SA businesses are spending a fortune on generators. Vodacom recently revealed that since 2020, more than R4 billion has been spent on backup power solutions such as batteries and generators, with a further R300 million on additional costs for diesel, security and maintenance. Major food retailers are spending R1 million - R3 million per day on diesel just to keep trading.
Whilst smaller businesses spend less than this, generators are a significant expense adding to inflation in many industries as costs are passed on to consumers. As loadshedding is unlikely to abate any time soon, businesses are desperate to find ways to save money on backup power generation.
Local engineering services and asset maintenance specialist, Pragma, says that the less obvious costs related to generating alternative power are also significant. Based on current forecasts for 2023, Pragma estimates that the average generator will run for more than 1500 hours this year and will need at least six maintenance services.
Morné Steenkamp, Pragma's Asset Health Service divisional manager, adds, "Generators should last 25 - 30 years, but without proper maintenance, their lifespans are significantly shortened by the current loadshedding. Businesses are struggling to keep up with refuelling requirements and neglect more frequent generator services. The good news is that there are opportunities to save costs with appropriate software, business processes and contractor networks."
As a specialist engineering company, Pragma has developed a calculator to quantify potential savings for businesses which use online monitoring and generator management.
“Many companies have multiple generators, but even those with only one need to have a sense of what they can expect from their asset. With proper generator monitoring and asset management, businesses are realising savings of 30 - 35%,” says Steenkamp.
How it works
The calculator works out a tailored business case based on your circumstances and generator fleet. It considers aspects like loss avoidance by ensuring that the generator remains healthy, fuel optimisation, increased generator lifespan due to improved, proactive maintenance, optimal refuelling and reduced call outs and after-hours work.
Hardware and monitoring
Often businesses have a wide variety of generator makes and models with varying specifications. As a result of compatibility issues, it is difficult to implement a standard monitoring solution.
Rhynard Prins, Pragma’s Asset Health Management business development manager, explains, “Pragma’s monitoring system is compatible with the most common generators found in South Africa. We see that many clients buy monitoring hardware but are not clear about how the data from the monitoring solution will be used. Businesses struggle to prioritise the work required on these machines and ensure the work is executed. Pragma's monitoring solution is underpinned by a sophisticated maintenance management system that automatically keeps track of maintenance, refuelling, contractor management and service level agreements through mobile applications."
Decision-making and benchmarking
Pragma deals with contractors throughout the country. Each invoice can be scrutinised to ensure costs are fair. Pragma’s proprietary technology schedules refuelling during working hours to avoid unnecessary callouts or overtime costs to supply after hours. Clients' maintenance staff don’t need to travel to sites since they have remote access to information in real time.
Pragma’s involvement varies for each client. Certain clients are concerned with ensuring that incoming power is appropriate for the needs of the business, but this can extend or shorten the life of the generator.
When clients deal with a specific contractor, Pragma acts like a corporate governance provider to ensure the service level agreement is being properly managed. The company can also onboard providers from its national contractor base. If there is a breakdown, the system automatically messages the contractor to see to it. In addition, maintenance frequencies are adjusted based on actual loadshedding, and proactive maintenance is scheduled and checked.
“What differentiates Pragma is that all data points are recorded, analysed and reported plus customers have a real time view of their entire generator fleet. We help our clients get a grip on the workload and drive decision-making in support of budget forecasts, optimal maintenance strategies, contractor SLA management and cost savings," says Prins.