State owned aerospace and defence company Denel is in talks with Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) over ways it can use its experience to move into the rail industry in support of South Africa’s multi-billion rand overhaul of rolling stock and railway tracks.
Denel in a statement said it was well equipped to diversify into rail and other commercial industries given the experience it has gained in the manufacturing of its high-technology products.
“We have a local company with a strong history of success in the delivery of the most sophisticated engineering and technology projects,” said Denel Group Chief Executive Officer, Riaz Saloojee. “It just makes sense for the rail industry to tap into the knowledge and systems that are already available locally and have helped to build the country’s much-admired defence sector.”
Technology used in the manufacturing of complex parts for aircraft can easily be adapted for the interiors of railway coaches, Denel said, while systems developed to guide missiles can be modified for the signalling used on rail networks.
Diversifying into rail will see Denel making critical contributions to the rejuvenation of South Africa’s strategic infrastructure, while at the same time responding to Government’s expectations on state-owned companies to share their expertise and knowledge. This in turn should lead to greater efficiencies, skills development and job creation.
“While Denel has made its mark in the aerospace and defence industries, delivering world-class products like the Rooivalk helicopter and the Badger infantry combat vehicle to support the SANDF, in recent years we have also expanded our Research and Development activities towards advanced manufacturing,” said Saloojee.
The South African Government’s programme to replace the passenger and freight rolling stock, and major upgrades to railway infrastructure open up major opportunities for Denel to pursue contracts which will grow its business, improve its profitability and create more skilled jobs in the country, Denel said.
Modern rail coaches are increasingly constructed out of lightweight but durable aluminium and composite panels. Denel Aerostructures designs and manufactures ultra-lightweight components using composite materials and aluminium. The company is a Tier 1 supplier of complex aerostructure parts for the Airbus A400M airlifter.
“Most of the parts we deliver to Airbus are manufactured out of composites and aluminium. We have advanced machinery and processes in place to meet the exacting requirements of the aerospace industry,” said Saloojee.
Other companies within the Denel Group, PMP and LMT, have experience and capacity in steel metal machining which can also be used in the manufacturing of structures other than the interiors.
Denel’s proven experience in systems engineering and the design of new operating systems can contribute to PRASA and Transnet’s new infrastructure investments, the company said.
“These are but some of the skills and experience which we can offer to PRASA and Transnet. This will also enable them to meet their own objectives to produce more than 65% of the contract’s value within South Africa and to generate direct and indirect jobs,” said Saloojee, adding that Denel also has access to a strong network of small, medium and micro enterprises that form part of the company’s supplier network on similar projects.
“Denel has a strong track record of on-time delivery of complex projects, which meets the exacting standards of the defence and aerospace industries. These are the qualities and capabilities which we can also offer to the rail industry. We are excited about the prospect of being a valuable partner in South Africa’s largest ever investment in strategic rail infrastructure,” said Saloojee.