July 2019

End of another successful month of operation, with exciting opportunities and several changes in the pipeline.

A whirlwind month, with a great directors away time, a week in Summer in the UK doing year end and a whole new refocus for the firm. Add to this the upgrades to our existing GNSS equipment and software and you have a mixture set for success.

 

Directors Time Away

Thanks to Bandile Edwards and Sipho Bhembe for their commitment and dedication to running an ethical and top notch firm. The time away was a time of reflection on where we have come from, where we are at and where we wish to go as a firm. So often these times away in companies can be a whinge session. Instead, the three of us directors saw this time as one of reflection and rejuvenation. A time to touch base and to look forward.

We met early at Ithala Game Reserve, with Bandile and Sipho driving in from Swaziland and Martin flying in from Durban. The reserve is set in the Northern Natal middle veld area, with Rhino, Elephant and many different cats and buck. There is a lovely tar landing strip nestled up near the escarpment and a great service of pickup and game drives. The chalet we shared had several bedrooms and was well appointed. The food was generous and the whole setting allowed us to relax and get on with the work of vision for the firm.

With the firm being in operation for 21 years in March just past, and now being appointed to do work in Papua New Guinea – making it 41 countries of work experience – we wanted to change our modus operandi to be more global and to better serve you, our clients.

By ensuring we have the right equipment and the best possible staff, we can mobilise at short notice and have the most effect on projects. To do this we have invested several thousands into standby GNSS equipment and have embarked on international training input in key staff members… more below…

 

A Week in Summer

As lovely as the time in the UK was, it was also busy, client meetings, accountants and lawyers and banks and business. A good week that was productive and filled with very competent people. Definitely the right support teams to our business. A big thank you to Accord Accountants and to Paris Smith LLP. Both firms have given us the most amazing advice and helped set the course for the firms future.

Some highlights:

United Kingdom Export Finance

Partnering with the most amazing team of people in the UK and world wide in this industry, Roughton International, RGC is embarking on the exciting journey of offering not only survey support, but also financial support, to large projects at a national level. Please see United Kingdom Export Finance for more details.

Accountants

Thanks to Terry, Chas and Joe at Accord accountants. What a dynamic and energy filled team of great folk. Chas gave me the best advice yet in this industry and for that I am very excited to partner with him and his great team. RGC has now migrated to Quick Books and will be registered VAT payers in the very near future. With opportunities both at a company level and personal for loans and working capital, we see RGC being able to not only get over the blow of theft dealt early last year, but to excel in the years to come.

You, our clients, can further benefit from our accounting being taken to the next level by now being able to claim VAT from our invoicing, being able to rely on our cash flow and also to appoint us to larger projects as we provide you with bonds and sureties that were previously outside of our grasp.

Paris Smith LLP

Helen Brown and Crispin Dick have shown their metal in various aspects of our firms growth. They have provided solid legal advice that comes with a wealth of experience and professionalism. Very impressed. This is a professional practice that can be proud of its members and proud of the service they deliver.

Contracts and memorandums of understanding that protect not only ourselves, but the interests of you, our valued clientele, are being looked at project by project by these folk. Pitfalls and catches that previously we have not seen coming can now be caught and discussed at the outset of projects. With the larger value attached to UKEF funded projects, this is critical. It allows for a transparent foundation for all dealings that ensures no come backs as projects progress.

Banking

HSBC has, once again, stepped up to the mark. They have shown that they are truly an international business bank, with an online and telephone banking system that speeds up business and takes time consuming administrative functions away from us their clients. This allows for our firm to be more financially sound and less focused on admin and more focused on service.

Special mention of Sophie-Anne Martin at their business banking sector for her excellent work on the companies facilities change. Quick, concise and clear – excellent work. Ms Martin and her team of business bankers make HSBC look good.

Clients and Joint Projects

As we embark on change and new ventures, it is always good to know that we are not operating in a vacuum. With being able to touch base with Roughton International (one of our oldest clients of 20 years now) and other UK based firms and individuals, we are sure of our direction. Whilst on the subject of clients, it is with great relief that, having had the privilege of interacting with Roughton International all these years, we see them starting to come back from the difficult times faced in the 2008 economic slump. A great firm, with great people!

In all that we attempt or put our hands to as RGC, we put SERVICE as our number one priority. So to all those met with and interacted with over the week that Martin de Beer was in the UK, a big thank you for your input. Every aspect of what was discussed forms part and parcel of our vision.

Your needs are our target.

 

Re-focus for 2019/2020

Every year we try and improve on the way the company is run. One year we added a BBBEE level 1 certification to our company portfolio, the other we added additional directors. Not all decisions are successful, but all are part of the journey and none are wasted.

This year we have looked at the addition of financing large projects as part of the UKEF team. In addition we are investing heavily in drone hard and software as well as training of key staff in the international application thereof.

We feel that as the world is becoming less “data collection” orientated and more “data manipulation” orientated, we stand idealy positioned as door keepers to data. We can ensure accuracies in information gleaned through easily accessible data sources, ensured this data is tested and fit for our clients purpose. Clients can use our services to ascertain the legal status of land information, the accuracy of imagery and mapping as well as assistance with training and systems integration at every level. With the new drone platforms introduced, we can collect mass data that previously would have been inaccessible due to high costs. However, more than this, we can now integrate this data with larger satellite imagery information as well as high accuracy ground surveys.

The training of the international staff is centred around mobilising on site, identifying, employing and training local support teams, running local surveyors and data quality checks. We believe in local manpower opportunities and skills transfer. Wherever we are in the world, skills transfer is critical. Our aim is to grow the pie larger and keep our percentage the same. We want to have apiece of a large pie, not a large piece of a small one.

As the world is becoming more online orientated, the field of survey and the need for remote information is growing. We thus stand between the “boots on the ground” and the cloud data space and provide the interface for clients needing quick, accurate and, most of all, local survey applications. Internationally.

We have invested in both hard and software to match the training of our staff and look forward to the coming financial year.

 

July 2019 has seen changes that lay the foundation for a truly exciting future for Route Geographic Consultants. Old hangers-on have been discarded and fresh input has been embraced. Thanks to the ongoing support of our valued clientele, we can now continue forward and grow the business.

 

Martin L de Beer

 

June 2019

To date we have had a bumper year! So busy, in fact, that this is the first news feed I am having the time to write.

All over the planet again. Swaziland, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia… and still so many more countries to work in before 2020. We have seen great opportunities opening up especially in the Pacific region, with a diverse set of interesting projects coming up. The continuation of the CCIRUP being the first of many out here for this year.

With the amazing opportunities in Samoa of training the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment together with the LTA, new friendships and oppurtunities are being built in the region. The advent of possible funding initiatives for the Nation of Samoa are being looked at and we are hopeful to see a full Survey system of interlinked control and registry data. This will not only impact Samoa, but with a CORS network on the island, the region will be safer and able to monitor tremmors in the Earths plates earlier than ever in the future. Making the tragedies of 2009 hopefully an avoidable experience for the future. Fa’afetai Lava Samoa.

 

 

Added Services for 2019

I think if I was to identify any one thing that has redefined what we do as a firm it would be the exciting addition of basic road designs. The need for an informed decision on alignments based on survey data has been the biggest challenge for any engineer we have worked with over the past 20 plus years. This comes out in the need for re-alignments, wider survey widths for toe positions on works and generally trying to follow existing levels to minimise costs yet not so much that the same problems with drainage persist. All of which the survey dictates before any heavy pavement or drainage design begins.

End of 2018 and continuing into 2019 we have successfully done the foundation of designs for over 100 kilometres of road, all of which have now gone to construction. Working with great engineers in Nigeria as well as in the smaller municipalities of South Africa, Samoa and Namibia, we have been able to cut their costs of construction and improve their overall delivery times on projects. A great step forward for Route Geographic Consultants.

From the control on the ground, to the survey between heavily populated areas through to the final design and production of drawings. With the right team we can deliver on time the fit for purpose documents you, as our clients, can use to impress the ultimate client at short turn around times and lower costs.

This service was one that I had been asked to deliver several years ago when on team in Zambia for the Piccadilly road survey with Roughton International. I was always afraid it would drive Engineering firms (our livelihood) away from using our services due to possibly seeing this as competition in a shrinking market. However, I realise now that this is a service offered exclusively to engineers for a basis of good design. It does not detract from their core business and frees up valuable resources of theirs in any project. The need for more time spent on drainage and pavement designs is tantamount to the longevity of a road and the ultimate build cost. By outsourcing the Horizontal and Vertical alignments as well as the final design drawings, engineers can focus on the complicated design challenges faced in any project and can devote more time to design. The overall engineering costs are reduced and the quality of engineering improved.

 

Equipment Upgrades

Since 1990, we have had a close relationship with VI Instruments and especially Dave Pendrill (the best representative any firm could possibly ask for!). Since his departure we have been courting Leica and thier fantastic team, but ultimately find that it is more the face of survey that’s changed, not the equipment. How we do difficult remote access terrain – our biggest issue ever since the 90’s in land mined terrain in Mozambique and Angola. Our latest acquisitions of updated drone surveying platforms allow us to have a full survey in difficult terrain turned around at short notice. The older technology we employed of UAV’s allowed for less accurate surveys suitable for irrigation and general layouts. With the new (soon to be delivered) phantom quad copters we have acquired, a slower, lower and far more accurate point cloud will now be available and incorporated into our ground based survey model. A big thanks to Matheus Kaden of Topo Drohne Germany www.kaden-vermessung.de for all the help over the years on this front. Specialists in this field, they have been invaluable to our choice of drone and our change to quad copters for aerial imagery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improved Services Through Technology

2019 has also been a year where we see much improved and reduced cost Satellite imagery being available. Our imagery provider, Tallow Africa https://www.tallowafrica.com/airborne-lidar.html, has been a great support for us this year so far. From sourcing good quality images for planning to providing high definition images for hydro and prelim design, Tallow has been a firm that proves its versatility and dependability at every turn. With their wealth of knowledge in the LiDAR and aerial imagery field, this is an international firm to watch.

Dr Combrink, from Tallow, has assisted us with complex calculations for national data transformations through to fielding basic survey queries without laughing at our ignorance. Both services I personally really appreciate. He has given his services from Dubai to South Africa at the oddest times of day and night (depending on where you sit at the time). So a big thanks to you, Attie. It is a pleasure being well connected with folk like you.

 

Our Life Blood – Our Clients

A further big thanks this year goes to our clients. Roughton International for supporting us in the face of their own crisis and their own re-focusing as a firm. Thank you for taking us with you on the journey. Aurecon, our oldest client who has seen us grow from when they were still Van Wyk and Louwe then Africon and now Aurecon. With the inclusion in several project bids and the successful going ahead of the Swaziland Sikhupe to Lomahasha project. Royal Haskoning DHV for their confidence in our quality and ongoing project support. SMEC, for the incredible team of people that they employ (Peter Ward, Graham Johnson-Jones, the amazing Meredith’s and all the support staff who work tirelessly to get projects smoothly done). And all those in Nigeria who have been on top of the projects out there without letting up through the elections. All clients of RGC, a big thanks to you for making it possible.

 

 

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Our Staff and RGC

The guys at RGC once again prove their metal getting you, our clients, survey data no matter where or how difficult to get to. We were hard pressed on the Swaziland project to conform with the Health and Safety directives given. Although we subscribe to a stringent health and safety code, the terrain and types of areas requiring access during a long road survey are very hard to quantify. We provided in our documentation for Sugar Cane Burning and poisonous snakes, traffic at low visibility points and times, military action on the Swaziland/Mozambique border, possible wild dog attacks and general unrest as often found in Africa. What we didn’t cover (but don’t worry Jacques we did document) was the hippos and crocodiles found in the Mbuluzi river and the large culverts standing in deep water (as seen alongside).

True to the nature of our staff and the ethos of the company as a whole, we went over and above the call of duty. We made a plan where needed and did not make our logistical problems those of our client.

From Martin de Beer being on the Somali border and visiting Afghanistan to try and secure work, to Sipho Bhembe being in central Nigeria fending off a spade wielding local wanting to ‘cut his head off’ for bringing upgrades to the road networks, RGC is willing and more than able to go anywhere to service the industry. We as directors pride ourselves on our ‘go anywhere’ attitude and the fact that we go ahead of our staff.

 

 

Who to watch in the firm

Mr BP Edwards. Bandile has embarked on a further degree to augment his current qualifications. He is doing a Quantity Surveying related degree that will see him one step closer to being registered as a professional member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Fitting as he is from Swaziland Royal blood! A brilliant man who both Sipho Bhembe and I have had the privilege of watching grow in the firm and as a friend and co-director. Good luck my brother!!