Surveyors talk tariffs, productivity and private practice principles

April 16th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT

The South African Geomatics Institute’s (SAGI) Northern Branches met for its annual general meeting on 5 April 2019 at the Tshwane University of Technology, where they also held a workshop on running a private practice the day prior.

In his capacity as a representative of the South African Geomatics Council (SAGC), Peter Newmarch gave attendees an overview of two framework guideline tariffs, one for land surveying and one for engineering surveying. Such guideline tariffs help establish professional standards and expectations, guiding clients by educating them about what the surveyor’s work entails, while helping surveyors combat the practice of undercutting in the industry. Precision in the work breakdown also brings further accountability to the profession.

Peter Newmarch

Peter Newmarch

Newmarch explained the guideline tariffs as different from the older, fixed tariffs of the 1980s, which are unlikely to make a return. Since land surveying work is reserved in legislation, the land surveying guideline tariff framework is the more advanced of the two frameworks at the moment. Concurrent legislation (the Geomatics Act and the Competition Act) is however proving a challenge, and the basis of fee determination is intensely scrutinised to ensure it is not anti-competitive. Other complexities include geographic differences in pricing and considerations for consequences of implementing guideline tariffs.

Altus Strydom

Altus Strydom

Despite this, the current primary guideline tariff framework articulates seven components for land survey work, calculated on a time-basis (charge units) and factoring in erven size into the tariff. The document will be discussed at the next SAGC meeting in May 2019, after which it will be circulated for comment.

Surveyors were also warned of changing contractual clauses which shift the risk of non-payment from contractors onto them, with wording such as “when paid” or “if paid”. The workshop on the previous day presented by Altus Strydom, a consultant from Runaway Success, included several other private practice tips, principles and knowledge, from understanding your business and devising an action plan, to getting work, managing finances, handy tools, and useful resources. Strydom cautioned attendees, who included university students, against common causes of business failures such as poor systems and lack of control, large projects that don’t work out, and poor response to change.

The keynote address dealt specifically with this last point, and the need to do things differently. Arrie van Niekerk, a business improvement practitioner from Tavanec, delivered his keynote on productivity. He opened his presentation with an evocative example of how the same system can produce different productivity outcomes by emptying three full cold drink bottles of the same size into a bucket in different ways, increasing the flow rate each time. His presentation was based on Dr Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, which accounts for variations and interdependence in systems (be it in an organisation or in individuals’ workflow), and distinguished between efficiency and productivity.

Arrie van Niekerk illustrating how the same system can have different productivity outputs.

Arrie van Niekerk illustrates how systems with the same constraints can produce different productivity outputs.

In this approach, efficiency is not a measure of performance, and does therefore not equate to profit. Instead, Van Niekerk focused on productivity as identifying and managing the point of constraint in systems/workflows and, with an understanding of variation and interdependence of systems, create buffers that protect capacity around points of constraint.

Koliven Reddy

Koliven Reddy

The meeting and workshop took place at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). The head of the  TUT Geomatics Department, Koliven Reddy, told delegates about the phasing out of its BTech Survey programme in favour a degree course, with the last intake for the old course being this year. He also asked that professionals help students gain work experience with in-work training, which he said helps address students’ expectations of their development in their careers. He also said the university is working on creating accredited short courses for professional surveyors to update their skills.

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