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Louis Cheyne: The Visionary Engineer Behind Gabion Baskets

Louis Cheyne: The Visionary Engineer Behind Gabion Baskets

Watch: Louis Cheyne’s Birthday Surprise

Louis Cheyne, the visionary behind Gabion Baskets, boasts an illustrious career in civil engineering that spans over three decades. His vast knowledge and expertise in the field have made him a highly respected and admired personality in the industry. Having made remarkable contributions towards the growth and progress of civil engineering in South Africa, Louis is a living legend whose name is synonymous with innovation and excellence.

As a stalwart in the field, Louis’ work has been pivotal in transforming numerous communities across the country. His unyielding dedication towards the development of robust infrastructure has had a significant impact on the lives of many. In recognition of his unwavering commitment towards improving the lives of others, Louis has earned himself a prominent place in the pantheon of civil engineering giants.

From his humble beginnings as a pupil at the Natal Roads Department to being the founder and managing director of Gabion Baskets, Louis has come a long way. Along the way, he has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge, which has been instrumental in shaping the trajectory of the civil engineering industry in South Africa.

A young Louis Cheyne in his childhood years.

Early Career

Born and raised in South Africa, Louis matriculated at the end of 1981 and joined the Natal Roads Department in January 1982 as a pupil civil engineering technician, specialising in materials testing. He worked in a Soils Laboratory for seven years before qualifying as a Civil Technician — a position he held in a laboratory in Estcourt for two years.

After working for the Natal Roads Department, Louis Cheyne joined Saunders and William Consulting Engineers in 1988/ 89 where he was asked to run a large civil engineering project for the company. Louis was responsible for road maintenance contract project in the Eastern Cape between Umzimkhulu and Stafford’s Post, a project that was valued at R40 million.

The project involved the rehabilitation of a major road network in the region, and Louis oversaw everything from planning to execution. His ability to effectively manage and deliver such a large-scale project helped him establish a reputation as a skilled civil engineer, and opened doors for him in the industry.

It was during this project that Louis was first exposed to gabions, which would later become a passion of his. As he was monitoring the Gabions being built on his site, he realised that they could be used in a variety of applications, including retaining walls and erosion control.

Following his success with the road maintenance project, Louis decided to leave Saunders and William Consulting Engineers in 1990 to join SAFCEC Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors. He worked as a lecturer there for civil engineering site foreman and construction supervisors who worked for civil engineering contractors. Although he enjoyed his time at SAFCEC, he found the work to be monotonous and similar.

In February 1992, Louis joined African Gabions as a sales representative, drawn by his interest in gabions and the opportunity to travel. He quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to technical manager of African Gabions in 1994. Louis held this position until the end of 1997, at which point he was asked to move to Johannesburg to run their Johannesburg branch.

It was during his time with African Gabions that Louis developed a deep passion and expertise for gabions. He saw the potential for gabions to revolutionize the construction industry, and began to think about founding his own gabion-focused company. In 1999, he was approached by Cape Gate, a steel producer in Vanderbijlpark, to work jointly with Maccaferri and Cape Gate to run the gabion division. Louis started up a company called Land Rehabilitation Systems in July 1999, and ran the company as the MD for about seven years. During this time, he continued to distribute gabion products and services throughout Southern Africa.

Founding Gabion Baskets

Louis Cheyne’s deep passion and expertise in gabions inspired him to take a leap of faith and start Gabion Baskets in June 2006. Even though he was working for Land Rehabilitation Systems, Louis wanted to create something of his own and be a shareholder. He got together with the owners of Barnes Fencing, with whom he had had discussions previously, and together they founded Gabion Baskets.

Like any startup, Gabion Baskets faced some initial challenges. For instance, they began making their gabions in Botswana before realising that producing them in South Africa would be more practical. In the beginning of 2009, they brought production back to South Africa and continued making gabions under the Gabion Baskets brand. But with Louis’ expertise and vision, they were able to overcome these challenges and have since become a leading player in the industry. Today, Gabion Baskets has offices in Durban and Cape Town and continues to grow and succeed.

Louis’ passion for gabions and his belief in their potential to revolutionize the construction industry have been the driving force behind the success of Gabion Baskets. He has applied his deep knowledge and experience to develop innovative and effective gabion solutions for various applications, including retaining walls and erosion control. This expertise has not only benefited Gabion Baskets but has also helped transform communities across South Africa. The company has been involved in numerous projects, including road and bridge construction, as well as river and coastal erosion control, which have made a positive impact on many people’s lives.

Louis Cheyne’s dedication to improving people’s lives through the development of sustainable and cost-effective infrastructure is a testament to his legacy as both a civil engineer and a visionary business leader.

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