Afrox has officially opened its multi-million rand re-engineered Gases Operation Centre (GOC) in Germiston, the foundation of the company's Merchant and Packaged Gases (MPG) business in Africa. The newly upgraded GOC is the company's largest special gases facility and laboratory on the continent and the only nitrous oxide production plant in South Africa.
The GOC is the most advanced facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere and is Afrox's largest filling site on the African continent, filling an average of 5,500 cylinders a day, accounting for a large portion of the company's total South African production (excluding LPG). The facility services more than 3,500 customers and 41 Afrox branches throughout Africa. The re-engineered GOC has capably taken on the load previously handled by five Afrox industrial filling sites in and around Gauteng and three medical filling sites. The GOC was originally constructed in the late 1920s and has evolved over the years to include a diversity of activities.
"By the time we took the decision to re-engineer this facility in 2005, the site was starting to become congested, compromising the function of equipment and processes," says Afrox's Group Cylinder Production Manager Brett Wheatcroft. "The facility upgrade was set in motion to ensure that GOC would continue serving our markets to world class standards, well into the future.
"The facility has been re-designed to deliver enhanced efficiencies and significantly increased on-site safety. Expected benefits include improved operational efficiencies and potential sales growth.
"In re-designing the facility, special consideration was given to increasing workflow and to meeting the changing needs of our customers. The re-engineered GOC will allow us to be more systems oriented and electronically driven, significantly reducing the risk of error and greatly reducing lead times."
Wheatcroft says the GOC now has sufficient production capacity to provide improved security of product supply to Afrox's packaged gases business, as well as capacity to store adequate quantities of both full and empty cylinders to feed its supply chain. There is also sufficient space for storage and replenishment of adequate raw product for uninterrupted production.
Stringent safety standards, both in terms of South African legislation and Afrox's parent company The Linde Group's exacting requirements, have been updated and implemented.
Other benefits of the new facility include improved quality control, multi-skilling of cylinder fillers, reduced maintenance downtime on gas pumps and improved quality control.