It’s the question heard around the steel service center world: What metal cutting technology makes the most sense? Unfortunately, the answer to the question cannot be covered in one simple statement. The answer depends on the metal being cut, the metal thickness, how the customer defines a quality cut, and how fast the job has to be accomplished. With so many variables when starting a new business, an owner must determine how he can best compete in an established market by being not only competitive on price but able to give fast service and quality products.
Although TWR Steel Services was established with the knowledge that its first customer and shareholder had decided that it wanted to have a dedicated single supplier for steel for its business as Africa’s largest manufacturer of a complete range of concrete brick, block and paving manufacturing machinery, concrete mixing and weigh batching plants. Management was well aware that the scale of economies for the new business to be profitable meant that the majority of business would have to come from the steel value added market in addition to its base customer. Key to this stated vision was the ability to share existing infrastructure and systems and ensure a seamless supply chain between the two businesses.
“The Messer high-definition plasma cutting machine has a table size of 16 x 3 metres and is capable of cutting steel plates up to 45mm. What we have done differently is to add another 16 x 3 metres table to the system so that while the machine is cutting we can be unloading/loading the other table. It certainly has raised our production output levels.”
The Messer oxy-fuel machine is a four torch cutting machine with a table size of 26 x 3 metres and is capable of cutting material up to 300mm thick steel plate
“My partners wanted to ensure that the components used in the manufacture of their equipment would no longer put them under pressure because of poor service and late delivery that they had been experiencing. Most of the components that needed profiling, laser cutting, bending or rolling, or a combination, were outsourced at the time. The late delivery of the metal components would subsequently have a knock-on effect, creating headaches in all departments. The result was that they had got into a position where they had resorted to overstocking so as to reduce the impact of delays for their customers. As we all know metal lying around on the floor is costly,” explained Tony Windt, Managing Director of TWR Steel Service Centre.
“From the beginning we took a strategic decision to make use of technology as a key enabler. We also decided that we wanted to be a steel service centre that can take on small as well as large and complex jobs to meet the market’s urgent service delivery requirements.”
The Messer high-definition plasma cutting machine
Tony and Clinton Windt
“When we started we spent close to R30 million just on equipment before we even cut our first component. This is a big investment. But the driving force was that we had chosen to get into a niche area. To stay ahead and prevent competitors entering the space we had to offer the technology that would enable us to offer a service that stood out amongst the rest. We were aware that more and more shops were getting into routine cutting and fabrication, which was a growing business, but we were not prepared to be embroiled in an area where you compete on price alone,” added Windt.
“However, our main focus of the company then, and still is today, is to ensure quality and speed of delivery as promised, in addition to a stable pricing structure for clients.”
“Before starting TWR Steel, my professional background had been in the metal processing industry where I have worked for over 38 years. I started my steel career at Wolhuter Steel, in their cutting division Wolcut and joined Amsteel in 1986. The company was subsequently purchased by the Macsteel Group and spent the next 22 years in the group.”
All sheet and plate is meticulously marked and tracked
Components that have been cut by TWR Steel
“During my time with these and other companies I gained a huge amount of experience in all aspects of operating a business, not just in metal cutting. This experience has culminated in the opportunity of creating a successful business with my partners.”
“I even had to call on my construction and building experience as we set up our 2 800m² manufacturing facility with 570m² office space. Fortunately our partners had land available next to their facility and, once the buildings were completed and the equipment was installed and operating, we could maximize our promise of shortened and consistent deliveries to them.”
“Trust is something that’s earned not only through hard work, but also by delivering on your promises. People don’t buy from companies – they buy from people. They don’t buy from just any people – they buy from people they trust. You have to build a relationship based on trust. It really is just that simple.”
“Fortunately I have had this relationship with my partners from the beginning and as a result we have managed to build and grow a successful business. We have subsequently applied the same principle to every single customer of ours. There is something to be said about old-school values and business principles.”
TWR Steel offer beveling services as well
A view of the TWR Steel metal processing factory
TWR Steel is located in Graniet Street in Jet Park, Boksburg in an ideally centralized position. The company offers its clients a full range of laser, high-definition plasma and oxy-fuel cutting in addition to CNC rolling, CNC bending and chamfering services. Since the business first went into production in March 2012, TWR Steel employs 44 staff, ranging across a broad spectrum of skills. According to Windt every employee is also encouraged to multi-task wherever possible.
“Modern technology has made Service centres, like us, competitive and more efficient. We also encourage our staff to take decisions without a huge preceding consultative process and have a flat management structure to ensure direct communication. They enjoy the responsibility and of course if an employee is absent for some reason we have someone readily available to complete their tasks. The skill of our employees is important to us and makes the difference. Again it is a trust and loyalty principle.”
“As I have said from the beginning we wanted technology to be a key enabler that could leverage us into a position of strength. The benefits that are derived from using modern technology are self-explanatory.”
“In the laser department we purchased a Bystronic 6 kilowatt machine that has bed size of 6.5 x 2.5 metres and a Bystronic 4.4 kilowatt machine with a bed size 4 x 2 metres. We are capable of cutting steel plates in thicknesses of up to 25mm, material dependent. The majority of the material that we cut is carbon steel across all our processes but stainless steel and aluminium demand is on the increase.”
“At the moment we do not have a fiber laser because of the present limitations in the range of Bystronic machines not being able to cut plates wider than 2 metres.”
Sheet and plate is stored according to size and type of metal
The Bystronic press brake
“The fiber excels at light gauge material, but for thick plate, not so much – at least that was the common story. But just within the past few years, the story is changing, just as I did. I hate to admit it but I did not have any faith in laser cutting when the technology was first introduced.”
“About 25 years ago, when CO2 laser cutting was introduced, people jumped onboard because they could get better edge quality than they could with plasma and profile cutting. With laser you have a near finished product and the component can then be put into fabrication without additional preparation. The high accuracy and clean cutting finish achieved by a laser is a more expensive process, however, not all components need the accuracy of a laser-cut. In this case either plasma or oxyfuel can be used as they are lower-cost processes.”
“In plate thicker than 25mm and up to 45mm the plasma is the quickest process to cut most grades of material with a very good finish. For plate thicker than 45mm and up to 300mm, we use the reliable oxyfuel process.”
“Having both laser, plasma and oxyfuel cutting gives our customers more choices. As with our lasers being supplied by Bystronic we made a clear-cut decision to invest in one manufacturer for our high-definition plasma and oxy-fuel cutting machines being Messer Cutting Systems.”
Staff at TWR Steel are encouraged to multi-task
One of the two Bystronic CO2 lasers
“The high-definition plasma cutting machine has a table size of 16 x 3 metres and is capable of cutting steel plates up to 45mm. What we have done differently is to add another 16 x 3 metres table to the system so that while the machine is cutting we can be unloading/loading the other table. It certainly has raised our production output levels.”
“The Messer oxy-fuel machine is a four torch cutting machine with a table size of 26 x 3 metres and is capable of cutting material up to 300mm thick steel plate.”
On the bending side TWR Steel has a 250 ton Bystronic CNC press brake and has just recently added another 250 ton press brake. Both are capable of bending steel plates that are up to three metres in width.
The equipment compliment, besides the normal engineering requirements, is completed with a Davi four-roll pinch plate roller, with the ability of rolling 20mm mild steel plate with widths of up to three metres.
The second Bystronic CO2 laser
Components that have been cut on the Bystronic laser
“99 per cent of our cutting is between the 4.5 and 300mm thickness range and we are processing between 500 and 700 tons a month with capacity to spare. This is sizeable growth compared to the 40/50 tons a month that we processed when we operated from makeshift container offices while our offices were being completed in 2012.”
“Although we do not offer design services, we use all the latest processing, detailing and billing software, including SigmaNest nesting software, and solid works packages which enables us to receive and process all electronic drawings from our customers.”
Davi four-roll pinch plate roller, with the ability of rolling 20mm mild steel plate with widths of up to three metres
Stainless steel components processed by TWR Steel
“A recent big achievement for us was being awarded our ISO 9001:2008 certification in October 2016. We have to account for every piece of metal and this quality system has helped us do so.”
Tony Windt is ably assisted by his son Clinton, who spent 11 years with Macsteel Trading, before joining TWR in 2012.
“There are plans to expand the capacity in the near future with the addition of a new fiber laser and 600 ton x 4 metres wide pressbrake. You have to keep looking for opportunities to explore. That’s just part of growing,” concluded Windt.
For further details contact TWR Steel on TE: 011 578 8880 or visit www.twrsteel.co.za