Extreme weather, a remote location, and mountainous terrain over 3,100 metres above sea level- these conditions, at a Lesotho mine site, have not prevented Johnson Crane Hire from delivering the safe and reliable service for which they have become known.
According to Johnson Crane Hire Vanderbijlpark branch manager Dean Wepener, the team has fine-tuned its operation in the ‘Mountain Kingdom’ to ensure customers can run operations efficiently and can rest easy in the knowledge that safe lifting services are taken care of.
Johnson Crane Hire has provided a 35-tonne mobile all-terrain crane on the mine site for an extended period of time, along with trained and experienced operators to ensure there are no hitches in the lifting duties required.
‘This contract presents a number of unusual challenges, but none that we can’t meet,’ says Wepener. ‘Our main task is to keep the on-site crane operating in top condition and compliant in terms of our own operational policies, national regulations and customer requirements.’
Working in weather that regularly delivers searing heat, freezing cold, torrential rain and howling winds, the crane operates 12-hour shifts for seven days a week. Its duties are focused on the range of maintenance activities that the mine demands, especially as the harsh climate increases the rate of replacement of many items of equipment on site.
‘Our service offering to the mine includes a four-pronged application of specialist skills,’ he says. ‘An operator is permanently on site and rotates with a standby operator to ensure compliance with Lesotho’s labour regulations and Johnson Crane Hire’s best practice policies. Secondly, a maintenance mechanic visits the site regularly to service the machine, replacing oil and filters, and attending to any other mechanical issues arising.’
The third leg of responsibility and support is the certified lifting machine inspector (LMI), who visits the site quarterly to conduct the required compliance check on all aspects of the crane.
‘We also have a Johnson Crane Hire foreman who makes on-site inspections, checking on both the machine and the operator,’ says Wepener. ‘In addition to those four interventions, I also am at the site regularly as the branch manager, and will do my own assessment of the crane’s condition and general operations.’
The aim of all this attention, he says, is to help ensure that there is no unnecessary downtime on the mine, which suffers substantial losses for every hour of lost production. He emphasises the role of the operator in keeping the crane working safely, as well as ensuring that all lifts are conducted according to best operating practice and within weight compliance limits. The operator also does a pre-operation check every morning and sends his report to the branch regularly.
‘The training we provide to our operators is at the best level available in the lifting sector,’ he says. ‘As Johnson Crane Hire is accredited to provide our own in-house training to crane operators, we can be sure that our crane operators receive the highest standard of preparation for their work. Not only do we train our operators for the respective tonnages they can lift, but we also certify them for specific crane models.’
Our operators are re-certified every two years as a matter of course, and must undergo familiarisation training if they have not operated a certain crane model for more than six months. Wepener says this ongoing training pays dividends when operating in remote sites like those in Lesotho, where extra care and attention to detail ensures a minimum of unexpected delays or maintenance issues.
There are also other, larger cranes that Johnson Crane Hire makes available to this mining customer for specific short-term jobs. Here, cross-border administration and logistics add a host of other demands to the project, and the team must keep a number of bases covered if they are to meet the customer’s deadlines.
A recent contract involved making a 275-tonne mobile crane available on site, which required transport arrangements for the crane and support vehicles in order to mobilise the crane’s extensive components including counterweights, hook-blocks and outrigger pads – to make the 400 km journey to the site. Apart from stringent and onerous paperwork relating to the crane and trucks crossing the SA-Lesotho border, the convoy has to negotiate the narrow, twisting mountain road with the help of escorts and traffic authorities.
‘These challenges are all in a days’ work for us,’ says Wepener, ‘but we are sure to collaborate with top-class partners and service providers who support the delivery of our brand promise- SMART- to our customers.’ SMART equals Safety, Maintenance, Availability, Reliability and Total Cost Effectiveness.
Travelling Lesotho’s rural roads with heavy equipment is a task in itself but one also has to contend with the risk of pedestrians and animal traffic. This is just another aspect of the job that Johnson Crane Hire embraces in its mission to provide customers with peace of mind, he says.