69 years of local innovation | Infrastructure news

Matching the right pump with the right application is crucial for the optimal performance of fluid transfer systems.

IMIESA speaks to John Montgomery, GM at APE Pumps and Mather+Platt, about their decades of experience in the design, manufacture, installation, and commissioning of pump systems for a range of industries. Increasingly, this includes operations and maintenance services.

When South Africa implemented its first hard lockdown in March 2020, APE Pumps and sister entity Mather+Platt rose to the challenge and continued to operate at full capacity as an essential business.

“In fact, the business pressures increased as our water and wastewater utilities, and SOE clients – especially in the energy sector – intensified their focus on ensuring that all their fluid transfer systems were performing optimally during the onset of the Covid-19 storm, which is an unprecedented crisis in our lifetime,” explains Montgomery.

“In a recent example, this has led to APE Pumps and Mather+Platt concluding a contract with an SOE to operate and maintain our installed systems. We expect these types of service-level agreements to become more common in future as clients recognise the benefits of partnering with expert original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),”
he expands.

APE Pumps and Mather+Platt are certainly not strangers to the fortunes of events, tracing their origins back to the first Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s. Since then, they have continued to evolve, innovate and respond to modern-day challenges – celebrating 69 years of existence in 2021.

“Going back over the timeline since establishing in South Africa in 1952, our strength then and now has been on local investment in people and technology, backed by a major multinational OEM group,” Montgomery continues. A.P.E Pumps (Amalgamated Pump Engineers) and Mather+Platt now form part of WPIL Limited, headquartered in India, having been acquired in 2012.

Now more than 69 years old, WPIL has manufacturing operations in Australia, France, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, the UK and Zambia through its Group companies.

Proudly South African and committed to 100% local content

As registered members of Proudly South African, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt have the advantage of being able to provide standard OEM and custom solutions for any industry where pumps are employed. When it comes to local manufacturing, this strength is supported by a synergistic partnership with South African foundries.

“Every one of our pumps that rolls off the production line in South Africa is manufactured from 100% local content. We’re proud of that fact because it creates jobs, upskills, and sustains local industries. It also means shorter lead times for our customers when placing orders, since APE Pumps and Mather+Platt are not reliant on imports, plus the associated higher shipping costs and potential delays in seaborne freight,” Montgomery explains.

The casting process for pumps is an exact one, with zero margin for error. In this respect, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt are among the few South African entities that have an in-house pattern making workshop, with apprentices trained and prepared for industry certification in this niche field by a master artisan.

“Even after 69 years of existence, we are able to draw on our own OEM blueprints for any pump replacement or refurbishment. Added to this, our technical team can measure and replicate any other redundant OEM pump,”
Montgomery explains.

3D scanning

The ancient art of pattern making remains applicable to this day, working with wooden models that can take months to execute, depending on the scale. Allied to this is the exciting new frontier of 3D scanning, a technology that APE Pumps and Mather+Platt have added to their technical arsenal, with major benefits for clients.

A recent example is a major pulp and paper producer that couldn’t take an older and critical pump out of service for extended maintenance. APE Pumps and Mather+Platt’s technical team carried out a 3D scan of the existing pump setup. Going back to the drawing board, they designed and produced a replacement system, which was successfully installed within a tight shutdown window.

“In addition to supplying solutions, our expertise in fluid management systems has led to a major growth in demand for outsourced operations and maintenance services, and we’ve geared up for this with an ongoing investment in technical personnel,” Montgomery continues.

Turnkey execution

Within the mix, the provision of turnkey solutions forms a core component of the services offered by APE Pumps and Mather+Platt, with the group certified as an 8 ME (Mechanical and Electrical) contractor in terms of the Construction Industry Development Board grading system.

“What customers especially enjoy about our service is that they can walk through the design, manufacturing and commissioning process with us,” he adds. “This also includes training for the client’s technical personnel as well as subcontractors in terms of BBBEE contractor participation goals.”

Recent turnkey projects include a contract for Umgeni Water to manufacture, supply, deliver and commission Pump 4 at the Verulam Pump Station. The latter forms part of the Hazelmere water treatment plant supplying residents within eThekwini Municipality.

APE Pumps and Mather+Platt replaced a split-case pump with a new vertical turbine pump, complete with piping, auxiliaries, valves, instrumentation and a motor. The pump, which was specifically designed to fit into the footprint of the old pump, was fitted with a
650 kW variable-speed drive (VSD). As part of the upgrade, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt also replaced the medium-voltage switchgear.

Tackling the maintenance backlog

Across South Africa, it’s common knowledge that many municipal water and wastewater plants are in poor condition, suffering from years of neglect.

“Since we’ve been in the local market for decades, we often come across situations where we’re asked to provide a turnkey repair for one of our older installations, sometimes dating back 30 years or more,” says Montgomery.

Aside from a lack of routine maintenance, one of the root causes of failure is the use of non-OEM parts, and even replicated or pirate parts, to save on costs. Non-OEM parts do not precisely match APE Pumps and Mather+Platt design tolerances and are therefore prone to premature failure. The upside to older pump replacements and OEM refurbishments is that new technologies can be introduced. In addition to energy and life-cycle cost savings provided by installing VSDs, for example, the latest telemetry technologies enable the remote monitoring, control, and regulation of key variables like flow, pressure, operating temperatures, and vibration.

“While the barriers to entry may seem low for potential new pump importers, there’s no guarantee of longer-term support for local customers. The same cannot be said for APE Pumps and Mather+Platt, which have remained committed and invested in the South African market for close on seven decades,” Montgomery concludes. Feel confident enough in the South African Market to look to expand via more aquisitions of companies with synergies to A.P.E group.

About Mather+Platt

Mather+Platt manufactures horizontal multistage and split-case pumps for high-volume, high-pressure applications

About APE Pumps

APE Pumps specialises in the design and manufacture of vertical industrial turbine pumps, and split-case pumps for most industries

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