It was not so long ago that we celebrated National Heritage Day (24 September), a public holiday in South Africa. The day is set aside for all South Africans to celebrate our rich heritage. Through various initiatives the day has been unofficially coined as National Braai Day.
The day was not originally intended to be an official South African public holiday. But when the Inkatha Freedom Party, a political party with a large Zulu membership, refused to sign the Public Holiday’s Bill that was being presented to the Parliament of South Africa in 2005 because it omitted the inclusion of Shaka Day, a day that commemorated the famous Zulu King Shaka, a concession was made.
Quite aptly, just as King Shaka was instrumental in uniting Zulu clans into a cohesive nation, Heritage Day (appointed in place of King Shaka Day) encourages South Africans to come together to celebrate the cultural heritage and the diversity of our rainbow nation.
LK Plating Services manufactures a range of braai equipment and accessories which are marketed under the LK Products brand
The day is likened, by some, to the annual celebrations cherished by other leading nations of the world; Thanksgiving Day for Americans, St Patrick’s Day for the Irish, Bastille Day for the French and Australia Day for Australians. However turkey, kangaroo and stews are not on the menu of South African braai masters, although stews known as potjiekos are cooked in a three-legged cast iron pot and are very popular with most South Africans.
However, it does not take a national holiday for South Africans to be encouraged to light a fire and cook some food, generally meat, and have a braai or a barbeque (BBQ) as it is referred to in the rest of the world. From spit-braais to potjies, chisa nyama and snoek-braais, South Africans love getting together around a fire to cook some food, share some fellowship and more. Situated in the southern hemisphere South Africa is famous for its sunshine, even in winter. Equally we love the outdoor life and what better way is there to enjoy this lifestyle than by having a braai with family and friends. Picnic spots in South Africa are renowned for their natural beauty and the opportunity they provide for peaceful escapes, and of course to braai and socialise. Ultimately though, it is the great outdoors of South Africa – locations and weather – that we love, and cooking on a fire, whether it is gas, wood or charcoal, and the cooking and taste outcomes are all part of the experience.
LK Plating has added a CNC laser to the cutting department where they installed a 3,2 kW Trumpf TruLaser 2525, purchased from Retecon Machine Tools. The TruLaser 2525, which was installed in February 2015, has a working area of 2500 x 1250mm, can cut mild steel up to 20mm and stainless up to 12mm. The introduction of the machine has seen a 45% reduction in scrap
All over South Africa there are braai buffs and grill enthusiasts who profess to be the best at our national pastime before the social occasion takes place, and even more so once a few alcoholic beverages have been consumed. We all have our own theories and methods, which have grown out of the many cultures and foods available in South Africa. Recipes abound and none more so for our famous sausage, boerewors. For those of you that don’t know, the word boerewors comes from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage). Even the art of cooking boerewors is hotly contested.
What about the equipment, accessories and utensils we use?
Nowadays braaiing is a lifestyle. It provides relaxation, the smell of the meat cooking, the sociability of friends and family, and the flames of a real fire. It is where we can prepare an entire meal and come together. Patio areas, balconies and entertainment areas form part of the house, and this has created the need for well-designed and modern braai products.
Whether winter or summer, we love to braai. Yet, with all the technological advances when it comes to what we braai on, a braai is no longer just a braai. There are built-in, freestanding, charcoal, ceramic, gas, dual, combo and grill options, to name a few. Although the types of braais vary dramatically, there are really only two categories, which have resulted in two very distinct camps of fans – gas or charcoal.
LK Plating processes about 300 tons of wire a year with 60% of production designated for external clients. A new machine that arrives on the shopfloor in December 2015 will allow the company to extend its capabilities in wire bending to 10 and 12mm in any 3D shape possible. The company already has four machines bending wire components of 4, 5, 6 and 8mm
Although everyone has their own preferences, and whether you see gas as a quick fix or charcoal as an authentic way to braai, choosing a braai option that is right for you is essential for your entertainment and braaiing needs.
Nothing can quite beat the smell of wood or charcoal burning while anticipating a great meal. For those sitting firmly on the more traditional side of things, braaiing is not braaiing without wood, charcoal, camaraderie and tradition. The whole process holds a particular statement to us as South Africans and as such, for many of us, charcoal and wood braais are the only way. They symbolise our relaxed culture and the art of making a fire – for which we are renowned the world over.
Equally important is the food that we choose to braai. Whether a small braai for a family or a large ‘dop en tjop’ gathering – out in the bushveld or on the beach or in the backyard – we all have our favourites. This could be boerewors, kebabs, chicken flatties or chicken pieces, pork and lamb chops, rashers, steaks, sausages of different flavours and thickness, racks of spareribs, and, in coastal areas, but worth offering inland, fish, prawns and crayfish. You might not consider vegans and vegetarians at a braai, but they do attend (they enjoy socialising just as much as the carnivores!), and there are plenty of great vegetarian and vegan options to braai. You can proffer all sorts of veggie and soy meats.
You will also need to take stock of all the things that are part and parcel of a braai – wood, charcoal, firelighters, tongs, lighters, wooden and stainless steel skewers, and braais in all their guises – and the accouterments for the meat itself, such as herbs and spices and marinades.
“You would be surprised to see the range of mesh products and braai grid options that we manufacture.”
The meat or fish that you cook might be the real stars of the braai. But it is the equipment, accessories and utensils that we use that add to the experience. It is a multi-million rand industry these days, and again we all have our own preferences as to what equipment we purchase and use.
Braais come in all shapes and sizes – fixed, mobile, with or without a dome, with a barrel-shaped or rectangular bowl, equipped with fold up legs for easy storage or disposable – and are always on someone’s ‘to get’ list. Again this is a personal choice and is dependent on how you like to braai.
So to, is the choice of the accessories and utensils. Whether they are manufactured in mild steel, aluminium or stainless steel. Whether they are chrome or zinc plated. Grids, tongs, pokers, rakes, scoops, pans, forks, knives, spoons, lifters, brushes, skewers, holders, rings, baskets, racks, stands, plates, screens, grillers – there are many items to choose from that you feel might enhance your expertise and put you into the ‘expert’ cook bracket and of course give you bragging rights.
In fact the braais, accessories and utensils are essential. Every braaier worth his “World’s best cook” apron can make a fire and control the wood or charcoal heat source (this is debatable), knows in which order to place meat and fish so that they are ready at the same time, turns the meat at the right moment, and is familiar with exactly where and when to place foil-wrapped whole foods such as potatoes, onions and mealies on top of the coals so they cook to perfection.
“LK Products was started by my father Lourens Kriel in 1987 as a result of his belief that he could manufacture braai tongs that everybody would love and would want as a must have,” said Johan Kriel, Director of LK Products and LK Plating Services.
A large flat basket and spit with a rotisserie manufactured by LK Plating
The origins of the company began with the manufacture of braai tongs
“It really is a ‘starting up in a garage’ story. Dad arrived home one day with braai tongs. He liked the shape and feel of them and said “Look at these tongs I just bought. I am sure I can make them for half the price.” Off he went to buy a five metre length of aluminium flat bar and that is where it all started. Before we knew it the family was involved in ‘bashing’ and ‘bending’ this aluminium into shape and the first braai tongs were manufactured. LK Products was established with limited resources but with a vision of expanding. Our first sales were via the braai retailers and soon we could not make enough of them, especially once orders started to materialise from the rest of the country. The neighbour’s children were even roped in to help with packaging, postage and deliveries. The design of those braai tongs has been improved on over the years and they are still very much part of the business.”
LK Plating Services
Taking advantage of the South African tradition of braaiing, which in some respects is a way of life, is LK Plating Services, situated in Blackheath, Western Cape.
The company was only established in 2002 when Johan Kriel decided to purchase an electroplating plant, which consisted of two acid zinc, one nickel and one chrome bath.
“We immediately moved the plant to Blackheath and occupied an area of about 350m². In our first month of operation we processed about 500 components for one client. This has subsequently grown to an average of 80 000 components a month processing varied volumes and types of components, with a capacity of 100 000. We do not do any ‘off the street’ work but rather set up large volume contracts. We may have a limited number of clients in this area but still offer a 48-hour turnaround time. In time we will increase the capacity as we grow.”
“We have kept abreast with the technology in electroplating and invested in more equipment – we now have eight acid zinc tanks, three nickel tanks and one chrome bath, and also offer copper plating services. Additionally we have installed heat exchangers that make the operation ‘green’ and save on electricity costs.”
Spot welding of mesh and grids
LK Plating has kept abreast with the technology in electroplating and invested in more equipment. The company now has eight acid zinc tanks, three nickel tanks and one chrome bath and also offers copper plating services. Additionally LK Plating has installed heat exchangers that make the operation ‘green’ and save on electricity costs. The electroplating department is now one of six distinct departments and service elements within the company
“The electroplating department is now one of six distinct departments and service elements within the company.”
“In 2005 the company expanded its capabilities into manufacturing. LK Products had reached a position where because of the volumes of sales it was experiencing it needed more control on the manufacturing side and reliability of delivery.”
“I was wanting to expand LK Plating Services capabilities over and above the electroplating services. The fit was perfect as we were already involved in electroplating a number of braai components.”
“You could say we had a greenfield situation to work with. We had the opportunity to change LK Products manufacturing procedures to eliminate wastage in terms of component manufacturing, which would eliminate scrap, while at the same time vigourously employing a policy creating jobs, by taking on unskilled workers and training them so that they had a skill for the future.”
“At the same time manufacturing was complimented with investment in the latest production equipment. We still have this policy in the company but labour disruption, increased production requirements, and the drive to be as efficient as possible in our manufacturing processes has led the company to invest more in capital equipment over the last few years.”
“The mix of components the company cuts, bends, forms and welds are many. We process bar, sheet, plate, mesh and wire in most types of material. This has led us to form distinct divisions, depending on the discipline, and we now occupy 3000m² over eight factory units. Assembly and dispatch of the LK Products braai products forms a separate entity.”
Installation of a 3,2 kW Trumpf TruLaser 2525
“Besides electroplating, these departments include welding, spot welding of sheet metal, spot welding of mesh panels, CNC wire bending, and more recently we added the CNC laser cutting department where we installed a 3,2 kW Trumpf TruLaser 2525, purchased from Retecon Machine Tools.”
The TruLaser 2525, which was installed in February 2015, has a working area of 2500 x 1250mm, can cut mild steel up to 20mm and stainless up to 12mm.
Components in the final stage before assembly
The introduction of the machine has seen a 45% reduction in scrap as well as the decommissioning of the guillotine department, and the reduction in reliance on stamping by the eccentric presses. Additionally finished component quality has increased dramatically and there is very little, if any, deburring done on sharp edges. Components that were being cut outside are done inhouse, not only saving on costs but also improving production performance drastically.
Three press brakes form part of this department, which in essence is a sheetmetal processing department. At this stage the company processes about 400 tons of sheet in a year.
Opening up this department forms part of the company’s drive to expand its horizons with new product concepts, and not be too reliant on existing clients by increasing its existing customer base.
“The mix is not too bad at the moment but we want to grow that external number.”
CNC wire bending – new machine arriving
“We have been very active in this department and now have a 60/40 ratio with external work making up the higher percentage. We only started this department in 2008 and had a capacity limit of 6mm on the one machine that we had. We have subsequently increased this to four machines bending wire components of 4, 5, 6 and 8mm with the ability to produce two tons of components per day, in any 3D shape possible.”
“We have ordered a fifth machine, which will be delivered and installed in December 2015. This will now allow us to bend wire in 10 and 12mm diameters. The Pave GR Rapid machines are one of the most advanced wire forming machines, and with its sophisticated CNC operation and touch screen programming we are able to change component formation in minutes with minimum set-up and change over times.”
“We process about 300 tons of wire a year and also import chrome quality wire from Europe.”
“We have specifically set up a wire bending website so that we can increase our presence in this market. It might not have much on it at the moment but we intend to populate it with interesting and useful information. The site reference is www.wirebending.co.za.”
LK Plating also manufactures a range of stainless steel smokers
Handles for coal scoops
“Braai grids are a typical example of a component that emanates initially from this department. Once formed, the components are transferred to the spot welding department where we have operators welding the frames and grids, all with the help of our own tools and jigs that we have manufactured.”
“You would be surprised to see the range of mesh products and braai grid options that we manufacture.”
“We have also ordered a PLC controlled mesh welding machine, which is currently being developed specifically for our requirements, that will increase our production efficiencies and allow us to become less reliant on labour. This is a machine developed in Africa for African working conditions.”
“Shopfitting and retail outlet companies are a prime target for mesh welding as they exhibit many of their products on this type of display.”
“The company has transitioned quite a bit over the last few years. Wherever possible we will add value as well as introduce new products of our own. We process over 6 million components a year and manufacture about 260 standard products for LK Products. These include many of the usual suspects that the “World’s best cook” wants at his disposal. Grids, tongs, pokers, rakes, scoops, pans, forks, knives, spoons, lifters, brushes, skewers, holders, rings, baskets, racks, stands, plates, screens and grillers. We are even manufacturing a range of smokers these days.”
“We have just purchased Chef Stainless Steel Braais (www.chef.co.za), a manufacturer of stainless steel braais and accessories based in Durban, KwaZulu Natal. We will be relocating the business to our Cape Town facility. This new development will open up a whole new world of opportunities for us.”
For further details contact LK Plating Services on TEL: 021 905 0640 or visit www.lks.co.za