Matthew And Son reborn

The name of the company sounds like the single written, composed and performed by well-known singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. Stevens selected the song – Matthew and Son – as the title song for his 1967 debut album. The song remains Cat Stevens’ highest charting single in the British Isles, reaching number two in the UK and number three in Ireland in early 1967. At the time Stevens was a newly signed teenager and the song, according to Stevens, took its name from the tailor, Henry Matthews, who made suits for him.

Matthew And Son Engineering does not have the romantic lure as the famous musician or the song that made Stevens a household name to those from that era. It is purely coincidental that the manufacturing and fabrication engineering business should end up ironically living up to the lyrics of the song “there’s always something new”.

“The truth is that when I started the company in March 1981 I was very keen that my father would join the company. My father had been in the foundry and scrap metal business for many years. Unfortunately, my father’s health deteriorated and he retired. My father’s first name was also Matthew and that is why I chose the name Matthew And Son Engineering,” said Matthew Mayhew Snr who started the company at the age of 29.

The new Doosan 5100 XLMB turning center that Matthew And Son recently purchased and was installed in August 2017

Matthew And Son are using a Komet KUB® V464 solid drills with an ABS® T connection for deep-hole drilling

“My father never did join the company. It was only in 2009 when my son, who is also a Matthew joined, that the name of the company finally reflected its true meaning.”

Mayhew comes from a long lineage of Mayhew men involved in the metalworking engineering industry. Grandfather Harry Mayhew had a foundry that was located in Eloff Street, Johannesburg and Mayhew is one of five brothers, all of them involved in engineering manufacturing or distribution of engineering products.

“I qualified as a fitter and turner and gained some working experience at a well-known German owned pump manufacturer before starting my own business. The beginning wasn’t quite like I had envisaged. I gave my employers six months notice that I wanted to go on my own and that I would help train up somebody to take my place. Well they did not see it like that and the day after handing in my notice I was on the street, unemployed.”

“I was lucky enough that I had an association with a well-known general engineering company based in Booysens, Johannesburg. The company owners very generously allowed me to do some machining work for their industrial power transmission division on a contractual basis and this marked the beginning of my company over 36 years ago. That company has subsequently been purchased by a German international company but it still remains as one of our top clients that we machine components for.”

“I was very grateful to the owners for giving me a chance but I had to learn fast as to how to run my own business.”

The Doosan Puma 5100 XLMB turning center can accommodate components up to 3 000mm in length and 650mm turning diameter. The machine also has a milling function and a bigger motor than what is normally supplied with this machine

Matthew And Son uses a 6-axis robotic welding system

The early pictorial history of the company shows Mayhew, like many others before him, operating from residential premises, before moving to a factory environment. The company made its first move to rented premises as early as its first year of existence. The industrial area that Matthew And Son moved to – Sebenza, Gauteng – is still the area it is located in today. During this time there were only two moves required because of expansion before settling in its own factory that Matthew Snr had purchased and renovated in 2001.

“In the early 1980s the industry was challenging and obtaining work was difficult. During this time my wife Patricia became an essential part of the business. Patricia helped with all the administration functions, daily tasks and personal support, which helped in our early success.”

Matthew And Son is an old-school type engineering shop with three fundamental elements – cost, quality and time – being the emphasis for the company’s service delivery. Mayhew grew up using conventional lathe and milling equipment as well as George Fischer copy lathes for metal removal operations. Other conventional equipment was also necessary from early on, which enhanced the scope of operations that it could offer clients.

Acquisition of Ledbury Lamps
As with any metal machining operation, Mayhew has seen plenty of projects come through the door both for general engineering and production runs. The work focused mainly on milling and turning operations and this still forms the core of the business. However, in 1997 the company broke out of its mould when it acquired an outdoor lighting company entitled Ledbury Lamps.

Large cut-to-size blocks ready to be machined on the new Doosan 5100 XLMB turning center

Components machined on one of Matthew And Son’s CNC lathes

“We suddenly had to think differently because we now had our own products that we were going to manufacture and assemble but we would also have to market them. Additionally we had to start dealing with outside suppliers, such as foundries, other than the normal metal merchant suppliers. 20 years later that company still operates very successfully having now specialised in the cast aluminium decorative outdoor lighting segment.”

“Ledbury Lamps manufactures for both commercial and private clientele. We don’t compete in the mass market supply side but rather in the area where we deal directly. Standard, as well as custom designs are offered and all our lamps are of modular design that can be paired with any of our pedestals, wall brackets, columns, bollards and pendants that we also manufacture and assemble here. All of the designs are manufactured in sand cast aluminium.”

Matthew And Son reborn – passing the baton
It was not until 2009 that the environment and business strategy Matthew And Son initially adopted started to change. Matthew Mayhew Jnr, Matthew’s son had always been involved with the business during his formative years, mainly being ‘baby sat’ at the company during the school holidays, as his mother Patricia is the Financial Director of the company. It was always Dad’s hope and ambition that he would join the company and eventually take over from him.

Matthew And Son machine a variety of components including shafts

Non ferrous components are also machined by Matthew And Son

However, Matthew Jnr had no inclination to join the company and went off and did a BSc Honours in Construction Management at Pretoria University before venturing into the work environment and gaining a number of years of valuable industry experience.

“I spent four years working in the construction industry, both locally and internationally, with some of the larger construction companies. Then came the persuasion to join the company and I eventually joined in 2009,” said Matthew Jnr who has now assumed the role of Managing Director.

Timing plays a very important role in so many tales, and Matthew Jnr’s was no different. The company had been built on sound principles and was very successful but it needed an injection of pace and fresh ideas.

“Through his hard work my father built the company to be in a comfortable position with a reputable name. One of his many strengths is that he has always been a hands-on person and is very content when he is operating one of his George Fischer’s. He has also had to be very creative on the low-cost machine tools to manufacture the high-value precision components for clients and has always been proud of what the company can accomplish through this kind of engineering.”

“However, he always knew that at some point, as clients’ work continued to advance in complexity, the company would have to add more sophisticated equipment in the machine shop to keep pace with the changing technology in the industry.”

The measuring department at Matthew And Son

More components machined at Matthew And Son

“When I joined I knew that the business, as an entirety, would have to step up in a significant way if we were going to remain competitive and retain our clients. My father and I did come to the understanding that if I joined the company I could implement change and move the company into a modern era. This was a huge decision for him and a huge responsibility for me. But secretly I believe Dad wanted change and just needed someone to push him into it.”

CNC machines
“In recent years, machining companies have experienced market changes that continue to impact how components are manufactured. Shorter lead times, reduced batch sizes and the drive to eliminate inventory have conspired to change the manufacturing process.”

“With the advent of CNC machines it allowed machining operations to be more flexible. More recently it became possible (even preferable) to combine some operations that were previously independent manufacturing steps into a single setup on one machine tool namely a 5-axis machining center. Metal deposition and additive manufacturing processes are now even possible on machines that are designed to remove metal.”

“However, we had to learn to walk before we started to run. The same year that I joined the company we purchased our first CNC machine – a turning center with a turning diameter of 350mm and turning length of 410mm. It was supplied with driven or live tooling as it is also referred to and subsequently all the turning centers that we purchased were also supplied with live tooling. Live tooling on turning centers greatly expands multiple processing capabilities. With the addition of a Y-axis, turning and machining process integration takes a significant step further.”

For tool management control Matthew And Son have installed an Iscar Matrix vending system

Matthew And Son have recently won contracts to machine and supply components for the rail transport industry. These solid bars will be machined on the Doosan Puma 5100 XLMB turning center

“We have subsequently purchased a further three CNC turning centers and a CNC machining center. Some businesses would measure a productivity improvement in terms of the extra capacity gained by introducing a new CNC machine tool. This is certainly true but we like to measure it in terms of the number of conventional machines that we no longer need, the vast improvement in quality, the cost per component machined, the reduced delivery times and the numerous other efficiencies gained. The company now strives to keep these fundamental requirements in equilibrium for its customers at all times.”

New CNC machines are only part of the story
“Although the first four CNC machines that we had purchased were by no means large machines that require special foundations, our factory had not undergone any radical improvements and modernisation since the company moved to Mopedi Road in 2001. As a result the whole factory needed some attention, from the floors to the workflow. This is a massive task as production and deliveries cannot stop while you move and renovate. My previous project management experience and qualifications were certainly an asset when we began this task at the beginning of 2010 and every year we transform and improve. This type of change does not happen over-night but has been accelerated in the last year as our expansion plans for our newest and largest CNC machine were finalised.”

“Floors have been leveled and painted, the CNC machines have been moved into one area of the factory, the lamp showroom and reception have been reduced in size allowing us to create a controlled atmosphere room where quality and inspection functions are carried out, a separate area has been created for tool management control where we have installed an Iscar Matrix vending system, and the stock room has also gone through a complete revamp.”

“At the same time I have developed a software programme that allows us to monitor daily production and keep traceability records. It is not as sophisticated as some of the proprietary software that is available but it caters for our current needs. It has also put us in a position to achieve ISO certification that we are working towards.”

Components for various clients

A general view of the machine shop

“One of the areas that was upgraded back in 2012 was the welding department. It was a very time consuming operation before we purchased a 6-axis robotic welding system. We have the need for at least two full time welders doing repetitive work but now we have manufactured our own jigs and fixtures and trained other members of staff to operate the system. The result is that the system more than covers our current requirements and we have capacity to seek more clients.”

New Doosan 5100 XLMB turning center
The last 12 months has seen Matthew And Son change in more ways other than just on the operational side. Matthew Jnr’s vision of taking the company to new levels of efficiency and resulting quality improvements has seen the company grow substantially.

“We do not have long lists of clients on our books but those that we do count as our regulars have recognised what we have achieved and we are now machining more components for them. The number of components that we machine has trebled and accordingly turnover has gone up. However, the new projects that we are getting involved in are what interest us.”

“For example, we have just won a contract to machine five different components for the rail transport industry. This contract is for five years and requires that we invest in another CNC lathe, but with bigger specifications.”

“In the past we have standardised on one brand of machine. Standardising on a single brand of machine that use a common control system and interface has simplified job scheduling, programming and maintenance but this is not a critical factor anymore.”

“Amongst other reasons we have decided to purchase a Doosan Puma 5100 XLMB turning center that can accommodate components up to 3 000mm in length and 650mm turning diameter. The machine also has a milling function and a bigger motor than what is normally supplied with this machine.”

“The machine was installed in August and we believe it is the first of its kind to be supplied by Puma Machine Tools in South Africa.”

“Earlier this year I did go and visit the factory in Korea and was very impressed.”

Industry 4.0
“The trip also exposed me to how the machine tool manufacturers are encompassing Industry 4.0 and incorporating the concept into future programmes. As I am one of the millennials I am very interested in implementing automation and data exchange in our manufacturing capabilities. This is part of my vision for the company. We already have software programmes like SolidWorks for design purposes but the intelligence and information we can have at our finger tips by using cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing, all of which make up Industry 4.0, will certainly create what has been called a ‘smart factory’.”

Ledbury Lamps, specialising in the cast aluminium decorative outdoor lighting segment, is part of the group. Ledbury Lamps manufactures for both commercial and private clientele

Patricia, Matthew Snr and Matthew Jnr Mayhew with Marlene Kruger

“This is one of the reasons that my father and I are attending the forthcoming EMO 2017 exhibition in Hannover, Germany. We are machining components for some large corporates that are involved in the mining, rail transport, automotive, water and paper industries and they are all embracing the concept. We will fall behind if we do not get involved. We also want to look for new business in the fast growing automotive and medical industries, which involves machining complex components with tight tolerances and Industry 4.0 will help us in this respect. Consistent engineering across the entire value chain is what we must aim for.”

“Data-driven manufacturing enabled with lifecycle management is certainly the future. Monitoring the physical processes of the factory and making decentralised decisions is what appeals to me. Imagine leaving home and you already know the exact position of your entire company before arriving at work? This can only happen through digital data collection.”

“Having a strong family is typically looked upon as a strength, but it might not be enough when it comes to business longevity. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), some 70 per cent of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take over, and this dismal failure rate for family businesses is not limited to the US. I am going to make sure that Matthew And Son are not part of this statistic,” said Matthew Jnr.

Dad concludes with: “This is not a rich father, noble son, poor grandson syndrome. For as long as I’ve been here, there is something new that happens every day that makes you go, ‘Man, I didn’t think of that!’. After 36 years, you’d think you know everything but Matthew has certainly proved me wrong.”

For further details contact Matthew And Son on TEL: 011 609 5603 or visit www.matthewandson.net