70 years of pump innovation | Infrastructure news

In a world of change, excellence remains constant. In the case of APE Pumps and sister entity Mather+Platt, that translates into decades of quality, innovation and product leadership, with the Group celebrating

70 years in business in 2022.

 “As a Group, we’ve always invested in our people first and foremost, and this has paid major dividends for us over the years, resulting in the formation of long-term customer relationships and enabling us to progressively expand our footprint across South Africa, as well as further afield in Africa,” says John Montgomery, GM, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt.

A key factor that defines the Group’s commitment to the industries it serves is that a blueprint exists for every pump model it has manufactured.

“That includes legacy products we inherited as a Group prior to our formation in 1952. A classic example is an approximately 100-year-old pump – imported from the UK – that we remanufactured for Rand Water based on the original drawings,” Montgomery explains, adding that Mather+Platt’s original lineage can be traced back to Great Britain’s First Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.

Today, of course, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt have embraced the Fourth Industrial Revolution with cutting-edge technologies that include telematics for the remote monitoring and control of pump health and performance. Advancements in metallurgical research have also resulted in improved casting techniques, as well as the strength and durability of key components like bearings and impellers.

“However, the principles of pump technology remain the same,” Montgomery continues.

Dovetailing tried and tested techniques with modern technologies is a hallmark of APE Pumps and Mather+Platt’s success. Today, for example, the Group is one of the few OEMs that still has a pattern-making shop, headed by a master artisan.

While the Group has embraced 3D printing as part of its research and development initiatives, Montgomery says that nothing replaces the age-old art of handcrafted wooden moulds painstakingly perfected to meet the exact design tolerances of the final casting elements.

“Harnessing this capability, we can also replicate any pump where the original OEM is no longer trading, even where the drawings no longer exist,” he points out.

Going global, staying local

APE Pumps and Mather+Platt were acquired by Indian multinational Worthington Pumps in 2012 and now form part of a group of leading pump OEMs. These include Sterling Pumps in Australia, Mathers Foundry in the UK, and Gruppo Aturia in Italy.

In 2017, the APE Pumps and Mather+Platt production facilities were expanded by around 8 000 m2 to keep pace with market demand and the Group continues to modernise its machinery in line with evolving technologies.

“A Proudly South African company, we are committed to and invested in South Africa, and APE Pumps and Mather+Platt products are 100% locally cast by South African foundries using local materials,” Montgomery explains. “That has major advantages for the market because we are not reliant on imports and can design and fabricate pump systems within remarkably short turnaround periods.”

APE Pumps and Mather+Platt’s processes are ISO 9001 accredited to ensure strict adherence to quality assurance standards. Material certificates are issued as a guarantee.

“High-pressure environments like bulk water transfer depend on exact tolerances and there’s no margin for error, which is why our Group has been a market leader since 1952,” Montgomery continues.

As part of its commitment to inclusivity and transformation, the Group recently concluded a BBBEE equity deal with a 100% black-owned company, which has now acquired a minority stake in the business.

“We’re very excited about this development and it marks a major milestone for our 70th anniversary celebrations,” says Montgomery.

 Turnkey evolution

Major growth in recent years has been supported by the Group’s Projects Division, which provides turnkey design, engineering, installation and commissioning services for pumps, valves, motors and electrical switchgear.

Ranked as an 8 ME (Mechanical and Electrical) contractor in terms of the Construction Industry Development Board grading system, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt have completed numerous landmark projects over the years. Outside South Africa, these include work for leading utilities that include the Blantyre Water Board in Malawi, and Lusaka Water Supply & Sanitation in Zambia.

Durban Heights

Locally, the bulk water segment is a key market for the Group, providing solutions for water utilities. At times, these are mission-critical projects where an emergency repair is required.

A recent example is a project for Umgeni Water at the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works (WTW) following a critical shaft pump failure on 11 November 2021. Housed at the base of an approximately 190 m deep purpose-built shaft, this pump conveys raw water from the aqueduct 200 m below ground level to the WTW for potable treatment and subsequent distribution to eThekwini Water and Sanitation.

The sudden failure of the shaft pump resulted in severe water shortages within eThekwini’s Central, Southern and Northern systems.

In response, Umgeni Water appointed APE Pumps and Mather+Platt as the mechanical and electrical contractor on 12 November 2021 to remove and repair the multistage shaft pump, which has a designed output of around 610 ℓ/s at a 180 m head.

Within a five-week turnaround period, APE Pumps and Mather+Platt completed a full overhaul of the pump (including bearings and bushes), and reinstalled and recommissioned it on-site.

Operations and maintenance (O&M)

Currently, around 30% of the Group’s business is in the provision of O&M services. In some cases, customers are also concluding sole-source service-level agreements. This essentially means that APE Pumps and Mather+Platt are contracted to service and support their installed systems.

“O&M has definitely been a growing area in the past decade, and we see this trend continuing. From our perspective, we see opportunities to expand into the municipal market, providing a fully outsourced O&M service for water and wastewater treatment plants. Many of these are in a poor state across South Africa and need expert attention, which is where we come in,” Montgomery continues.

“Over the past 70 years, our expertise and institutional knowledge have defined us. This will continue in the coming decades, as we prepare upcoming generations of leaders and specialists to take APE Pumps and Mather+Platt to new heights,” Montgomery concludes.

About APE Pumps and Mather+Platt

Mather+Platt is renowned for its high-head multistage and single-stage split-casing pumps.
In turn, APE Pumps specialises in end-suction pumps, multistage high-pressure pumps, split-casing pumps, vertical industrial turbine pumps, and vertical suction pumps.

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