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Pragma | 30 Years in the making

2020 might forever be known as the year in which Covid 19 struck, but life goes on despite this and many other challenges that businesses face. It is with this mindset, that we take a look back at an engineering firm that was born on the first of June 1990.

“Politically South Africa was in chaos when we decided to start Pragma. Now it is 30 years later and the world is going through another big change. But change also brings opportunities and is the reason why I am positive about Pragma’s future,” says Pragma CEO Adriaan Scheeres.

During the late 80s and early 90s physical asset management wasn’t on the business radar screen, the industry suffered from equipment availability, reliability and basic maintenance management principles which negatively impacted companies’ ability to meet production targets.

Pragma’s inception

The idea behind the business concept for Pragma first presented itself in 1984 when Adriaan Scheeres, Pragma’s chief executive officer, started working on his thesis based on locomotive maintenance as part of his Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering specialising in Information Technology at the University of Stellenbosch. Later, when he did his national service in the navy where he was responsible for support logistics for submarine maintenance the importance of this concept reaffirmed itself. Here Adriaan met Arnold Botha, the current Pragma Academy managing director.

At the time they weren’t friends, but destiny brought them together. Adriaan and Arnold realised that very little of the best practices they have come accustomed to were used in the private sector and that there simply was no structure in place to optimise companies’ huge investments in physical assets. The dynamic duo decided to seize the opportunity in the market to deliver maintenance and asset management services and tools to support organisations’ equipment availability, reliability and performance objectives. They sat down and got to work.

Money was tight during those early years, but they opted to take the leap of faith that they could develop sufficient cash flow to support themselves and their families. While the management of physical assets was the passion of all involved, they had to take whichever work that they could get. But with time, dedication and tenacity the company has grown into a thriving organisation that offers a comprehensive asset management service across the globe.

Formalising Asset Management

Asset management is all about the balancing act of juggling three elements – performance, cost and risk – to achieve the best result. In general, you can reduce cost but you normally incur more risk. For example, you can cut back on your car’s maintenance to save money in the short term, but you increase the risk of breaking down and you might end up spending more money if the fuel efficiency is reduced. Therefore, the key to optimal asset management is attaining the best balance between all three factors.

There is no one answer and the discipline of asset management is all about constantly seeking balance. Pragma has been committed to developing practical solutions for industry. The result is Pragma’s Asset Care Pack, a set of asset management business processes, tools and value accelerators. It is The Pragma Way. These processes and tools are developed and improved based on pro-active research of asset management best practices and trends combined with the experience of our consultants and engineers. This work has resulted in a collection of intangible assets.

By packaging our intellectual property in this way, our clients are assured that they benefit from engineered asset management solutions, geared for success. It gives organisations a comprehensive and benchmarked view on the status of asset management across all operations in their organisation. Combined with the Asset Management Improvement Planning (AMIP) framework, Pragma has assisted global organisations with a fact-based tool to identify, scope and prioritise asset management improvement initiatives.

A software system is a critical component of a sound enterprise asset management system. In support of this belief, we have developed On Key, a connected asset management suite. The suite redefines traditional lines of enterprise software in the asset management segment. It empowers clients with an integrated fit-for-purpose solution, as opposed to a generic set of functionalities.  The On Key Connected Asset Management Suite is a purposefully crafted set of platforms with an enterprise asset management system (EAMS) at its core. The EAMS is the system of record for all the primary asset management processes and is extended through supporting platforms. This strong information system backbone makes Pragma unique in its ability to offer a complete integrated asset management solution that stretches across software, training, consulting, services and focused expertise.

As organisations place an increased focus on Industry 4.0 and digital transformation, getting the right platforms in place that supports data collection, transformation and processing across all asset-related processes are critical. The On Key suite allows all stakeholders and machines to contribute to the asset management information layer. It collects in-time data from assets with IoT technology; collect field data from field engineer or citizens through mobile digital experiences; automate and action the right activities at the right time, and offer decision-makers custom metrics and intelligence.

Adding training to the mix and modernising our offering

To aid our clients in entrenching asset management (AM) best practices, we have invested extensively in training. The Pragma Academy with its team of engineers and learning specialists combines our AM consulting experience with adult learning principles to create training courses that are both memorable to the learners and value-adding to our clients. Our role-based learning pathways provide a clear learning journey for the core technical positions in an organisation, resulting in qualifications or accreditation where possible. Our learning management system and associated virtual classroom platform, are available to provide our clients with a full blended learning experience. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated our conversion to blended learning, including the effective use of virtual instructor-led training. Corporate clients such as Anglo American have already benefited from this new approach and were able to continue their training plans, despite the current volatile and dynamic circumstances. The feedback from the learners often indicates that they are more engaged during these sessions than in a traditional classroom environment.

“We are living in exhilarating times where the world of learning is changing rapidly, in tandem with advances in technology and the unfolding of asset management as a discipline. These changes enable us to give our clients a learning experience like never before,” says Arnold Botha, who is heading up the Academy.

Expanding our end-to-end asset management portfolio

During the last five years, we endeavoured to expand our service portfolio and acquired a facilities management company, formerly known as SFI. Seeing that we already help our clients improve the performance of their equipment, we decided to extend that offering to the facilities they occupy and ensure safe and pleasant working, shopping, healing or leisure environment. True to form, our approach included digitising processes and enabling the users of facilities to partake in the care of their facilities with smart applications that action speedy maintenance work.

The addition of a condition monitoring company, Martec, further enhanced our offering and paved the way to fully incorporate reliability engineering into our services. It also enhanced our IIoT offering. Today, many clients benefit from our integrated approach which allows for 24/7 monitoring of critical equipment. With carefully defined thresholds and alarms, processes are automated to instantly trigger notifications to relevant parties and prompt specific actions.

To extend our condition monitoring capability, Pragma tapped into the possibilities that Industry 4.0 and IIoT connected edge devices and sensors offer. While many companies merely digitise their assets to track performance, we complete the cycle by integrating triggers into the EAM system that produce job cards and action the relevant field engineers, contractors or artisans to perform corrective work. IIoT offers endless benefits in the world of maintenance. Currently, we’re working on several off-the-shelve solutions for critical equipment.

With the acquisition of CMS, based in the Netherlands, we gained access to a wealth of experience in the water purification industry. Virtual consultation makes it possible for all our clients across the globe to tap into this knowledge base and secure safe water for their customers.

Pragma’s growing footprint

During the past 30 years, Pragma has increased its global footprint with regional offices and representation in Brasil, Europe and Mexico, while partnerships with various companies around the world allow us to take our services into many more territories.

As a South African country, Pragma’s heart remains in Africa. Our African investment partner, the Reatile Group, is specifically focused on our global expansion in the Oil and Gas industry. Within the South African context, we are committed to transformation. We are well underway on this journey and are proud of achieving a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) rating and for qualifying as an Empowering Supplier in South Africa.

As an organisation, Pragma is positive about the future and knows that the demand for our products and services will continue to grow. We look forward to serving our current and new clients for the next 30 years.

“The next-generation asset management solutions will be informed by real-time data such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive asset reliability. Pragma has the aspiration to be a key player in this new area of asset management.” concludes Adriaan.

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