Technical excellence and sustainable skills development are a lifelong focus and process for SMEC and its employees. IMIESA talks to Bongani Mthombeni-Möller, Strategic Business Development Executive at SMEC South Africa, about the company’s transformation objectives.
Who is SMEC and what is your role there?
BM SMEC South Africa is a multidisciplinary engineering consulting and infrastructure advisory firm that has been delivering outstanding infrastructure solutions for over 70 years. SMEC South Africa is a progressive company that delivers engineering excellence, design innovation and advisory services to clients in South Africa and across the African continent. SMEC has established an excellent reputation for high quality, value engineering, sustainable solutions and robust innovations in all sectors of engineering.
I’m a member of our Executive Management team, which manages and oversees various aspects of our business. In business development, one of our focus areas is business sustainability and growth, as well as strategy for our South African business in all markets, including Africa. As a black professional, I am proud to work for a large and progressive company that is passionate about its values: People, Professionalism, Partnerships, Purpose
What is your view on transformation?
SMEC South Africa supports and actively promotes government’s objectives to enhance the economic participation of black South Africans in the economy. Transformation is not new to us – it is not a box-ticking exercise, but an ongoing process. We have continuously ensured that transformation is engrained in our culture and business.
How did SMEC reach a Level 1 BBBEE rating?
We take transformation very seriously at SMEC. We have an in-house BBBEE committee that ensures that we comply with all the elements of the scorecard, on a continual basis. We are currently 25% black owned: the shares are held by the Kapela Disability Empowerment Concerns Trust. The beneficiaries of the trust are people with disabilities. Our black ownership will increase in the short term to exceed the requirements of the newly gazetted Construction Sector Codes (CSC). Our board composition is predominantly black, and so is our executive management team. We strive to have black representation across every tier in our organisation and pride ourselves on our technical delivery.
To ensure we stay ahead in the industry, we sharpen our tools and develop our staff’s technical knowledge and skills. We procure services from empowered entities and have been successful in delivering infrastructure solutions through strategic partnerships with firms that share our passion for transformation and technical excellence. We also continue to play a meaningful role in socio-economic development.
What’s your view on the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework requirement to subcontract 30% of your work?
It is fully embraced and supported by our organisation. Partnering with EMEs and QSEs is not new to SMEC. We’re proud to support and collaborate with a network of empowered emerging enterprises that are committed to delivering (and are able to deliver) technical excellence. This ensures that our professional teams are diverse and that the emerging firms are exposed to a number of areas in which they can develop. We want to assist companies to grow in size, to grow in their ability to tackle large projects, and to grow in their ability to stand on their own. In that way, empowerment is measurable and meaningful.
For many years, we have had an enterprise development programme with the objectives of partnering with and empowering emerging firms. The programme ensures that we go above and beyond what a client would require, and includes, for example, housing these companies in our offices, transferring critical skills required for the built environment, assisting them to meet the needs that are vital for the success of these smaller organisations (such as financial skills, tendering skills and cashflow), and assisting them to develop quality management systems.
According to the CSC, large enterprises are required to have a formal supplier development programme. I’m proud to be the Supplier Development Champion for SMEC South Africa. It is my responsibility to put the programme together, select the beneficiaries and ensure that, as a collective, we address the needs of struggling firms in the built environment.
What are some of challenges brought about by the CSC?
One of the things to note is the decrease in the revenue limits that define EMEs, QSEs and large enterprises. This has resulted in QSEs who earn more than R25 million being classified in the same bracket as large enterprises. This will bring about some challenges for them: they would be expected to meet the same technical and commercial requirements as their larger counterparts for certain opportunities.
What’s SMEC future outlook?
The future of SMEC South Africa looks good. We’ve been doing business for over 70 years. Last year, SMEC was recognised as the top Infrastructure Development company by the National Business Awards. We have won more than 80 industry awards for technical excellence in civil engineering, including the PMR.africa Diamond Arrow awards in both 2016 and 2017 for first overall Structural and Civil Engineers with more than 400 employees.
In a highly competitive environment with changing markets, we adapt. We continue to grow, we continue to empower and we continue to collaborate. We want to remain a large firm so that we have the capacity to mentor and develop the industry’s smaller firms. That way, we can continue playing our part in assisting government to meet its objectives.
SMEC’s business focus areas
There are five function groups (business units) within SMEC South Africa.
Transport and Logistics: This includes all consultancy work related to roads, bridges and highways, aviation infrastructure, tunnels, ports and rail. A few of the iconic projects SMEC has worked on include:
– Sanral’s Wild Coast bridges. This is classified as a national flagship project. SMEC designed the Mtentu and Msikaba bridges, and has been appointed to supervise and manage the construction of the Mtentu Bridge.
– N3 Mount Edgecombe Interchange in Durban.
SMEC was responsible for design, supervision and construction management.
Water and Environment: This includes all consulting work related to water (potable and waste), environmental, civil infrastructure, coastal engineering and waste management. Some of the projects SMEC has been involved in are:
– Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project Phase 1
– Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase I – SMEC is currently working on the Polihali transfer and diversion tunnels forming part of Phase II
– Polokwane Wastewater Treatment works.
Urban Development: This includes all consulting work related to buildings (architecture, mechanical and electrical, civil and structural, landscape, and project management), townships, industrial/business parks, and master planning. Some of the projects SMEC has been involved in include:
– Kigali Master Plan
– Richards Bay IDZ infrastructure planning
– Cornubia Housing Development
– Montrose mega project for Gauteng Department of Human Settlements.
Energy and Resources: This includes mining, geotechnical engineering, oil and gas, and power. Recent projects include:
– Electrification of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium
– Development of the master plan for the Oil & Gas Industrial Park in Uganda
– Civil, electrical and rail engineering, and project management services for the Kumba Heuningkranz Mine.
Management Services: This includes facilities management; city, asset, development and programme management; social development; BIM services; and advisory and consulting (finance, economic and community advisory) services. Some of the projects SMEC has delivered here include:
– Asset management services for the Mangaung, eThekwini and Ekurhuleni metros
– Development of the KwaZulu-Natal Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan for the Office of the Premier
– Programme management of the Sanitation Phase 3 infrastructure programme for eThekwini Municipality (Water and Sanitation Department), including the management of more than 60 appointed service providers and the provision of cost control services for the roll-out of public ablution facilities to informal settlements; this was an EPWP project
– Programme management of the Zibambele Poverty Alleviation Programme, which involves the administration and monitoring of 6 000 beneficiaries, many of whom come from women-led households, who partake in routine road maintenance; SMEC developed the system for this purpose.