Air Products South Africa, a leading manufacturer, supplier and distributor of industrial and speciality gases, has acquired a fleet of new tankers, and plans to invest in further capacity in the coming year.

These investments were seen as vital in order to service a growing customer base, as well as an increase in demand from existing customers, according to Hein van Tonder, Supply Chain and Bulk Distribution Manager at Air Products South Africa.

“The fact that our existing fleet was ready for an upgrade was another factor which led to this decision. Also, because of the increase in market demand, we knew the time was right to invest in a new fleet, specifically with a higher payload,” van Tonder says.

The new tankers, which Air Products imported into the country have increased payload for liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen.  This means the company can now deliver more tonnes of product to customers further afield in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

Air Products distributes a variety of gases to an even wider variety of industries, predominantly from its Vanderbijlpark air separation facility. Customers of bulk product include the petrochemical, mining and metals processing industries.

“The increase in payload means fewer kilometres for more tonnage, adding to our ability to better service our customers by keeping costs down and further ensuring security of supply,” says van Tonder.

Air Products prides itself on supply chain thought leadership and operational efficiencies, and believes that an effective and flexible supply chain is critical in maintaining a leading position in the gas industry.

“While being a producer of gas and gas products has always been our primary function, certain market drivers have forced us to change our focus to fine-tuning our supply and servicing capabilities. We see ourselves therefore not as a gas company, but a supply chain company,” notes Seelan Gounden, General Manager of Supply Chain Gas at Air Products.

A critical link in the chain is driver expertise in order to ensure the safe delivery of product, both on the road and at the customer’s site. Air Products thus puts driver training high on its agenda. Drivers are sent on ‘refresher’ courses on a quarterly basis, in order to instil safety awareness and hone driving skills. “Extensive training was under taken on the new tankers in order to ensure that optimum offloading procedures are observed,” says van Tonder.

“This training will be repeated bi-annually, to ensure operational safety and efficiency on an ongoing basis.”

“The investment in a new, state-of-the-art fleet of tankers forms an important part of our strategic focus, which is on continual improvement in our supply chain and service capabilities, while ensuring we are keeping up with market demand,” Gounden concludes.