By Staff Reporter
A first of its kind at a time when government has over the year’s encouraged companies to make use of import substitution to reduce the country’s import bill , engineers and technicians at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) Mechanical Engineer’s (MEs)Workshops have saved the country more than US$500 000 in foreign currency by designing and manufacturing a load bank.
A load bank is a machine that mimics a load on wagons to test whether the loco has enough power to pull the load.
The test is conducted in static conditions in the workshops before a repaired locomotive is released into service. Putting a loco through the load bank allows engineers and technicians to check whether the repairs have been done properly and the locomotive would be able to pull the load.
The NRZ had load banks at its major workshops in Bulawayo, Dabuka, Lochinvar and Mutare. Only one load bank was currently operational in Dabuka whilst the rest had broken down . Locomotives were now being taken to Gweru for testing while in some cases, locomotives were released into service without the tests.
In a statement NRZ Public Relations Manager , Mr Nyasha Maravanyika said the development resulted in engineers in Bulawayo coming up with the idea to design a prototype load bank.
“Using material already available in the NRZ workshops, engineers in Bulawayo decided to design a prototype load bank.
With a zero budget, the team used material available in the NRZ Stores and from decommissioned locomotives to fashion the load bank. Working part-time on the project, the team took one year and a month to finish the prototype.
The prototype was successfully tested on 20 and 21 February 2021. The project is an example of import substitution projects being undertaken by the NRZ Mechanical Engineers Workshops to save the country scarce foreign currency by manufacturing equipment in-house.
A new load bank costs more than US$500 000 in the United States of America (USA) excluding freight charges”, said Maravanyika.