Moulding a niche̶ proudly made in South Africa “my china”

Enviro Lamps is not your typical moulding shop, but a small sub-set (niche) of the broad injection moulding business since its specialty is developing and marketing its own products. Not only is it committed to providing the highest quality, reliability and best performance, in recent years the company has explored other avenues that now contribute to the bottom line.

In 1994 Johan Dreyer’s late father Baltus Dreyer started to tinker in what he refers to as his father’s garage shop. The garage wasn’t much to see and it did not even have the usual equipment such as a used mill and a manual lathe. However, it was soon supplying irrigation components and extruded pipes to a number of retail suppliers and the mining industry.

“What mattered was the product that he supplied was in his hands and he had a dream to run his own business: a dream that was coming true and starting to grow. Several years later the business purchased its own injection moulding machine and expanded its product lines, and I joined him in the business.”


The range of oil lamps that Enviro Lamps manufactures


Johan Dreyer is very hands on and operates his CNC machinery on a regular basis

“I came from the sales and marketing background but had inherited his engineering genes. From one bay in the garage we moved to a factory in Kya Sands, Gauteng where we stayed until late last year. The move to the Laser Park area was necessitated because we were losing too much production time because of the unstable power supply that had become the norm for many South African businesses. We were losing about 30 odd days a year.”

“Thankfully this debacle has improved and we are now able to operate in a ‘normal’ environment.”

The early history of the company shows that the emphasis was on manufacturing injection moulded components and products, and later included blow moulded plastic products.

Move into mould manufacture – Invent a product not just its mould
Ten years ago the company took a major decision and expanded into the metalworking arena, more specifically mould manufacture.

“My father always had the belief that in manufacturing you had to develop your own unique product and then manufacture the product in its entirety, as best possible, in your own shop. He was not interested in running a make-it-best-you-can job shop 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.”

“He had previously developed a non return valve for underground support systems in the mining industry, a product that we still manufacture today. We have had numerous offers from distributors to take our entire production and have an exclusive agreement with them. This does not fit our business model and ultimately would leave us beholden to one client who could drop us at anytime. We would also not be very popular with our existing clients.”


Enviro Lamps manufactures its own moulds and designs, and manufactures for clients


With the new CNC equipment that Enviro Lamps has just purchased it has started to offer machining as a service as well as 3D design and printing

“The truly successful companies provide a turn-key business model including product development, tool building, moulding, finishing, assembly and logistics. They are shipping to clients – not just the moulds, but finished goods that are ready to go on the shelf for sale to the consumer.”

But there’s much more to it than just that. The core issue is that this shop makes plastic injection moulds in a production environment, even though they still mostly build them one at a time. Long gone are the days when “handcrafted” was synonymous with quality. This is a factory where measurable and repeatable production control reigns, and they continuously look to weed out identifiable sources of process variability just as sure as if they were knocking out parts by the thousands on their plastic machines.

Enviro Lamps first attempt at manufacturing a mould was brought about because of the frustration of having to rely on a third party and their excuses.

“About 15 years ago we developed an oil lamp that we named Enviro Lamp, hence the name of the company. The Enviro Lamp is eco-friendly and is ideal for use in restaurants, bars and pubs, bed and breakfast establishments, outdoor and home use.”

“Oil lamps are beautiful and add a really stylish finish to your tabletop. They are very clean, do not make the mess and waste of traditional wax candles or t-lights, and they always look as beautiful as they did when you first light them. They run on highly refined, clean burning lamp oil that is also smokeless.”


The new Romi G280 turning centre that was supplied by Libcor Machinery


The first CNC machine that Enviro Lamps purchased was a Haas TM-2 Toolroom mill

“If you already use candles, imagine the beauty of natural light, with no more cleaning wax out of glasses, or off tables and candle sticks! The oil is very safe – flashpoint is 120 degrees – and will not burn without a wick. Additionally, all of our lamps are tested for strength and stability.”

“They come with frosted or clear lenses and on request logos, branding or text can be printed onto the lenses. There are seven different fragrances to choose from, and citronella oil and mosquito pads are available for outdoors or indoors.”

“We have supplied over 1500 restaurants with the Enviro Lamp and with approximately five restaurants opening up every week in South Africa we have an ongoing demand. The first restaurant Group to order our product was Mimmos and they still order the lamps today.”

“It has been said that it was found that 83 out of 100 people prefer a restaurant with candle light to one without.”

“We now have 15 models with different variations of lenses and bases. If you visit a restaurant or a pub/bar in this country that has oil lamps as their decoration to create an ambience you will probably find that it is made by our company.”

“We used to shop out the manufacturing of our moulds but 10 years ago we decided to manufacture our own in keeping with our philosophy to manufacture in-house where possible and to eliminate the frustration of dealing with a third party.”


Another recent purchase was a Hurco VM10i vertical machining centre that was supplied by Hurco South Africa


A new product developed and manufactured by Enviro Lamps is the Wee Tree

“By that stage we already had four injection moulding machines and a blow moulder pumping out product. The oil lamp was gaining traction in the market place and we wanted to offer variations.”

“In the beginning our toolroom was very rudimentary with a few conventional machines, including a grinder. Of course it was a huge learning curve for me as well, but where there is a will there is a way and we have reached a position now where we say ‘If they can draw it we can make it!’ It must be recognised that we would not have reached this point had it not been for my trusted designer and colleague Andrew Routledge. Andrew is a wizard on the design side and can turn an idea into drawings literally in a couple of hours. Clients are absolutely amazed when they sit and watch him work.”

“When I say ‘sit and watch him work’ this aspect has been added to the services that we offer. In the past Andrew would just do the drawings for our own products but once we decided to go the CNC route six years ago it opened up another avenue for us – mould manufacture for outside clients. In general we will not manufacture the end products for the client but rather provide them with a mould.”

“In the last three years we have manufactured about 200 moulds for clients and for our own use. This all came about because of our need to diversify the range of oil lamps that we manufacture, and the need for faster turnaround times on the moulds that we needed for these new designs.”

CNC machines
“The only regret I have in the company’s move into the CNC era was that my father was not around to see the transition. He would have loved to see the changeover and the resultant benefits. Like me, it would have been the enjoyment of undertaking the challenge of adapting to the new technology that would have driven him.”


Another product of Enviro Lamps is the Bio Tee that is making inroads in the golfing industry because of its strength and biodegradable properties. Made up of 70% wood and 30% polymer, it lasts longer than a wooden tee but degrades quicker than a plastic tee. It also does not damage clubs and green keepers’ equipment


The plastic injection moulding department at Enviro Lamps

“The first CNC machine we purchased was the Haas TM-2 Toolroom Mill, a versatile machine that combines the functionality and simplicity of a manual mill with the power and flexibility of the Haas CNC control, making it the perfect machine for toolrooms and shops transitioning to CNC.”

“The TM-2 has generous XYZ travels of 1016 x 406 x 406mm that provide plenty of room for machining larger workpieces. The large table accommodates multiple vices and/or chucks, as well as 5C indexers and small rotary tables. All axes feature brushless servomotors for precise positioning, and a one-piece cast-iron base/column damps vibration and provides rigidity for heavy cuts. The machine runs on either single- or three-phase power.”

“The TM-2 features a 5.6 kW vector drive spindle that uses standard 40-taper tooling and spins to 6000 rpm. A push-button tool-release system makes tool changes fast and easy.”

“The TM-2 has served us well and will continue to do so but we have reached a point in the company’s history where we needed to increase our CNC capabilities. To stay competitive in both cost and technology manufacturers no longer require a skilled machinist to run a single machine. They need technologists who understand cutting tools, machine programming and editing, statistical process control, machine diagnostics, metrology, and the computer skills needed to communicate with ERP systems or enterprise-wide systems that oversee multiple machines.”

“We at Enviro Lamps have this mentality and our small staff of nine are happy to multi-task, and that includes me. I am at my best when I am running the Haas TM-2 or working on the two new CNC machines that we acquired in February 2016.”

“One of these is a Romi G280 turning centre and the other is a Hurco VM10i machining centre. As a result we are now able to offer CNC turning and milling work.”

“The Romi G280 turning centre that was supplied by Libcor Machinery, has a swing of 440mm, cutting diameter of 280mm, cutting length of 540mm, travel XZ axis of 202/540mm, a rapid traverse X-axis 18 m/min, rapid traverse Z-axis 24 m/min, speed range of 3 – 3500rpm and bar capacity of 76mm, not that we use this in our operation.”

“The Hurco VM10i vertical machining centre that was supplied by Hurco South Africa, has a XYZ axis travel of 660 x 406 x 508mm, a table size of 762 x 356mm and a table weight of 340 kilograms.”

Proudly made in South Africa “my china”
Johan Dreyer is very vocal when it comes to this topic. “Herein lies the question: ‘Do mouldmakers really have to fear China as a threat to mould manufacture?’ The answer is: Yes and No. Yes, there are manufacturers who are looking at what is happening in the industry and adjusting their approach to toolmaking to meet the demands of their customers. They (Chinese manufacturers) are finding ways to leverage technology and modernise the design approach that will rival local companies. They still have an advantage of lower labour rates, but those rates are continuing to rise as the Chinese populace wants more of the things that a consumer-driven economy provides.”

“There is of course the long distance communication and very little relief if things go wrong, especially on the quality side. More recently, the South African Rand has weakened and as a result it is not so cheap to import from China anymore.”


Enviro Lamps has recently developed a number of other products. The caterware products are ideal for the South African outdoors and include cups, plates, bowls, platters and glasses – both beer and wine. There is also a range of sushi bowls and plates


Enviro Lamps believes in manufacturing its own moulds and components that make up that product, including weaving the wicks for the oil lamps

“In the case of our oil lamps there are literally hundreds of cheap and nasty alternatives on offer but none come anywhere near to our quality. We can also offer small batch orders, something that is not possible if you are importing from China. They want you to take container loads.”

“This makes the local industry very competitive, especially if you have kept abreast by investing in modern equipment.”

“Additionally, a company that is manufacturing its own product needs to manufacture most of the components that make up that product. In the case of our oil lamps we make the moulds, manufacture the lenses and bases, print where required, manufacture the brass component, the plastic housing and the metal fixture for the wick, weave the wick and assemble. We have also done a huge amount of research on the fuel, which is unique for our application, and supply this as a consumable. Virtually every 10 days we order five tons or 6700 litres of oil. Spares are also always available.”

Other products
Enviro Lamps has recently developed a number of other products. The caterware products are ideal for the South African outdoors and include cups, plates, bowls, platters and glasses – both beer and wine. There is also a range of sushi bowls and plates.

The Bio Tee is busy making inroads in the golfing industry because of its strength and biodegradable properties. Made up of 70% wood and 30% polymer, it lasts longer than a wooden tee but degrades quicker than a plastic tee. It also does not damage clubs and green keepers’ equipment.

The latest product has been dubbed the Wee Tree and is currently being introduced to the South African market. Manufactured out of a fragrant material that can retain its smell for up to seven weeks, it will primarily be used in men’s urinals.

Although not its primary focus the company can now also offer machining as a service as well as 3D design and printing.

In the case of Enviro Lamps, it has built a business based on flexibility and breadth. It’s a business designed to handle parts, sub-assemblies or complete products for its customers.

By performing more services than generally found in a single discipline 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 supplier.

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.

For further details contact Enviro Lamps on TEL: 011 708 3655 or visit