Homegrown automation shows its abitities at Botswana salt pan.

March 2000 SCADA/HMI

Not even the remotest of locations on the African continent are immune to the age of automation.

Proof of this reality can be found in the sophisticated South African developed supervisory control and data acquisition (scada) system - Adroit - recently installed by soda ash mining operation Botswana Ash to monitor its pipelines and pumping sub-stations across the vast expanse of the Makgadigadi pans.

Exploiting the valuable sodium slurry found just beneath the crust of this seemingly endless cyclical pan requires miles and miles of pipelines linking hundreds of shallow bore holes to evaporation dams, from where sodium concentrate is eventually harvested and shipped to a state-of-the-art processing plant. Here the fine powder is separated and refined to eventually be sold as components used in products ranging from toothpaste to washing powder.

In a R300 000 first phase automation project, a 300 I/O Adroit package was installed by Centurion-based Specialist System Engineers (SSE) to allow ten flow meters, five pumps and three substations to be controlled through a radio network. "This is an African solution for an African operation in the true sense of the word, in that the telemetry system was also developed and refined in South Africa," SSE MD Gert Bezuidenhout reports. "When my partners and I left the military R&D environment in August 1994 to set up a private automation company, we utilised our unique expertise in developing what is still today the most powerful locally manufactured telemetry system," says Bezuidenhout.

In conjunction with Adroit Technologies, SSE went on to develop drivers and related software specifically designed for the ultra high-speed SSE telemetry system. Today the complete SSE/Adroit automation and control solution is successfully operating in applications ranging from Midrand Municipality's water treatment plants to Afrox's gas production operations.

"Without the local support of a fellow South African company, we would not have been able to achieve this," states Bezuidenhout. "The open-platform, user-friendly design of Adroit also lends itself to this type of customisation. These are rare attributes when it comes to scada systems." With an expected R10 million turnover this year, SSE is ready to launch its product worldwide. "We are negotiating with interested parties in Europe, South America and New Zealand, as well as certain Gulf states, for the worldwide distribution of our products," reveals Bezuidenhout, adding that the international standards documentation are already being drawn up. "This should see the 25% of exports we currently achieve growing to at least 60%."


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