Growing staff numbers in a stagnant economy



Following an announcement by WearCheck that the company has hired additional personnel, Energize asked the company’s managing director, Neil Robinson, to expand upon the company’s obvious success.

Neil Robinson

As the South African economy struggles to grow, many local companies are tightening their belts, jobs are difficult to find and staff in some organisations are being laid off or not replaced when they leave of their own volition. It is for this reason, that when we saw that WearCheck is hiring more staff we decided to find out the secret of its success.

If the appointments are to accommodate the growing workload of the company, how has the workload expanded?

WearCheck’s customer base has been expanding steadily both within South Africa and across its borders. The company currently operates 16 laboratories in nine countries across Africa and beyond, and processes more than 750 000 used oil samples every month in its laboratories.

The company started in Pinetown in 1976 with three employees and now employs over 260 people. Its most recent laboratory opened last month in Namibia. These 16 laboratories can be found in South Africa (six), Namibia (two), Zambia (two), and one each in Zimbabwe, DRC, Ghana, Mozambique, Dubai and India.

To what do you attribute the extra workload?

The growth in the company’s workload can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, an expansion in the number of laboratories within South Africa and in other African countries. Secondly, an expansion in the company’s service offering. What began as a used oil analysis operation, now offers a host of reliability solutions services in addition to the analysis of used oil. It also recently acquired TCS, a transformer oil analysis operation, which has boosted its transformer maintenance division.

How will the new or promoted employees help the company to cope with the increased workload?

The new employees have been selected for their technical and scientific expertise, as well as their experience, and they have been placed in various branches and laboratories where these skills will benefit customers. The extra capacity will streamline the company’s operations.

For example, Vincent Sithole, a junior chemist based in Pinetown, is conducting research into ways of enhancing certain oil analysis techniques, while diagnostician Ashley Mayer has more than 15 years’ experience in the condition monitoring field.

Gert Nel’s experience as a diagnostician, specialising in transformer oil analysis, will enhance our transformer oil analysis laboratory in Cape Town; Agnes Swanepoel, in Rustenburg, Suzette
von Wielligh and Werner Buys, both in Kathu, have good technical knowledge and are well-placed to advise mining and other industrial customers in their respective regions.

Stephanie du Plessis has added her expertise as a qualified vibration analysis technician to the Richard’s Bay team, boosting reliability solutions services in this industry-rich region of the country.

How do your company’s services impact the economy?

One of the best attributes of condition monitoring is that it genuinely saves customers time and money. By regularly monitoring the wear on components, WearCheck can detect potential problems with machines before they happen. Customers are warned of imminent machine failure, giving them the opportunity to schedule a repair rather than waiting until a catastrophic breakdown stops the entire production line.

According to Robinson, unplanned breakdowns can be very costly. In many cases the new component must be ordered, and this delay can be disastrous. Furthermore, if a problem goes undetected, the component can be damaged beyond repair – which is another expensive setback.

In terms of economic impact, the company aims to continue helping industrial operations to boost their productivity, reduce maintenance costs, boost asset availability and generally
to keep things running smoothly and more profitably.

Robinson says the company considers industry growth areas in Africa, such as mining, hot-spots and after careful research, positions a new laboratory nearby if feasible. This makes condition monitoring services, with its associated benefits, extremely accessible to local business operations, often in remote locations.

Contact Steven Lumley, WearCheck, Tel 031 700-5460, stevenl@wearcheck.co.za

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