob.
“But nowhere is it more important for equipment to stand the test of time than when it comes to material handling under harsh and often abusive usage outside of design specification.
“Safety has to be the dominant factor at all times. In the mining sector, for instance, the drive for lighter equipment that is easier to handle because of the difficult conditions is understandable. Working underground in dark and confined spaces where portable lifting equipment is often used is taxing and tiring work.”
According to Rob, product development programmes must therefore strive to meet the needs of industry while always maintaining the primary focus on product and worker safety.
“Design durability and strength factors must not be reduced just to deliver a cheaper or lighter product. Safety is at the centre of all developments which remains the priority at our company.”
Searle Hoist & Tool manufactures, imports and distributes a wide range of manually, electrically are pneumatically powered chain hoists which are produced in ISO9001 certified manufacturing facilities and have been specifically designed to conform to SANS and other recognised international standards.
The same manufacturing and quality assurance standards apply to the range of heavy duty industrial grade, pneumatic power tools for industries from mining to petrochemical and production through to general engineering industries.
“We have a unique hoist range, offered under our own registered King trademark, which includes pneumatic, electric or manually powered hoists,” Rob tells us. “Most of our competitors can only offer one or two of these categories from their own range but seldom all three. Our ability to supply all three has meant that we’ve become a one-stop supplier of high quality chain hoists that cover a wide range of applications for a variety of industries.”
From a general factory to a mine or any explosive environment such as a petrochemical factory or an ultra-safety conscious application like an offshore oil-rig, delivering products that are of exceptionally high quality meeting international safety standards is what Rob and his team strive to do.
“We manufacture our products offshore in various locations around the world in conjunction with specialist manufacturers under joint venture agreements,” Rob explains. “These companies have been very carefully selected over many years based on their ability to meet rigid and high quality standards manufacturing products to our design parameters. We don’t believe in cutting corners, but in delivering a product that stands out among the rest.”
It is important to understand the operating conditions in Africa, says Rob. “All the products we manufacture offshore and import into the continent are designed with the local landscape in mind without compromising stringent safety requirements locally and internationally.
“Lifting operations sound so simple and logical, but often the very basics are not applied. The reality is that where material handling takes place and lifting operations are occurring, there is risk. End-user awareness around that risk is extremely important.”
Ignorance around the standards to which lifting equipment should conform is still a major challenge at times in certain market sectors. “Many end-users are not fully aware of these equipment standards which are in place and are now embodied in legislation such as the OSH Act,” explains Rob.
Not all about price
“There is a lot of substandard and cheap equipment coming into the market which does not conform to these standards. Especially in these trying economic times, companies are tempted to purchase based on price rather than conformance.
“We understand the importance of price to the end-user but as a company that has as its core business the sale and servicing of potentially hazardous lifting equipment, we believe it is essential that we bring the factors of safety, quality and standards conformance to the discussion.
”Yes, price and the technical requirements play a significant role, but they are not the only factors. Price should not be the driving decision-making consideration, but rather one of several considerations when purchasing equipment,” Rob advises.
Over the border
Growing its footprint in the mining and non-manufacturing industries is a key strategy for the company in the coming months. “We are focussing on the mining industry as we believe there is good opportunity to increase our market share in this sector. Commodity prices are turning and especially the gold sector is making a good recovery.”
The company is strategically looking at Southern Africa to add value and service the industry well. “We do not just want to be operating in Africa for the sake of it, but have some key markets that we are targeting including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“We carefully select the countries we want to do business in based on the nature and level of their mining activities and level of infrastructure. We’re keeping an eye on other countries in Africa as well but will predominantly be Southern African- focussed for now.”
General industry outside of major manufacturing is another key area for 2017. “When it comes to the big manufacturers we are already there, but we have identified some good opportunity in general industry. There is a large market for electric chain hoists as used by companies, large and small, that are not necessarily manufacturers but handle goods in their logistics operations or distribution activities.
“Essentially it means we are broadening the scope of our traditional target market sectors for hoists which we believe will produce real growth for us,” Rob concludes.
Edward Searle Pty Ltd & Searle Hoist & Tool Pty Ltd, Rob Darby,
Tel: (021) 511-2250,