From Two-Person Venture to Digital Pioneer: GEECOM’s Evolution in Environmental Control Solutions
Established in 1984 as a humble two-person venture started by Gustl & Faye Mischkulnig, GEECOM has evolved into a prominent leader in South Africa’s Electrostatic Precipitator industry. Born out of a commitment to provide electrical maintenance and optimization services for air pollution control systems, GEECOM has thrived over 39 years, offering comprehensive solutions spanning engineering, design, manufacturing, supply, installation, commissioning, optimisation, and after-sales services.
Pioneering digital transformation, GEECOM’s journey began with a single Olivetti DOS-based computer and matured into a fully computerised operation, with a pivotal moment marked by the integration of Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault Pro. Today, the company stands as a beacon of environmental responsibility, recognised for its innovative technologies and esteemed partnerships with leading enterprises in the cement, paper and pulp, steel, chemical and petrochemical, as well as metallurgical and power generation industries in Southern Africa.
From its inception over almost four decades ago, GEECOM has exemplified a pioneering spirit, driving innovation and excellence in the realm of environmental control systems. This steadfast ethos, deeply ingrained from the beginning, propelled the company to undergo a transformative digital evolution, solidifying its position as a leader in the supply and installation of control and mechanical components for dry and wet Electrostatic Precipitators.
The journey was not without its challenges. GEECOM faced the intricate task of generating substantial volumes of high-quality technical drawings while efficiently managing large-scale models. The complexity heightened as the company adhered rigorously to the exacting standards of ISO 9001 and maintained a prestigious Health, Safety, and Environment NOSA 5 Star rating.
GEECOM’s collaborative expertise expanded as they engaged with diverse stakeholders in the value chain. Seamless sharing of models with structural engineers and interfacing with client plant and site layouts became a strategic imperative, ensuring the delivery of accurate, high-quality solutions.
Obtaining sign-offs and approvals from various stakeholders within the project ecosystem became a manual and labor-intensive task as GEECOM’s operations expanded.
Earning a reputation as a trusted advisor and the go-to experts for Electrostatic Precipitators led to a surge in required documentation and technical drawings during tender submission, fabrication, construction and after-sales service phases. Intelligently archiving and accessing these drawings became paramount, enabling GEECOM to efficiently respond to client requests, reduce internal resource strain, and uphold their commitment to timely and effective service delivery.
Recognising the need for advanced mechanical design software tailored to handle the volume and intricacy of their technical drawings, GEECOM sought the most up-to-date program specific to their requirements. Additionally, the company identified a crucial requirement for a robust data management solution to ensure compliance with the diverse needs of each project, particularly concerning the extensive number of drawings and individual components applicable to each unique undertaking. A priority for GEECOM was to implement a more efficient method for managing and tracking the approval process, aiming to accelerate approvals and streamline the concept of a single signature approval process. These strategic goals were essential for GEECOM to uphold its exceptional service levels and maintain its sterling reputation in the industry.
To meet the intricate challenges of generating high volumes of technical drawings, managing extensive design models, and adhering to rigorous quality standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 3834 and NOSA, GEECOM strategically adopted Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault Pro as technology solutions as part of their digital transformation journey. This decision stemmed from the necessity for a cutting-edge mechanical design program capable of efficiently handling the intricacies of their technical drawings and a robust data management solution to ensure project compliance with numerous drawings and components.
The implementation of these solutions was facilitated by Baker Baynes, whose philosophy centered on empowering clients to independently navigate and tailor the software to their specific needs. Justin Mischkulnig, General Manager at GEECOM, emphasized the transformative impact: “Baker Baynes’ philosophy of teaching their clients to catch fish instead of just catching the fish for them has really enabled GEECOM to take ownership of the software implementation and make it suit our own specific requirements.”
The integration of Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault Pro brought about transformative business benefits for GEECOM, marking a significant departure from manual, paper-based workflows.
Justin Mischkulnig, General Manager at GEECOM, underscored the elimination of manual processes, noting, “By automating the approval process, GEECOM is now able to discard the cumbersome manual paper-based approach.”
The collaborative capabilities of Autodesk Vault Pro and Autodesk Inventor played a pivotal role in enhancing communication among project stakeholders, particularly with structural engineers. The seamless sharing of models contributed to more accurate inputs, strengthening their implementation accuracy as well as their after-sales service.
Swift access to historical data and original drawings became a cornerstone of efficiency, as highlighted by Justin: “We can easily access historical data at the click of a button and efficiently address our client’s requests.”
This capability is particularly crucial for promptly addressing customer issues and providing seamless support.
One of the most significant improvements was the acceleration of the approval process. Previously, approval timelines were contingent on the physical availability of individuals, ranging from one hour to five days. With the implementation of Autodesk Vault, the process became independent of physical presence. According to Justin, individuals can now access the system remotely and approve documents within minutes, significantly reducing approval timelines.
Efficiency gains were further quantified by Fritz van Eeden, Head of Projects at GEECOM, who noted that batch approvals, which traditionally took a week, are now targeted to be completed within two days. This acceleration in the approval workflow contributes to quicker decision-making and project progression.
The transition from drawing-by-drawing approvals to batch approvals for assemblies and systems streamlined the overall process. Fritz highlighted the ease of finalising 20, 30, or 50 drawings in one go, simplifying and expediting the approval cycle. Projects that would typically take a week or more to approve are now wrapped up in just two days, saving time and enhancing overall workflow efficiency.
The collaborative partnership between GEECOM and Baker Baynes extended beyond software adoption, playing a crucial role in successfully implementing the Autodesk solutions. Notably, Baker Baynes’ support was instrumental in helping GEECOM to ‘catch up’ with their implementation and adoption of Vault, which faced severe setbacks during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Baker Baynes’ adept support personnel actively engaged with GEECOM, overcoming obstacles for optimal implementation. Their expertise seamlessly integrated hardware, software, and the human element, ensuring a holistic and effective implementation process. This support was particularly crucial in navigating the complexities of the Vault Data Management System, especially during a time of heightened challenges.
The adoption of Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault Pro marked a paradigm shift for GEECOM, delivering tangible benefits in terms of approval speed, collaboration efficiency, and after-sales service responsiveness. These enhancements solidify GEECOM’s commitment to innovation and operational excellence in the dynamic field of environmental control solutions.
Looking toward the future, GEECOM envisions an increased digital footprint, recognising the importance of permanent IT staff and continuous exposure to digital platforms. GEECOM aims to leverage digital platforms to multiply their capabilities. The ongoing efforts include the implementation of an ERP system, executed in phases to avoid confusion and optimise benefits. The initial phase involves utilising the Autodesk Vault to streamline processes such as Bill of Materials’ translation into requests for quotations and order placements, laying the foundation for significant efficiency outcomes. GEECOM remains dedicated to this digital transformation journey, ensuring that new hires possess digital proficiency, demonstrating their commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements.