Company specialises in adding value to coil and sheet processing.
Metal is money, whether it’s raw stock, work-in-process or finished goods. Metal processors have spent many hours figuring out ways to minimise work-in-process and get finished goods out the door as fast as possible. That’s how they are able to free up funds and stay competitive. They have become adept at turning assets (raw material) into cash (purchased goods) in a very efficient manner. Turnaround time is the name of the game for most coil and sheet processing operations.
But when you talk about raw coil stock, that’s another matter. A processor can apply lean thinking in an effort to minimise raw material inventory, but supply chain reality dictates that it has to have a certain amount of material on-hand to be responsive to unpredictable customer demands. That need to be responsive happens to tie up a lot of funds. As a percentage of sales, direct material costs can account for a sizeable amount.
Aeroton Steel’s business includes coil processing, such as cutting-to-length and slitting material
Coil slitting of material
“But it is not just about coil processing – cutting-to-length or slitting material. You have to add value. At one time a metal service centre would have been able to get away with limited offerings to customers, but those days are over. Additionally, flexibility has become very important,” said Martin Flekser, one of two Directors at Aeroton Steel.
Flekser and partner Anthony Rakusin established Aeroton Steel in 1994 and from the beginning they realised that they would have to add value to the metal processing services that they were performing.
Flekser and Rakusin worked together in the steel industry for eight years prior to starting Aeroton Steel. Flekser had a strong connection to the metal engineering industry as his father had been involved in it since the late 1940s.
“Our company started off as a steel merchant, together with a component of cash and carry business to the public as well as servicing the DIY market. We were supplying steel and steel accessories and other related processing equipment (cutting and grinding discs), materials (paints) and hardware for the DIY user. This is still a service we offer. The growth of the business has been in sheet and plate, both in standard sizes and processing to customer requirements,” explained Flekser.
Cutting-to-length of material
One of the latest machines to be installed is a cut-to-length line employing a flying shear. The project has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This machine will allow extra capacity together with the prospect of opening new avenues for Aeroton Steel
“Anthony and I realised that there was a great need for supplying processed sheet or plate cut-to-size to the fabrication industry, other than just standard sizes. This process would establish our service centre as an extension of the customer’s factory floor.”
“It’s always been our philosophy that you have to offer a service or services that the customer wants and not what you want to offer them. At the same time, you have to be unique. As a result, we believe we changed the methodology of selling a piece of steel.”
“Together with a market leading braai and fireplace manufacturer, we implemented a pilot run of cut-to-size, based on ‘just-in-time’ philosophy. the result was that the customer soon experienced an improved efficiency output, together with huge cost savings. The process eliminated the off-cut factor, reducing stock holding, and improved turn around and cashflow.”
Aeroton Steel have now installed a new JFY fiber laser that has a cutting table of 3 000mm by 1 500mm and the machine was installed by Puma Machine Tools
“With the installation of the JFY fiber laser for us it is no more just cutting squares, rectangles and strips. With our nesting software we can now cut all sorts of shapes and sizes of components, maximising each sheet so there is very little to offer the scrap merchant.”
“The managing of the process is vital whereby the supplier has to be intrinsically involved in the planning and production, to secure material and supply it timeously. Specific material can be procured that suits certain sizes and grades of material. As the concept grew and more customers engaged, a nesting programme was developed enabling maximum material utilisation.”
Aeroton Steel subsequently purchased a few more guillotines. The beginning of the real expansion of the company took place in 1996 when the partners had a large purpose-built factory erected in Aeroton, Gauteng. At the same time the company expanded into decoiling and coil slitting.
There are now several guillotines in operation and galvanised, cold rolled and hot rolled material is processed. Thicknesses vary between 0.5mm and 16mm.
Further expansion took place whereby the adjacent property was developed for warehousing of coil and plate.
Decoiling and cutting-to-length
Decoiling cut-to-length and coil slitting remains one of the main focuses of the business today.
The company now has several cut-to-length machines, processing hot rolled, cold rolled and galvanised material.
The company culture has always been to buy new machinery, with integrated parts for repairs and maintenance. All maintenance is performed in-house, with spares and tools available on site.
A planned maintenance programme is consistently managed.
The latest project, being a cut-to-length line, has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This machine will allow extra capacity together with the prospect of opening new avenues.
Expansion into fiber laser cutting
“Decoiling, coil slitting, cut-to-length and size and blanking will remain as our core services but again we have remained true to our philosophy of offering a service that the customer wants. You could also call it a diversification strategy but essentially it is adding another service that is similar to the services that we already offer.”
An adjacent property was developed for warehousing of coil and plate
Decoiling, coil slitting, cut-to-length and size and blanking will remain as Aeroton Steel’s core services
“One of the best ways to expand your business is by increasing your value to existing customers. They design and fabricate parts and products and we need to make it as seamless and effortless as possible for them to get the most out of their production systems and equipment.”
“This is the very reason we have now installed a new JFY fiber laser that has a cutting table of 3 000mm by 1 500mm. Since the fiber laser cutting machine technology made a grand debut in the industry back in 2010, fabricators have marvelled at the speed at which the machines cut, particularly thin metal. These days, speed is king. A high-powered fiber laser coupled with automation can feed an enormous number of downstream processes. It has made modern metal fabrication extraordinarily productive. The machine has been installed by Puma Machine Tools.”
“The story of high-powered fiber laser technology is not just about decreasing processing time in laser cutting. It is also about the other advantages that it offers. You can achieve a sharper, cleaner cut that can eliminate other downstream processes, operating costs are lower, material yield is higher and you can optimise your process using advanced laser cutting software.”
Processed material strapped and ready for delivery
Aeroton Steel also offers press brake bending services
“For us it is no more just cutting squares, rectangles and strips. With our nesting software we can now cut all sorts of shapes and sizes of components, maximising each sheet so there is very little to offer the scrap merchant. Although most of the material that we cut is mild steel we can now offer processing of materials such as aluminium and stainless steel. We can even offer material cut in a circular form or with holes in it.”
“We do have a CNC punching machine where we can do round, square, rectangular, nibbled and oblong holes on sheet metal but these are all punched. Punching is an important part of the sheet metal processing landscape. Lasers might be limited to flat parts, and they can’t tap holes or form louvres and countersinks. Punch presses, on the other hand, require expensive tooling, especially when odd shapes are called for. Nibble marks and burrs are common, giving lasers a slight edge in component quality. Granted, punch presses can knock out holes like there’s no tomorrow, but for complex part profiles, a laser is the clear winner.”
Aeroton also carries stock of sections – solid bar, tubes and lip channel
The guillotining department
“In business, success is often the product of a company’s vision, the aspirations for the future and the plans for creating opportunities and managing growth. Differentiation from the competition is an important factor in uncovering and realising those opportunities. This typically means doing things better, more efficiently, and more economically than anyone else. Continually challenging the way things have been done in the past and viewing them from a new perspective ultimately leads to innovation and a strong competitive edge.”
“We want to be able to respond to customer needs quickly, delivering processed material to them within days rather than weeks as well as being able to ensure that they are fabricating before we leave their facility.”
For further details contact Aeroton Steel on TEL: 011 494 3666 or visit www.aeroton.co.za