As South Africa’s construction industry continues to battle against challenging economic conditions, the twin abilities to build a strong reputation and improve efficiency are being keenly felt. At C-Pro Construction, adaptability has become a byword in recent years.
C-Pro is based in the South African capital, Pretoria, with satellite offices in Johannesburg and East London in the Eastern Cape. The company has developed over the past couple of decades having launched in 2002.
“Our projects include commercial and industrial structures and educational institutions, although we have also undertaken residential housing projects. Our focus is entirely on construction,” says Eric Pretorius, Managing Director.
“We started out in 2002 as Armada Trading, and in 2008 it was decided to combine the various businesses, being construction and project management, which brought about the our name change to C-Pro Construction.
“From the outset our focus has primarily been on the commercial construction business although we have completed domestic housing contracts,” Pretorius recalls.
The C-Pro brand currently represents three divisions, with C-Pro Construction operating alongside sister companies C-Pro Civils and C-Pro Housing.
Pretorius indicates that much of the work takes place in the region surrounding head quarters, although C-Pro also has a presence in the Eastern Cape, where a major project is underway at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha. The scope of work is building lecture halls and administration offices.
“We aim to provide a consistently high standard of work, and delivering our projects to specification, and on time.
“Today we compete in the commercial tender market for projects of up to R200 million. Our expertise allows us to service the retail, office and light industrial markets, and we routinely undertake extensive refurbishment and re-development work on behalf of our clients,” Pretorius states.
C-Pro offers traditional Principle Contracting, Construction Management and Turnkey Development services.
In the present economic environment, the market remains fiercely competitive and C-Pro Construction is breaking new ground in unlocking value for clients through innovation, partnering and teamwork.
“There is an element of seasonality to what we do – and that impacts on the size of our workforce. We currently have 56 permanently employer staff members and 107 contract workers; but this is influenced with the volume of work we tender for, increasing and decreasing with the work volume. At this stage last year we had turnover in the region of R200 million whereas at present are nearer R60 million.
“We are seeing the low point of the market in 2015. It is challenging to compete when so many tenders are lost to the lowest tenderer. We have concentrated on quality delivery and have looked at ways to improve efficiency through forward planning which keeps our costs down,” Pretorius explains.
Pretorius says that at the moment the company is working virtually 100 per cent on public sector projects, as the Government looks to refurbish and build infrastructure. That of course puts large emphasis on C-Pro’s BEE rating which is Level 2.
“We are working on a number of projects for education facilities in the Eastern Cape as well as a renovation project for BMW in Pretoria,” he states.
Operationally, he says that presently the cost and continuity of work is a constant challenge. There are however infrastructure opportunities in remote areas – which of course puts an onus on forward planning to ensure materials arrive on site at the right time.
“There is an onus on the skill of the professional and a real need to get materials to sites on-time. Whilst we concentrate on buying from suppliers who benefit our BEE procurement rating, these are not always the cheapest options and we try to buy in advance to keep rates down. We also have to ensure these companies can deliver materials to the work sites on time when we need them. This is where careful planning is crucial.
“We use CCS computer software which includes a programme called Site Planning and has a function for long lead times,” Pretorius describes.
“Commercially we use better tendering processes; skilful tendering and then careful management of the work on-site to increase profits. That involves paying suppliers on-time and taking advantage of discounts for early payments, plus operating proper systems for waste control on-site all help to preserve margins,” he continues.
Over the past decade one area that C-Pro Construction has had to become mindful of has been the green movement. While this is perhaps more keenly felt within the design area, there is an impact on construction, as buildings are built to utilise alternative energy, with a range of different methods to cool down each construction.
“Whilst we haven’t trained out workers formally, when you are awarded such projects you are continuously on a learning curve and we have had plenty of experience working on green design projects,” states Pretorius.
Despite the slower start to 2015, Pretorius remains very positive about the next 12-18 months:
“There are new opportunities out there and the possibility of another R200 million for next year, but that all depends upon the adjudication process. We are currently in negotiations on a new project which should start next month, so watch this space,” he concludes.