Many residents of Toamasina, one of the most densely populated areas of Madagascar, were facing a dark Christmas, literally, in 2014.
The country’s limited power grid couldn’t adequately support the city of 200,000 on the east coast of the island nation and the government was looking for an answer, fast. Not only was the holiday just weeks away, but so was the harvest for litchi (also frequently spelled lychee), the strawberry-red fruit that provides a lot of jobs for the residents of Toamasina.
The country’s power utility, JIRAMA, contacted Cummins’ regional dealer in the country, Madagascar Automobile (Madauto), in November of 2014 asking for 6 megawatts of power by mid-December. Madauto, in turn, reached out to Cummins Power Generation in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“We were all very excited about trying to do something so quickly,” said Darryn Scheepers, Cummins’ General Manager for Dealer Development in Southern Africa. “Turning around a request like this would normally take 14 or 15 weeks. We were being asked to do it in in less than half that time.”
Following in-depth talks on how best to meet Toamasina’s needs, an order was placed on Nov. 25, 2014, for a fully-integrated solution consisting of six individual generator sets with a target delivery date of Dec. 13.
Scheepers said the Cummins team was lucky that one unit was already in Madagascar that was not being used. So now it was merely a matter of getting five units to the country and then to Toamasina.
The five units were immediately available from the Cummins Dubai Distribution facility. But the equipment needed to be modified so the generators could withstand the high humidity of Madagascar’s east coast. If generators stand idle for an extended period of time there, moisture can build up on the alternator wiring, which can lead to a complete failure.
The major modifications were available from Cummins Power Generation in Kent in the United Kingdom. The plant met its deadline and the material was soon on its way to Dubai.
After the proper alterations were made in Dubai, the generators were ready for shipment, which represented the next major hurdle.
Air travel was the only viable way to get the generators to Madagascar on time, but each of the generators had a dry weight of over 16 tons each and were 6,058 millimeters (mm) in length (almost 20 feet), 2,438 mm wide (about 8 feet) and 2,591 mm in height (about 8.5 feet).
They were packed in special containers that were transported from Dubai to Antananarivo, the capital and largest city in Madagascar, on one Antonov aircraft operated by a specialist French aviation charter company, Air Partner.
The Antonov carried the generator sets and a container with associated equipment. The team had to get special clearance by the relevant authorities to air freight the cargo. In addition, all fluids had to be drained and batteries disconnected to reduce any hazardous risks related to leakages and sparks before the plane could fly.
Once again, the team cleared the hurdle and the project remained on schedule.
After landing in Antananarivo on Dec.15, the cargo was directly loaded onto flatbed trucks for the final 500 kilometer leg of the journey. Each of the five generator sets was transported on its own truck, with the final stage of the trip taking about eight hours to reach Toamasina.
A competitor had also been invited to bid on the project, but was unable meet the strict deadlines. Working together, the Cummins team successfully met all the urgent deadlines and product specifications without compromising on quality or integrity.
“This project was immensely challenging,” Scheepers said. “Conference calls were held daily between Cummins South Africa, Cummins United Kingdom and Cummins Dubai in order to ensure that nothing was lost in translation and that everything ran according to plan. We couldn’t have done it without a tremendous amount of cooperation and collaboration among all of the parties involved.”
The generators, by the way, started producing power on Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve.
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