Robust and agile contractor well prepared for “new normal”

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Robust and agile contractor well prepared for “new normal”

MM&D Construction Group (M&D) will continue on a positive growth path which can be accredited to, amongst other favorable factors, a strong balance sheet, low debt levels, agility, significant investment made into strategic markets and a focus on harnessing Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to remain an industry disruptor.

These traits are complemented by the group’s unwavering commitment to its core values which was demonstrated during the Covid-19 lockdown period by continuing to pay employees across board a significant portion of their salaries. They were also encouraged to use the time to improve their knowledge by taking online courses and spending quality time with their families.

This culture, enshrined in the company’s motto of “Khula Nathi” – “grow with us” – is also evident in the group’s strategic supply chain. All suppliers and sub-contractors, particularly, small-medium and micro enterprises, were paid first to ensure that they were able to fulfil their obligations during the lockdown period. This vigorous team of companies with which the company has nurtured a strong working relationship over many years, also adheres to M&D’s core values, namely “being safe”, “doing it right”, “finding the best way” and “doing what we say”.

The M&D team has remained focused and committed to the company even in the most challenging times experienced in the construction industry. The company has been able to retain relevant skills and experience it needs to deliver results to public and private-sector clients throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC). “This approach has ensured that we achieved an average growth rate of 20% year on year for the past five years. Our clients know that we are a robust company that will weather the tough economic climate to complete their projects successfully. They also know that we are not ‘price takers’, but a reputable company that provides superior value over their entire project lifecycle,” Rukesh Raghubir, group Chief Executive Officer, says.

M&D, a true multi-disciplinary construction company, comprises the following divisions:

1. Infrastructure Division, which is involved in:
• Civils
• Surface infrastructure for mining
• Water-retaining structures
• Water- and wastewater-treatment plants
• Roads and earthworks
• Specialised industrial and marine infrastructure

2. Pipeline Division, which is involved in:
• Water, sewer and stormwater pipelines
• Gas and petrochemical pipelines
• Plant pipework

3. Oil and Energy Division, which is involved in:
• Constructing and upgrading fuel depots
• Petrochemical infrastructure
• Building specialised tanks; and
• solar, wind and liquid natural gas projects.

The Special Projects Division is involved in and in some cases developing skills to:
• Form strategic partnerships with specialists to offer clients significant value. For example, it can offer clients as an independent water producer off-balance sheet infrastructure on a “pay-as-you-go” basis and new technology-based solutions to solve critical issues in the water sector.
• Design and build offerings for the construction of education, healthcare and social housing developments.
• Public-private partnerships.
• Structural steel and platework.
• Electrical and instrumentation.
• Sliding.
• Deconstruction.

Certainly, the company’s more recent projects demonstrate its appetite for technically complex construction work.

This includes the new 1,4ML water tower in Aeroton, Gauteng, where innovative scaffolding and formwork solutions were deployed for the first time on a water tower project in South Africa. These, combined with unique building methods, enabled an impressive 30% saving in construction time.

At the company’s Rand Water Station 5 Contract, hot tapping is being used for the tie-in of a new 1 500mm diameter pipeline section to an existing 2 100mm diameter pipeline. Hot tapping is a process of connecting to existing live pipelines without interrupting or shutting down the flow of water. The 1 500mm diameter hot tapping drill rig used for this tie-in is one of the largest to have ever been manufactured in South Africa.

M&D’s large role in assisting Vedanta Zinc International deliver Gamsberg’s concentrator in an extremely short timeframe also stands out as a major milestone. It was later also appointed to construct three different road surfaces for the project.

In addition, the group was appointed to upgrade the fire-protection system at a Transnet Pipelines petroleum product storage facility in Kroonstad, Free State, and Alrode, Gauteng. These upgrades are multidisciplinary by nature and encompass civil, structural, building and mechanical engineering, in addition to electrical instrumentation control.

They are complemented by a contract to construct a catch pot tank at Total South Africa’s Alrode depot, developing the group’s strategy to grow its already strong presence in the oil and gas infrastructure markets.

Raghubir says that the group features many more attributes that will ensure robust growth.

Notably, M&D is known for being able to establish direction, execute plans and deliver results.

This trait has also been facilitated by the Murray & Dickson Operating System (MDOS). MDOS is based on a tried-and-tested entrepreneurial operating system that promotes accountability throughout the group to ensure that all employees are aligned to core values and pulling in the same direction. It also facilitates a system whereby issues that arise are identified, discussed and solved by identifying the root cause of the issue quickly.

Importantly, M&D is also a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment contractor, with greater than 51% black and significant black women ownership levels.

Its team also consists of a strong balance between young and seasoned staff. Young construction professionals have an opportunity to be groomed into a successful career in construction by their more experienced counterparts to introduce “fresh” thinking and ensure business continuity. As M&D is a growing company, this creates ample opportunity for employee development within the group.

Furthermore, the company owns more than 200 items of equipment, ensuring 95% availability for its sites and clients.

Certainly, M&D’s efficient response to the “new normal” following the Covid-19 outbreak also demonstrates its flexibility and agility.

The company has been swift in making changes over the short term to ensure survival by preserving cash and, in so doing, ultimately ensuring growth in the long term and the creation of value for all stakeholders.

It has also stepped up its focus on partnering, with a Khula Nathi Platform set to be launched to assist and develop struggling smaller companies to still participate in the economy and create jobs after the Covid-19 crisis. In so doing, M&D continues its long legacy serving as a “bigger brother” to smaller companies in the construction sector, particularly within the communities it operates.

As part of a longer-term strategy, the company is exploring a more risk-based approach to helping clients spend on infrastructure delivery by securing funding for projects through its relationship with key financial institutions.

The reskilling of employees is also progressing under the leadership of Yolanda Sedibe, a M&D Group Director and shareholder, to ensure that the group is well positioned to grow its presence in the post-Covid-19 economy, taking into account environmental sustainability in all aspects of its operations.

Certainly, growth into the future will depend on the ability to refine and innovate existing operations as situations unfold.

M&D already started harnessing sophisticated digital technologies long before the Covid-19 outbreak under Marius Bierman, M&D’s in-house Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialist.

For example, the company has been evaluating the viability of using BIM as a single source of truth to eliminate inefficiencies during the project life cycle and deliver exceptional value to clients.

BIM is currently being used to generate construction documents from 3D models. They include progress reports, technical queries, proposed alternative construction methods, method statements and constructability reviews, incorporating 4D ( time) and 5D ( Cost).

The company has also developed software to manage its plant and equipment and an Integrated Management System on SharePoint to administer its ISO accredited documentation. This includes ISO 45001:2018 Health and Safety; ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management; and ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management systems, as well as ISO 3834: part 2 Welding of pipes standard, which are overseen by Lance Cox, Group SHERQ Manager.

These initiatives are complemented by site specific mobile applications that have been implemented on all active construction sites.

Notably, this focus on digitisation has increased productivity; minimised reworks and delays; improved communication and coordination between clients, engineers, sub-contractors and suppliers; and helped attract qualified individuals to bolster operational excellence.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way the construction industry operates and will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future. We view it as an ideal opportunity to redefine our operational strategy and a spark that will ignite further innovation within the group. This will ensure that we retain our standing as the first point of contact for state-of-the-art infrastructure solutions,” Raghubir concludes.

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