It’s all about control at Bay Engineering

This family-owned job shop has developed an integrated fabrication and machine shop in order to satisfy customers’ changing needs. In doing so it has become an example that other shops might want to imitate.

The amount of the machining work going on at Bay Engineering is impressive. What’s just as evident as one walks through the shop, however, is the role that process and equipment flexibility plays in its success. In particular, versatility of machine design, workholding strategies and tooling allow the shop to respond quickly to customers’ needs for accurately machined components.

However, it is the company’s meticulous approach to the production flow and accounting of work in progress, accurate recording of each step of operation or quality control, right down to the last micron that is really the impressive key to the shop’s ability to be both competitive and profitable.


The newest of the CNC machines was installed in January 2016. The Victor V-Turn 26HD has a 380mm maximum turn, 520mm maximum swing and 650mm between centres, a bar capacity of 75mm, a chuck size of 300mm and a 3,500 rpm spindle speed

Too often I visit machine shops, fabrication and service centres, foundries and general engineering companies and I wonder how they know where a particular component is, and how the company knows how long it has taken to manufacture that component, remembering that this is the basis to costing the particular quote. You could say that foundries are the worst at record keeping. I know that experience does count and many companies will have a good idea on machining, process and material costs before adding their profit. But still there is a huge amount of ‘money’ lying around on the floor.

In many cases there are dirty work tickets and torn drawings accompanying the particular batch of components, so there is some sort of control. Yet I still wonder how much more profitable the company could be if it had proper systems in place tracking and monitoring every process the component goes through. Equally, the company would have many more satisfied clients because their components would be delivered on time as promised!

However, at Bay Engineering it is the company’s meticulous approach to the production flow and accounting of work in progress, accurate recording of each step of operation or quality control, right down to the last micron that is really the impressive key to the shop’s ability to be both competitive and profitable.


Directors Etienne Labuschagne, Graham and Charles Smith

Bay Engineering was established in 1986 by Graham Smith, now the company’s Technical Director. Graham has been in the engineering manufacturing and machining industry for his entire working career.

“I originally started the company with two partners who have since retired. I had been operating in the machining environment, and a friend needed components machined for electric motors and generators and they got me started in my own business 30 years ago.”

“That period was virtually the beginning of the introduction of CNC machines into South Africa, an innovation that was introduced because of industry’s desire to produce more accurate and complex parts. I had had some experience in the automation of machine tools when we converted some conventional machines to be operated by precisely programmed commands encoded on a storage medium. The old ‘ticker-tape’ method as it was known.”

“I purchased my first CNC machine – a Takisawa lathe – from Graham Holkham in 1988, and we have not stopped investing in them since then.”

“Today we have 21 CNC machines on the floor which are made up of six machining centres, both vertical and horizontal, 12 horizontal lathes, one vertical lathe and one CNC horizontal borer with pallet changer.”


On the shopfloor is a You Ji CNC vertical lathe supplied by Machine Tool Promotions and a Daewoo HSM 800 CNC horizontal boring machine with a pallet changer supplied by Puma Machine Tools


Bay Engineering has 21 CNC machines on the floor that are made up of six machining centres, both vertical and horizontal, 12 horizontal lathes, one vertical lathe and one CNC horizontal borer with pallet changer

“The newest of the CNC machines was installed January 2016. The Victor V-Turn 26HD has a 380mm maximum turn, 520mm maximum swing and 650mm between centers, a bar capacity of 75mm, a chuck size of 300mm and a 3,500 rpm spindle speed.

Machining divisions
“I am sure we are no different from many machine shops whereby we have created
mini-businesses to cover the various disciplines. There is a distinct difference on the shopfloor as to where the turning work is carried out and where the milling machines are situated.”

“As a result, we believe we are able to provide world class turned components ranging from small bushes, pins, threaded spindles, valves and hose fittings up to large shafts and train wheels, to name a few.”

“Our turning mini-business unit has both vertical and horizontal CNC machining capabilities, and vast experience in different materials from graphite to plastics and all ferrous and non-ferrous steels including castings.”


Various components in the inspection area at Bay Engineering

“Our milling mini-business unit produces complex contoured parts using 3D modelling software and the latest innovative production methods and tooling. Our machining software, Edgecam, is linked to all our machines as well as our fully integrated 4th axis horizontal and vertical CNC machining centres.”

“We do not have a call for design work but we are able to read the various drawings with our readers including SolidWorks.”

Fabrication and welding
The job shop environment is usually a make-it-best-you-can environment where almost every new job represents new process challenges. It’s also an environment where profit or loss hinges on how efficiently the shop can get a job done.

In the case of Bay Engineering, it has built a job shop business based on flexibility and breadth. It’s a business designed to handle components, sub-assemblies or complete products for its customers.

By performing more services than generally found in a single discipline job shop, some of the business risk is spread over a group of jobs rather than just one. It has also cultivated customer loyalty by becoming a unique kind of vendor.


A water flow barrel for an electric motor on the Daewoo HSM 800 horizontal boring machine. A grooving operation was performed

While the company has derived more work from its diverse capability, as one might expect, there have also been process advantages from the crossover that were not anticipated.

“We initially didn’t offer welding and fabrication services, but saw the need for it from our customers and potential customers and it is now integral to our operations and gives us a competitive edge.”

“Our 10T lifting capability gives our coded welders and qualified boilermakers the scope to manufacture and deliver from smaller steel fabrications and welded parts as well as large turnkey projects. We specialise in high-pressure piping, stainless steel welding, fabrication of drilling rigs, railway components and accurate pump and ship components for the export market.”

“Our processes include TIG and MIG welding, sandblasting and painting, and the use of premium consumables ensures a quality product with a great finish. We manufacture to ASME IX and will qualify our welders to the necessary WPSs and PQRs.”


A 4-Star thread gauge for calibrating ship pumps and impellers machined by Bay Engineering

“Innovative ways of tackling large steel fabrications and the use of laser measuring equipment means we are able to meet incredibly tight tolerances. Combined with our machining capability, we understand both disciplines and are able to harmoniously integrate the two to create what our customers require.”

“Our services mentioned above include the refurbishment and restoration of worn valves, shafts, and mining and demolition equipment to original specification.”

“The fabrication and welding division has its own 1300m² facility situated a couple of blocks away from the machining setup.”

New blood
Bay Engineering began the process of introducing new blood into the company back in 2005 when Smith employed mechanical engineer, Etienne Labuschagne, who is now the Managing Director and a shareholder.

In 2009 Smith’s son-in-law Charles Smith joined the company as Commercial Manager and is now the Financial Director.

Systems development
“Coming in with a fresh look both Etienne and Charles have transformed the business, particularly on the systems side,” said Graham Smith.

“Everybody makes good decisions if they get good information,” explained Charles Smith.


Bay Engineering does internal boring and facing on train wheels


The Bay Engineering facility that has fabricated a bypass tube and boxhole chute

“And they get good information because we measure every measurable aspect of each process. Of course, workpiece dimensions and other attributes are measured, but so is tool life, machine uptime, cycle time, setup and changeover time. This data is collected, analysed and shared in a very timely and highly visible manner, largely owing to the efficiency of the company’s shopfloor control system.”

“With my financial background I was able to identify improvements to be made in controls; production flow and accounting for work in progress. This is an ongoing process to improve how we do this, what we measure, how we measure and the benefits of doing so.”

“Our ERP system is at the center of how we manage our production process. All processes flow from it.”

“It all starts with the routing, scheduling and estimating modules in the shop software system. Because this system is fully integrated, entries in the estimating module flow into the job orders module, and then into the scheduling module without re-capturing data. When the job is released to the shop, paper travelers and other documents can be produced with a few keystrokes. Purchase orders for raw material or tooling items can also be prepared almost instantly, as can requests for quotes to subcontractors for heat treating, anodizing and so on.”


Two-way high pressure manifolds that have been machined and fabricated by Bay Engineering

“Obviously the quality checking, delivery notes, invoicing and other useful information have also been included. Each component can be checked throughout its process in our business.”

“The development of our own internal measurement software and system has taken us three years, and combined with our ERP system we have a system that meets all of our needs, is easy for all of us to use and provides us with the data we need to make intelligent decisions.”

Dealing with variety
“We serve a variety of customers in various industries. All our customers are different with their own particular needs in terms of tight tolerances, required finishes, quality level, how they require their parts labeled, shipped, and so on. Although our company can satisfy the most demanding customer through the improvements we have made in the business over the years, we can also handle the everyday parts that are not as demanding and still be very competitive on producing those parts.”

“You can comprehend the strict controls that we need when you consider that 1 000s of components cross our floor every month, and over 5 000 machining operations are carried out. The system allows us to be very accurate in these numbers.”


A Spark eroder is used by Bay Engineering to spark holes in high pressure nozzles. These holes can go down to 0,2mm

“The software and system controls have been so successful that it was a breeze for us to be awarded ISO 9001/2008 certification which we attained in December 2015.”

Additional services and quality
“Where we do not have the machining capability, we are able to provide solutions to our customers’ requirements through strategic partnerships with reputable companies,” said Etienne Labuschagne.

“Other established partnerships with reputable companies have expanded our capabilities to include galvanizing, grinding, honing, long hole drilling, gear cutting and keyway, heat treatment, metallurgical services, chemical plating, non-destructive testing, rubber lining and stress relieving.”

“The Cimcore 3D measuring arm backed by traditional measuring equipment gives us the capability to accurately measure to within 10 microns.”


Bay Engineering machined, fabricated and assembled two drag head gantries mounted towards the back of the Ilembe trailing suction hopper dredger, as well as the black painted suction pipes. Other components the company manufactured for this project include bottom doors

“Whilst our current compliment of 76 dedicated staff meet production requirements, should a big project or tight deadline require more manpower or specific expertise, we are able to up skill or draw from an experienced and well-trained workforce that we use on a regular basis.”

“We are committed to the ‘Doing it right, the first time’ approach.”

“Some of our major clients include Hydro Power Equipment (mining drill rigs), Transvaal Electric Motors (manufacturers of flame-proof electrical motors for export), Royal IHC Merwede (manufacturers of dredging pumps and ships for worldwide distribution) and Scaw Metals (railway components and assemblies).”

“More recently we have also had the opportunity to machine components for Eskom, Transnet and Swasap.”

“Bay Engineering is also a licence holder to manufacture the VMC brand of Knife Gate Valves. There is a choice in material of carbon steel, stainless steel and ROQ-tuf materials with or without rubber lining. The range offered is from 80mm to 500mm and up to a pressure of 12 Bar. The valves are manufactured to the highest specifications, and innovative design and machining creates a lighter valve for ease of installation and lower costs.”

“We also manufacture a range of mining chains, including long airdox piggy, long airdox MBC, coal breaker chain, chain link 485 and declaimer chain.”


A drag head gantry on the Ilembe – a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) trailing suction hopper dredger. Bay Engineering machined, fabricated and assembled the final product

“One of the more interesting components that we machine is a gauge for an international company that assembles and markets pumps and valves. The gauge is specifically used to check that the components are within tolerance at the casting stage, and the foundries themselves, including a couple in South Africa, have to carry out the quality control on the castings that they manufacture for the company.”

Bay Engineering (Pty) Ltd is a private company that is majority owned and managed by the directors who are involved in an executive capacity in all facets of the business. The employees own 25% of the company through an empowerment share scheme and have representation on the board. The company has attained a Level 4 rating for BEE purposes and is also classified as a value added supplier.

For further details contact Bay Engineering on TEL: 011 613 4429 or visit