A tale of two businesses: Evolving into a supplier to your suppliers

SI Systems have been integrating security, monitoring and controlling systems and platforms into the commercial and industrial space since 2001.

The emphasis of the business is to design, install and maintain systems such as camera surveillance, access control, fire and intruder alarms, lighting and even power consumption. Site surveys, total design, project planning, installation and associated civil works, network cabling (fibre and copper), as-built and operational documentation, maintenance, commissioning, training and the facilitation of SLA agreements all form part of the company’s service offerings.

“SI Systems has facilitated and implemented these systems for clients that are involved in diverse areas of business such as health care, utility, telecoms, manufacturing, banking, mining and government. All of them have different requirements in terms of what they need and want out of their system, some more high-tech than others. The common denominator though is knowledge matters and communicating that knowledge is even more important. And it’s not about keeping that knowledge to yourself,” said SI Systems founder Casper Combrink.

“The world has changed and security, monitoring and controlling is a big aspect of any organisation. Protecting your people and assets is a must and non-negotiable, whether you are in the UK, Australia or South Africa.”

Imisebenzi has recently purchased a CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table with a Hypertherm XPR300 plasma cutting system that has allowed the company to expand the scope of the business

The Hypertherm XPR300 plasma cutting system

“Through our experience in the industry we have developed a Building Management System (BMS system). The objective of the BMS system is to manage the sub-systems within a building to ensure a pleasant, controlled and safe environment. A BMS system can control all or some of the following in a building: HVAC, CCTV, access control, fire and intruder alarms, lighting and even power consumption.”

“With the evolution of the smartphone, we have the opportunity to improve notification systems to include vital information along with the standard message. Imagine having real-time access to a machine and production status from home or your holiday cabin. The idea sounds very desirable and is achievable these days. But, like an iceberg, there is more to it than meets the eye, and what you don’t see is far more important than what you do.”

The birth of Imisebenzi Steel-Worx
“Similarly, designing and installing the systems that SI Systems’ business has been built around, involves a multitude of hardware having been sourced and/or manufactured, installed and then getting everything to talk to each other with the software you use. But it is the brackets, poles, masts, flanges and many other auxiliary fixtures, enclosures, shields and fittings that have to be detailed and manufactured. This is more of a challenge than you would normally associate with installing a security system.”

“Sheet metal design. These three simple words can have a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom line. Ideally, effective, innovative, and creative sheet metal design ideas come early in the product design phase, because those ideas will influence the entire project, from the point of manufacturing to the product’s end use.”

“Additionally, effective sheet metal design should not set out to eliminate bending or welding, but instead uncover the most cost-effective ways to manufacture a component. The best designs exploit the strengths of these processes and minimise their weaknesses. The designer’s goal should be to maintain design intent while maximising manufacturing efficiency, and reducing or simplifying bending and welding can often help.”

In the centre is owner Casper Combrink. To his right is Casper’s wife Tania who looks after the financial and admin side of the business. To Casper’s left is Tinus Oosthuizen the Production Manager of the company, who has been with the company since 2007

One of the products that the company manufactures – an alarm control box

“In our business the designer must also take into account the appearance and aesthetic value of the metal work, while not losing the function that it is intended for. Requests for systems that tend to stand out, sending a clear, somewhat harsh message are very limited. The feel is to create a system that blends into its environment yet still provides functionality.”

“Getting this message across to our suppliers was becoming a challenge. We are designers and installers of systems so we relied on a number of suppliers and subcontractors to understand how we were thinking. Getting them to adapt and change to our needs was becoming more and more difficult. We understood that they have to buy metal in large quantities and then made their money by processing the metal but at low margins, especially as the market became more competitive. We were not the biggest consumers of metal so were not a priority. The situation made us realise that we would have to take control of this side of the business.”

“This led to the birth of our own metal processing subsidiary Imisebenzi Steel-Worx in 2015. In the beginning the processing we did was very rudimentary where we did a bit of manual pipe bending and welding. We also purchased a couple of Chinese origin press brakes but these have been a big disappointment and were not one of the best decisions we made.”

Components that have been cut on the new CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table

The Shock Box is a tamper proof enclosure and houses the necessary electrical components needed for electric fencing. They are very sophisticated these days and can be operated remotely and are also able to run on solar power

Purchase of a CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table with a Hypertherm XPR300 plasma system
“However, Imisebenzi took a giant leap forward in its processing capabilities in mid-2017 when we purchased a CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table with a bed size of 4 100mm x 2 100mm after seeking advice from the Hypertherm representative in South Africa.”

“The table is equipped with the Hypertherm XPR300 plasma system, which we believe is the first to be supplied in South Africa.”

“Laser cutting is renowned for delivering excellent fine feature and hole cutting thanks to its narrow kerf, roughly 0.2mm to 0.4mm on mild steel with oxygen and even narrower when using nitrogen to cut mild steel up to 25mm in thickness. Fiber laser also produces excellent cut angularity and can cut to very tight tolerances, in the range of 0.2mm.”

“However, Hypertherm’s invention of high definition class cutting, along with continued advances in torch and consumable technology and the introduction of XD technology in 2008, are responsible for markedly improving the cut capabilities of plasma over the past two decades. And now a new class of plasma cutting, called X-Definition™, is further enhancing plasma’s ability to tackle high precision applications. When installed on a high quality cutting machine, equipped with linear ways and elliptical racks, for example, Hypertherm’s new XPR300™ plasma system, featuring X-Definition cutting, is capable of maintaining ISO 9013 Class 1 and 2 tolerances and ISO 9013 Range 2 and 3 cut quality.”

“Further, an XPR300 plasma system can deliver edge surface finish that is generally smoother than fiber laser in the thicker ranges and extremely consistent edge quality over the full life of a consumable set.”

“The XPR300 300 amp mild steel process remains in Range 3 for nearly its entire process life of 1368 20-second cuts on 20mm plate.”

Components for the security business

Imisebenzi also has a couple of Chinese origin press brakes

“As plasma kerfs can range from 1.5mm thickness on very thin metal and up to about 5mm on 25mm thick material at 300 amps, a laser system can actually be the best option if extremely fine feature cutting or small holes (with a less than 1:1 thickness to diameter ratio) are required. But, if high quality perimeter cuts are called for, and tolerances in the range of 0.5mm are acceptable, the higher cut speeds associated with plasma, especially when cutting material thicker than 10mm, could make plasma a better option. At this thickness, for example, a 170amp plasma X-Definition process would deliver high quality cuts at speeds two times faster than a 4kW fiber laser using oxygen.”

“In addition, Hypertherm’s invention of the True Hole® process for mild steel in 2008 and further refined with the launch of the XPR300 provides the ability to easily fabricate bolt ready holes down to a diameter-to-thickness ratio of 1:1.”

“Another application which favours plasma is bevel cutting. Especially with the advent of True Bevel™ technology, it has become much more feasible to cost-effectively bevel cut right on the cutting machine and eliminate secondary operations. And, because cutting bevel angles increases the effective thickness of the plate being cut, plasma can have a significant advantage.”

“In addition, it is important to consider the initial investment cost associated with an X-Definition plasma system as compared to laser.”

Imisebenzi is a fabricator that offers cutting, bending, welding and pipe bending

Masts ready to be installed at a client

“Beyond this, plasma is a much more forgiving process when it comes to cutting so called ‘dirty’ steel such as plate with oxidation and other imperfections. It really makes no difference to the plasma arc. This is not true, however, with fiber laser. Lastly, while plasma does require personal safety devices for noise and glare protection, fiber laser systems require the construction of a safety enclosure around the entire system to protect from the potential harm of the fiber laser beam.”

Strategic partner for suppliers
“Our expansion plans for Imisebenzi have come about faster than we envisaged. We initially started the company to process components in small quantities that we were struggling to source and meet our own demands. We were either sourcing these components from subcontracting service centres or from our suppliers of the other hardware that we needed for our systems, who in turn would source them from subcontracting service centres.”

“It became clear to us that our suppliers were struggling to get on-time deliveries of components such as the brackets and flanges, for not only us but also for their own requirements. It was one of the main reasons that we established Imisebenzi but we did not foresee the potential to become suppliers to our suppliers.”

“At the beginning of 2017 we moved into our own 1 000m² factory in Apex Industrial, Gauteng. Once we purchased the CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table with a Hypertherm XPR300 plasma cutting system we knew we would have excess cutting capacity and of course so did our suppliers. It did not take long to further our relationship as strategic partners.”

Expanding the scope of Imisebenzi
“The purchase of the CNC Clear Cut FS plasma table with a Hypertherm XPR300 plasma cutting system has also allowed us to expand the scope of the business. Over and above the requirements that we need for our normal security, monitoring and controlling systems, we are now able to offer our services to cut mild steel up to 80mm, aluminium up to 50mm and stainless steel up to 75mm. Our pierce capacities are 45mm for mild steel and 38mm for both aluminium and stainless steel.”

“Added to this we have pipe and tube bending, welding and bending services that we can offer. In a sense we have become a fabricator with assembly services and we love to get involved in custom manufacturing for a client.”

“However, it has also enabled us to develop other products that we would not normally have contemplated manufacturing before our capital expenditure. Enclosures for the power and computer industries, is one example. With both our electrical and metal processing experience we have developed a product that we call the Shock Box.”

Imisebenzi also manufactures electric fencing

“The Shock Box is used mainly in conjunction where fencing is required i.e. on both game and agricultural farms. The Shock Box is tamper proof and houses the necessary electrical components needed for electric fencing. They are very sophisticated these days and can be operated remotely and also run on solar power.”

“This is one of a few new products that we are manufacturing and introducing.”

“Going forward we will continue to expand by adding more process services with the purchase of other equipment. Although we have only been in this factory a short while we can see that we are going to have to acquire more space under roof.”

“Currently we only have eight staff but this will also grow as we expand Imisebenzi. It only makes up 40% of the turnover at the moment but this will change as more and more engineering companies become aware of the services we offer.”

For further details contact Imisebenzi Steel-Worx on TEL: 011 892 1548 or visit www.sisystems.co.za