Staying at the top

Synchronised Cat generators supplied and maintained by Barloworld Power Rental at Mbali Colliery in Mpumalanga.

Synchronised Cat generators supplied and maintained by Barloworld Power Rental at Mbali Colliery in Mpumalanga.

When Cherese Knouwds was in the USA at a Caterpillar conference early this year she was surprised and proud to see photographs of the Barloworld Power Rental facility in Boksburg displayed as an example of global best practice.

Knouwds is Barloworld Power’s rental manager. She places the credit for Barloworld Power’s consistent growth in rental market share, customer satisfaction and revenue over the past three years squarely on the shoulders of her team.

It is a tribute to this close-knit and passionate team of 21 people that Barloworld Power Rental last year became the first Cat Power Rental dealer in Africa to be awarded 5-star certification from Caterpillar and only the sixth in the world.

Barloworld Power Rental achieved the second highest score ever awarded to a Cat Rental operation. Stephen Hayward, the 6 Sigma Black Belt at Caterpillar Global Rental Power who conducted the audit, described Barloworld Power Rental as “one of most professional rental operations I have reviewed”.

The appearance and management of the Barloworld Power Rental facility in Boksburg was ranked as the benchmark for global best practice among Caterpillar’s dealers. It is being used as a measure for other Cat Power Rental dealer facilities around the world.

That, according to Knouwds, is exactly how things are going to stay. “If you believe you are the best, you will be the best,” she says. “We are extremely lucky to have a dedicated team that shares a common vision, strives for excellence and always goes the extra mile.”

Rental generators at Newlands Cricket Stadium, Cape Town.

Rental generators at Newlands Cricket Stadium, Cape Town.

Young fleet

“In order to achieve and maintain the Caterpillar 5-star certification we are forced to look critically at every aspect of our business, not once but all the time,” Knouwds points out. “It is our customers who reap the rewards of this continuous oversight and we can see the results in customer loyalty and market share growth.”

One of the competitive advantages Barloworld Power Rental offers its customers is the relative youth of its fleet. Across the board the average age of the rental fleet – including generators, transformers, distribution boards and lighting masts – is 2,7 years. For generator sets it is a low 1,8 years.

While the biggest generator on offer is the Cat C32 which is 1 100 kVA standby and 1 000 kVA prime power rated, the Barloworld Power Rental team’s major business involves synchronising these units for much bigger needs. “We can supply 14 MVA in one go and we can deploy this very fast. This capability gives us the edge,” Knouwds points out.

“We have a strong presence in the mining sector, partly because the mines know and trust the Cat brand and partly because we provide solutions that are both appropriate and reliable.”

At the other end of the scale, rental needs as small as 15 kVA can be accommodated, too big for a normal household but ideal for a guesthouse or small office block.

The launch of the Cape Town Power Rental office last year saw a surprising surge in demand for bigger standby and prime power rental solutions for wine farms and other agricultural needs. “Agriculture has absolutely boomed and the trick is to ensure that you can meet the different seasonal needs of farmers across all commodities.”

Load shedding

Other targets of the Cape Town operation are naval and marine rentals, oil and gas, the film industry and the entertainment and hospitality sectors.

Interestingly, the growth in the Barloworld Power Rental business has very little to do with load shedding. “Our biggest growth is being experienced in long term rentals in mining, petroleum, construction, agriculture and the industrial and retail sectors,” says Knouwds.

“Most applications are for prime power for development purposes. The current financial stresses on all our markets make long term rental an attractive alternative because you get instant power with no capital outlay apart from the rental rate. Maintenance and repair is included and there are no hidden costs.”

The rental of units for standby power to compensate for load shedding is the cherry on top and not something the team depends on.


Areas earmarked for attention in the Caterpillar audit last year were product diversification and branch expansion. In addition to Cat power generation, Barloworld Power Rental represents industrial and mining lighting solutions from AllightSykes. A new fleet of hydraulically operated lighting towers for commercial use is expected to arrive from AllightSykes in Australia in July and Knouwds is excited about the significant potential market for these robust units.

She adds that following the successful Cape Town launch plans are in place for further expansion. While Barloworld Power already offers rental solutions across South Africa and further afield if needed, the idea is to establish more teams on the ground to interface directly with customers to ensure the best and quickest service and back-up.

Knouwds believes being able to partner with a leading brand like Caterpillar is a great privilege that should not be taken lightly. “Longevity, quality and sustainability are inherent in Cat power products. Our responsibility as a rental dealer is to provide the best service we can for our customers and for Caterpillar and that’s what we strive to do.”

Four synchronised 440kVA Cat generators at supply power for grape harvesting at Botha Kelders in Worcester.

Four synchronised 440kVA Cat generators at supply power for grape harvesting at Botha Kelders in Worcester.

Case study 1 – Grinaker – LTA

The Gauteng Barloworld Power Rental team has recently supplied three units to Grinaker-LTA for the refurbishment of one of the cooling towers at Sasol Secunda’s power plant.

The Cat generators will be used to power several industrial lifts which will access the tower from the sides for personnel, equipment and building materials. Two of the three 150 kVA units, supplied fully maintained for a three-year period, will be used as prime power with the third as back-up.

Rental sales consultant Andre Scholtz says Barloworld Power’s ability to provide an appropriate, quick and reliable solution were the deciding factors in this award.

Case study 2 – Durban Container Depot

Barloworld Power Rental supplies a six-month solution in the form of a 400 kVA Cat generator to the Durban Container Deport every year. This unit provides power to regulate temperatures in reefer containers that store imported perishables prior to delivery to their final destinations.

Reliable power supply is absolutely essential to the freshness and saleability of the produce.

According to Brendon Hart, rental sales consultant for the coastal region, the unit is a back-up solution in peak season when existing installed capacity is insufficient. The customer has shared a long and successful relationship with Barloworld and Cat equipment.


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