Groutville Development sets the standard for quality
As a firm, we are always proud to be associated with some of the country’s finest projects making a tangible difference to the communities in which we operate in. Our most recent project is the award-winning Groutville Housing Project in KwaZulu-Natal, which has seen over 600 houses already handed over to proud new homeowners – who have previously never lived in, nor owned proper homes.
The settlement, which was awarded Best Informal Settlements Upgrade Project at the Govan Mbeki Awards, earlier in the year, has been hailed as exemplary for its high quality standards and raised the bar for similar projects in South Africa. At a recent media roundtable, journalists were invited to discuss infrastructure development in KwaZulu-Natal, the inherent challenges and great milestones achieved by GIBB.
Media were taken to the Groutville settlement to meet the residents and experience first-hand, the vibrant and progressive community they call home.
Ninety-year-old Beauty Cele, until last year lived in a tiny shack. Cele will live the rest of her life in a stable home, which we believe embodies the priority of housing for all South Africans, especially, the previously disadvantaged. “I am very grateful, there isn’t much time left and at least I can be at peace in this home,” she said.
Another proud new home owner, is 58-year-old, Makson Joseph who suffered a stroke last year. Although he lives alone and is struggling to cope, the security of a proper home assists greatly in his trying circumstances. “I suffered a sudden stroke in March last year, this home is all I have,” he said.
GIBB was appointed by the KwaDukuza Municipality in August 2003 as project managers and engineers to assist in upgrading the existing informal settlement of Etsheni and Njekane through the construction of 1 980 low-income houses and municipal services.
The priority of proper housing for all South Africans, echoed by Nelson Mandela in 1995 at the closing ceremony of the United Nations Habitat II African Housing Minister`s Conference in the US World Trade Centre, has been immortalised in Groutville.
“The world can be divided into those countries where the nation is comfortably housed, and those where housing is part of a daily struggle for survival. Most countries in Africa, including South Africa, fall into the latter category. This is a reflection of the challenges we face to ensure that our people do indeed enjoy a better life,” Mandela said.
Sector Unit Manager, for the Kwazulu-Natal region, Nokuphumula Mkhwanazi explained that the Groutville project came with challenges, however significant progress has been made in recent months, especially with GIBB’s contribution to social upliftment.
“The development was approved in May 2010, with the funding approved by the Department of Human Settlements in June 2010. Labour intensive construction was one of the objectives on this project and this has been a success in terms of ploughing back to the community. The project reached 18% of the 20% targeted contract participation goal of local labour employment,” he said.
GIBB supplied 20 community care homes with furniture such as stoves and fridges. These community care homes accommodate orphans with their house mothers and there are six children on average living in one care home.
“A significant challenge faced by this project has been sanitation. The Department of Human Settlement’s subsidy for low income housing allows for basic services. Due to the density of the development and the fact that it is in an urban environment, the ILembe District Municipality and KwaDukuza Municipality reached an agreement that the project should be developed with waterborne sanitation and not ventilated improved pits (VIPs) as originally planned for,” said Civil Engineer, Sean McCormick.
“The KwaDukuza Municipality decided to continue with the project, constructing houses and civil services while sourcing funding to allow for waterborne sewers,” he continued.
“Despite the challenges, the houses are now being completed and handed over with VIPs as the interim solution to sanitation. Waterborne sewers will be provided in the near future, with bulk infrastructure already under construction,” explained McCormick.
“At all three handover ceremonies, political principals cut the ribbons on three different houses. The significance of these houses is that they each belong to priority beneficiaries such as an elderly woman, a disabled member of the community who heads his/her family and the child headed family in the local community,” concluded McCormick.
Streamlining efficiencies in tenders
Streamlining business through systems and efficiencies is non-negotiable in a highly competitive and often saturated marketplace – but in the quest to cut costs and still remain efficient, quality cannot be compromised.
“Quality control is essential to building a successful business, it ensures adequate delivery of products and services that meet or exceed client expectations,” said Virginia Voigt, National Quality Manager.
“Sufficient quality control and measures also form the basis of an efficient business that minimises waste and operates at high levels of productivity,” she added.
Voigt is responsible for establishing the processes needed for quality management systems and to warrant their correct implementation and maintenance. She is responsible for quality management and any requirement for improvement.
Quality is also a top priority of the Tenders department, led by Niri Jainath. She shared, “As the Head of Tenders, it is my responsibility to ensure that our tender submissions are of the highest quality and distinctively demonstrate our value proposition. This is achieved through the establishment, implementation and maintenance of the tender process.”
A high level of detail goes into a tender document especially with the various compliance requirements, and the omission of one of these requirements could render the tender disqualified. Therefore Jainath ensured that the tender process accommodates for stringent checks before submissions.
“High level research into the client’s business and industry requirements are coupled with internal knowledge to develop a client specific tender submission. Tenders are generally packaged according to the client specification. Resources vary between tenders, however general internal resources would comprise technical, editorial and production resources,” added Jainath.
The ISO 9001 is a quality control system based on an internationally recognised standard which is published by the International Organisation for Standardisation. The ISO 9001 provides a strong foundation for achieving a wide range of marketing and operational benefits. ISO certification audits are conducted annually. Internal audits are conducted according to audit plans which are compiled quarterly. This is to ensure that new, as well as long-running projects are audited.
“Preparing for an external audit takes months of planning and execution. We do this by ensuring that our new employees receive training on the quality system by the third month of their employment to understand the necessity and requirements of GIBB’s QMS. We conduct regular internal audits (last financial year, we completed 145 audits) which plays a pivotal role for the external audit and managing risks. The success of a quality audit is dependent on every employee at every level to conduct their environment in line with the highest quality standards and bring quality into their everyday work life,” expressed Voigt. The firm is re-certified until June 2018.
“We are extremely proud of this achievement and it shows that we have a robust system which is effectively and efficiently implemented and maintained. It gives management confidence in investing in the management system. This achievement also keeps us on a competitive edge and it gives us motivation to continuously improve our output,” commented Voigt. Having an ISO certification also has benefits for tenders, as Jainath explained, “Being ISO certified also gives credible weight to our proposals by providing assurance to our clients that we are compliant with international quality standards.”
However, even with the backing of ISO, industry challenges and competition still exist.
“We regularly face issues such as poorly defined tender scopes, lengthy procurement processes from submission to award and decentralised procurement systems. Process management is a large part of my role and we attempt to continually streamline this process,” affirmed Jainath.
Both the tender process and quality control procedures are vital as we consult on several mega projects.
As Voigt summarised, “When quality is incorporated into your everyday work life, it becomes a habit. The system enables us to execute high standard deliverables which makes an impact on clients’ impression of the firm. The ultimate aim is client satisfaction and clients can be assured of receiving good quality services,”