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PNP: Firm making huge strides into electrical business

The company specialises in high voltage switchgear maintenance and construction for a wide range of bulk electricity consumers throughout the country. Standardbusiness reporter Kudzai Chimhangwa (KC) caught up with PNP business development manager Alois Matarangwanda (AM) last week:

KC: Could you provide us with a business overview for the year 2011
AM: 2011 for us was quite a good year. We received quite a big order book from Econet, ZTE and other big telecoms companies. We completed all their projects by year end. The general public and related institutions were also able to identify us as a good alternative for power distribution to the extent that we had a barrage of enquiries most of which turned into orders.

KC: Zimbabwe has been experiencing sustained power outages for well over a decade. What type of electrical faults have you identified and rectified in your maintenance work and what are the main causes of these faults?
AM: If you look at it in terms of the faults, we have identified a variety of them, whether it’s from Zesa or other private entities that constitute our clients, the main issue was that of ageing equipment. Most of the equipment is long overdue for replacement and complete overhaul. Due to the economic downturn experienced in the last decade, most companies have been pushing equipment beyond its lifespan. In cases such as these, faults are likely to occur regularly. Cables which were laid in the 1970s are the worst affected to date. With regard to transformers, most of our call outs were related to purifying transformer oil which has not been purified for quite a long time.

KC: Are the solutions that you provide long term or otherwise?
AM: The solutions which we are offering are not long-term; they are actually a stop-gap measure. in maintenance terms, we call it condition-based maintenance. We are mainly reacting to faults and in most cases, the solutions are centred on clearing the faults in a bid to prolong the lifespan of the equipment. But a long-term solution for some of these problems is the complete replacement of some of the circuits. Due to the limitation of resources, most companies have been confined to stop-gap measures which eventually cost more because they have to repeatedly be done.

KC: PNP last year serviced a diverse clientele base including leading mining and telecommunications companies. How critical has maintenance work in these areas been?
AM: With regard to mining companies that we have been called upon to service, we are called at a time that the situation would be so bad to the extent that the owners will be worried about the risk of a total blackout and consequently lost production time.
This has presented us with challenges pertaining to avoiding an absolute shut down. Most people have ignored critical aspects such as routine maintenance and condition monitoring, basically relegating preventive maintenance to the dustbin. We haven’t had much work with infra-red thermography. Before the downturn of the economy in the past decade, it was the in-thing that no critical equipment would be allowed to break down.

KC: Has the introduction of a stable economic environment offered a window of opportunity in terms of the company’s operational performance or has this scenario presented more challenges than before?
AM: Lots of opportunities have been presented in the sense that companies can now plan on a long-term basis. We have managed to build a workshop and we are also planning the production of electrical equipment here in Zimbabwe.
Competition has caused its fair share of challenges, in the sense that there are some countries which are very protective of this line of industry. Consequently, they put in place regulations that restrict the entry of foreign players into their countries yet ironically, they are also benefitting from Zimbabwe’s local market. Without doubt, liquidity constraints have also had far reaching effects on almost every company in Zimbabwe and we are not really an exception.

KC: Considering that Zesa only has two cable fault detectors servicing the whole country, how well-equipped is PNP to fill such a gaping service hole?
AM: Yes we are adequately equipped to fill in this gap but the ultimate solution lies in Zesa sub-contracting that kind of work to local companies with the capacity to do cable fault location. This will make it even easier for Zesa itself because they will mainly have a monitoring responsibility. Reaction time in smaller companies would also be much faster due to lack of bureaucracy. Targets can also be set so that the companies operate in the reaction time required.

KC: Who are the brains behind PNP?
AM: The company is the product of Coster Masumbuko (managing director) and myself. We are former Zesa employees who, during the brain-drain that occurred in the country, decided to stay in the country and help re-build the economy, especially in areas where it was facing challenges in high voltage maintenance.

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