This project aims to provide a Mechanical Engineering Workshop in Mbale to:
- Provide vocational training
- Provide employment
- Provide specialist support to other local businesses
- Generate profits to augment available funding for PONT projects
At Orb Electrical Steels in Newport (part of Cogent Power, a subsidiary of steel manufacturer Tata) a number of workshop machines became available, as they were no longer required by the business. One of the PONT engineers, who is employed at Orb, struck on the idea of shipping these to Mbale to set up a small machine shop business there, having seen on a visit that there was no such facility there. The idea was put to the PONT committee in Mbale, who endorsed it enthusiastically.
Generously, the General Manager of Orb, Mark Cichuta, agreed to the donation of the machines to PONT and also to the covering of the costs of shipping them to Mbale. The shipping agent P&O professionally packed the machines into the container free of charge.
In order to help us to provide as complete and viable a workshop as practical, the University of South Wales donated some additional tools and accessories, and, following an appeal on GTFM (Pontypridd’s local radio station), members of the public also donated various tools.
Support for the project has been provided by:
The Welsh Governement 'Wales for Africa' initiative.
The PONT partnership between the NGOs and local government in Mbale has proved highly beneficial in this project. Through the Bungokho LC3 Sub-county council a building has been provided for the workshop for an initial rent free period. The building had been a workshop many years ago, though it had been stripped of most of its assets.
The machines left Orb Works in the UK in January 2008, and arrived in Mbale in the April. During the visit to Mbale in the June the container started to be unloaded into the workshop. Not everything required had been able to be sent in the container, but, amazingly, it was found that the few items still remaining in the building were those that were unable to be sent in the container!
During the visit the engineers from the UK, together with the Ugandans who would run the workshop, planned the layout of the workshop and obtained prices for the installation of the machines and the general refurbishment of the building.
Following funds becoming available, the electrical wiring was started in October 2008. During the November 2008 visit a number of machines were bolted down to the floor and tested using a temporary electrical supply. These will be able to be used once the new wiring has been completed. A suitable existing electricity connection was already close to a few of the machines. These were fully commissioned during the visit.
Ceri Herbert, who designed the PONT logo, created a couple of possible logos based on that, specifically for the workshop business. These were taken on the Nov 2008 visit and the locals running the workshop selected their preference. This was then used to set up various template files on the PC (letter head etc).
Training was done on basic Health and Safety procedures, including doing risk assessments. It is the intention that good H&S processes will be adopted from the outset.
By mid November 2008 the workshop was already working on its first order – 100 chairs for a medical school. This order, involving basic fabrication, could be done with the equipment that was already up and running. A second order came in at the end of the month from another business in the area that required several 2inch diameter pipes to be bent to a specified shape for a job they had. This bending work was completed in about an hour using the customer supplied materials. The customer had discovered the workshop by ‘word of mouth’. This business was particularly welcome as it was specialised work of a type that the workshop is capable of that enhances the capability of other businesses in the area.
During 2009 the majority of the machines were installed, commissioned and tested.
During the first half of 2010 the installation of the remainder of the machines was completed. Also the electrical wiring of the office/admin side ofthe building was completed, and the sanitation and water supply restored. Aditionally a generator was installed to enable the workshop to continue working during the frequent failures of the mains electricity supply to the area.
In spring 2010 training was provided in business and first aid. It was planned also to do training in the more advanced use of the machines, but this was postponed due to travel difficulties in the UK due to the eruption of the volcano in Iceland. This training was subsequently delivered in autumn 2010.
In 2011 the workshop manufactured the first set of 15 bicycle ambulance trailers for the PONT medical IERS (Integrated Emergency Response System) from an existing design. Later in the year the first prototype of a new single wheeled hand stretcher was produced. This was designed as part of a collaborative project with the University of South Wales. A mechanical engineering degree student produced the design as part of their final year project. Over the following years a significant number of bicycle ambulance trailers, and single wheeled hand stretchers have been manufactured as the service has been extened to cover more communitities.
In 2013 we were saddened by the untimely death from cancer of Julius Masolo, the workshop supervisor. He was a key member of the workshop team from the outset and had contributed significantly to the development of the project.
The IERS also incorporated a small number of motorbike ambulances (manufactured by eRanger, in South Africa). With a significant increase in the number of these in 2014, the workshop expanded its role of supporting the IERS into maintaining and repairing these centrally.
In 2014 we were priviledged to host a visit by Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales.
The main machines sent included:
Abene Milling Machine
Jones & Shipman 540P Surface Grinder
Dean, Smith & Grace 1609 lathe
Wicksteed powered saw
Qualtas & Smith Radial Drill
Alba Shaper – type 4S
DoAll Band saw
Eagle Surface Grinding Machine 2A-2609
Churchill & Co Belt sander
2 wheel end grinder
Lapmaster 14 Grinder/polisher
BOC LD180 AC Welding Set
Keytona Roller Bender
Gabro BF620 Box Folder
The Building and Grounds
- Main Building
- Main workshop area 16x13m with large double external doors opening to a width 3.7m.
- Additional large area with similar large double external doors that will be split for use as:
- A showroom area for products
- Storage of raw materials
- 4 rooms each about 3.5m x 3.5m that will provide a
- Tool store
- Training room
- Kitchen/mess room
- A room with external access to accommodate the security guard
- Significant external covered areas
- Concrete loading ramp for lorries
- 6 tied cottages to potentially accomodate employees
- Extensive grounds. These may possibly be used to facilitate some of the environmental projects