In the case of Strucmac, the company has built a job shop business based on flexibility and breadth. It’s a business designed to handle parts, sub-assemblies or complete products for its clients.
In a multitasking operation, a milling cutter can machine a rotating workpiece. Combining milling and turning techniques has many advantages, but only relatively recently have multitasking machine tools allowed this process to display its full benefits.
Introducing multitasking in the manufacturing process can solve quality problems and substantially improve output. And highly productive machining using this method is possible with modern machines and when correctly chosen cutting tools are used.
The new Skoda FCW 140 horizontal floor borer comes with a Siemens 840DSL control and an additional 60 ton rotary table for full simultaneous machining. Large components such as this gearbox housing for a drag line can now be machined by Strucmac. The machine was supplied by WD Hearn
For years, even with mass adoption of CNC technology, development of metal cutting machine tools has been done in a very traditional manner. Machining centers integrate rotating tools, both milling and drilling, while CNC lathes are developed to handle turning tasks. Looking for new ways to make the manufacturing process more efficient by reducing setups of a machined part, and eliminating the part’s transfer from one machine to another led to the addition of a tool head with a rotary drive to typical CNC turning machines, thereby enabling turn/milling.
Modern multitasking machine tools now feature additional axes of head movement, advanced control systems, and upgraded software that allow these systems to perform the majority of machining operations with only one setting per workpiece.
Businesses that have someone that can multitask heading it up are generally businesses that thrive no matter what the economic climate. The energy and enthusiasm somehow filters down throughout the company from the individual. This scenario is more prevalent in an owner managed situation rather than in a large corporation or a public or state owned enterprise.
The working range of the Skoda FCW 140 horizontal floor borer includes a spindle diameter of 140mm, which is large by any standards, a 10 000mm X-travel and 5 000mm Y-axis travel, but Skoda can build to customer requirements. The Z+W axis is 1 700mm, the Quill (W-axis) is 800mm and the Z-axis (RAM) is 900mm
Strucmac CC, based in Elandsfontein, Gauteng, has founder Andre Hattingh to blame for being in a position where it offers a multitude of metalworking services and disciplines that makes it hard for a client to look elsewhere. Hattingh’s attitude of ‘multitasking’ for the client has paid dividends over the years, and the increased services that have either been implemented in the last few years or are already past the planning stage, have put the company in a unique position.
Hattingh established his first business – Spares and Hardware Enterprises – just over 20 years ago. “I had been studying mechanical engineering but was impatient to start earning money and wanted to do something on my own. I started off at the bottom buying and selling nuts and bolts. I was not going to make myself into the tycoon that I envisaged, but it was the beginning of the formula that would lead me to where we are today,” explained Hattingh.
“I had an old Isuzu bakkie and would run around all over the place. The business grew steadily but I was not satisfied with being a ‘delivery boy’. I wanted to get into manufacturing something tangible. Something where we added value and offered a real service. In those days we did not have any fancy ideas about developing business plans, like it is today. You had a gut feel, you worked long and hard and you made it happen. This philosophy has stayed with me, and this is the discipline that I believe is essential to many successful businesses.”
Strucmac’s owner and founder Andre Hattingh with his right hand man Ryno Bornman
“Strucmac, a name which comes from the words structural and mechanical engineering, was established in 1995 as a general engineering machine shop when we purchased a second hand turret lathe. We were a jobbing shop and were prepared to take on anything that came our way, or we sourced. This has changed now because we have specialised to a certain extent but not in a particular metalworking discipline. We still believe in being able to offer a client a complete one-stop service so that he does not have to take his components or products elsewhere to have them finished. I give my own example whereby I have to rely on someone else for my laser cutting services. We have decided to address this and will be installing our own laser next year.”
“It should be part of any shop’s strategy to identify areas for improvement, regardless of the size or speciality. This should be an ongoing exercise. We realised this a few years back, and embarked on a new phase in the company’s history whereby we are now all about bringing processes in-house so as to accelerate delivery times while better serving our clientele. If a particular sub-assembly needs new pins and bushes I want to be able to make them in-house.”
A new Leadwell V-60iT 5-axis machining center with a Siemens 828D control that has recently been installed by WD Hearn
“Of course implementing this strategy also means that costs are contained and this is a saving we can pass on to clients.”
“In the machining department we had always relied on our trusty conventional equipment. That was up until 2004 when we purchased our first two Feeler CNC lathes from Craft Machine Tools. This was the beginning of the new phase of the business – the CNC equipment expanded our capabilities and made our operations more productive.”
“However the lathe work restricted us and we made a conscious decision to go the milling route and purchase some CNC machining centres. By 2008 we had another four CNC machines on the floor, all of them Leadwells supplied by WD Hearn. Besides turning and milling operations we could now offer drilling work.”
Strucmac are known for manufacturing ne and refurbishing large components and sub assemblies
“We now have five Leadwells on the floor and 16 CNC machines in total. Just installed a couple of months ago is a Leadwell V-60iT 5-axis machining center with a Siemens 828D control. The V-60iT is a new 5-axis model featuring a 630mm integrated tilting rotary table and a 26kW, 12 000 rpm ceramic/steel hybrid bearing spindle motor.”
“This is over and above the two Leadwell V-40L high speed linear way machining centers, the heavy duty Leadwell MCV-1500 box way vertical machining center with BT-50 and Siemens control, and the Leadwell LTC-35CXL M turning center with C-axis, live tools and 2 000mm turning length that were installed over the last 18 months.”
“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.”
The big test – large machines
“Originally, much of our work came in for machining small to medium size components. This still accounts for a large portion of the business and hence the continuing investment in the latest CNC equipment. However, with most of our clientele in the mining and construction industries we were getting more and more requests to manufacture and refurbish larger workpieces and components that in some cases can weigh many tons.”
Using a Renishaw probe components are checked for specifications by Strucmac
“Large-part machining presents different challenges. You can define large-part machining as any component that is too heavy or bulky for a single human being to move the part to another location quickly, or too large to fit within the work zone of the most commonly available CNC machine tools. Parts such as these could apply to almost any industry, though aircraft, construction, power generation, mining and oil drilling are ready examples of industries that commonly have a need for very large machined parts. In large-part machining, much of the challenge has to do with performing as much of the work as possible in a single setup. Today five-axis or 3+2 machining is often required to let a machining center reach many of the features of the part in a single setup.”
“We invested in our first ‘large’ CNC machine in 2009 – a Sanco SDM 4225 L, a bridge type CNC double column machining center, supplied by WD Hearn. The machine has a table size of 4 000 by 2 000mm and can take a load of 12 tons. This was followed shortly by another large Sanco CNC machine, but this time a horizontal boring machine. The table size on this machine is 1 400 by 1 600mm and it can take a load of seven tons.”
Big time machining – new Skoda CNC milling and boring machine
“The Czech Republic manufacturer Skoda Machine Tools has gained recognition for building heavy duty lathes, milling and boring machines. It is not often you get to order one of their machines, but it became necessary for us when we were asked to quote on some large sub assemblies for one of our existing clients.”
Strucmac has a Sanco SDM 4225 L, a bridge type CNC double column machining center, supplied by WD Hearn. The machine has a table size of 4 000 by 2 000mm and can take a load of 12 tons. They also have another large Sanco CNC machine, but this time a horizontal boring machine. The table size on this machine is 1 400 by 1 600mm and it can take a load of seven tons. A new Sanco SHM-13040R horizontal borer and a new Sanco SHM-11025R horizontal borer will be installed shortly
“The Skoda FCW 140 horizontal floor borer comes with a Siemens 840DSL control and an additional 60 ton rotary table for full simultaneous machining. The working range includes a spindle diameter of 140mm, which is large by any standards, a 10 000mm X-travel and
5 000mm Y-axis travel, but Skoda can build to customer requirements. The Z+W axis is 1 700mm, the Quill (W-axis) is 800mm and the Z-axis (RAM) is 900mm.”
“The main drive has a 40 kilowatt motor and the table load capacity is up to 25 tons. This is some machine and it has created a huge amount of excitement in the company.”
“The machine is large enough and open enough to handle everything that the company produces today. With its long-reach quill and rotary table, the company can now complete multiple machining tasks on large parts in one setup. Parts can be placed in one universal fixture without compromising access to all of the different compound angles that are to be machined.”
More than machining
“While I have focused on the machining side of the Strucmac business, simply machining is not what the business is all about. Metalworking is traditionally divided into two main types of job shops. There are machine shops and fabrication/service shops. Increasingly, job shop customers are looking to work with fewer companies. They are driving a move toward integration of these two processes. To satisfy this trend, many machine shops sub-contract with fabrication shops and vice-versa to keep clients happy. While that works well for some, a few shops have abandoned sub-contracting in favour of putting machining and fabricating under their own control.”
Strucmac now have five Leadwells, all supplied by WD Hearn, on the floor and 16 CNC machines in total
Hattingh adopted this strategy some years back. “We could handle the machining on larger fabricated structures that customers would fabricate in-house. Eventually, we asked some of our clients if we could take a shot at machining and fabricating. We were successful and more work came in because, like other manufacturers, our clients were looking for full-service suppliers to relieve them of some of their manufacturing stresses.”
Strucmac has steadily built this division of the company and can now offer boiler making, welding, flame, profile and plasma cutting, guillotining and bending. Laser cutting is about to be added. On order is a Prima Power laser that will be installed early in 2015.
Included in the inventory is a Heli 150 ton hydraulic press, a 400 ton Heli bending press, another 175 ton bending press, a Heli CS 13 x 3100mm guillotine, a MG plate roller, and the profile cutting division includes a plasma cutter, a Mardicraft flame cutter and a Messer CNC flame cutter.
Strucmac has steadily built up its fabrication division and can now offer boiler making, welding, flame, profile and plasma cutting, guillotining and bending. Laser cutting is about to be added. On order is a Prima Power laser that will be installed early in 2015. Included in the inventory is a Heli 150 ton hydraulic press, a 400 ton Heli bending press, another 175 ton bending press, a Heli CS 13 x 3100mm guillotine and an MG plate roller
“We can cut, bend and weld carbon steel, stainless, aluminium, nickel, steel and copper alloys along with cast iron. More importantly, we are now regarded as a shop that can offer full service sub-assembly work.”
Growing, growing, growing – from job shop chaos to organisation
After several expansions at its Atlas Road, Elandsfontein, Gauteng facilities Strucmac ran out of space to increase its engineering complex. A decision was taken to build, one that will see the company more than double the existing under roof space.
“We have always housed our flame, profile and plasma cutting facility offsite up the road in a 1 500 m² building. The purchase of the Skoda motivated us to develop the site, and we have now erected a 3 600 m² building with 30 ton crane capacity. The extra space that the new building has afforded us made us realise how chaotic it is in our existing facility, which at 4 000 m² is not small.”
The profile cutting division includes a plasma cutter, a Mardicraft flame cutter and a Messer CNC flame cutter
“This has prompted us to identify problem areas such as workflow and bottlenecks. As a result we are currently erecting another 3 600 m² building alongside the existing new one. Once the new building is completed in a couple of months we will be able to organise our business into two distinctive areas – large and heavy engineering components and sub-assemblies, and a light to medium area.”
“This has to be completed relatively quickly because arriving soon, besides the Prima Power laser, is a new Sanco SHM-13040R horizontal borer, a second new Sanco SHM-11025R horizontal borer and a Waytrain WA –530HA, which is a big double column fully automatic band saw with a cutting capacity of 530 x 530mm. All of these new machines are being supplied by WD Hearn.”
New shot blasting capabilities
“Additionally we are adding shot blasting capabilities to our service offerings. The shot blasting facility is being erected in the vicinity of the two new buildings so we can easily accommodate the large components and sub assemblies that we manufacture.”
WD Hearn have also recently installed an AnYang CNC flat bed lathe with a 2000mm swing and 650mm turning diameter x 3 000mm length
“Our goal is to be one of the top shops that others can benchmark themselves against. We don’t want to be regarded as a mom-and-pop shop.”
Not just about machines
“Although we have accelerated our capacity and capabilities to be more productive, the company is not just about the machines. I have to pay tribute to my staff, many of whom have been with me for over 10 years. Their knowledge and experience is going to be hard to replace in the future. For example, my youngest boilermaker is 55 and the oldest 69. Machines don’t replace that expertise and skill that they have built up over many years.”
“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. Our market niche is the manufacture of large and small parts and assemblies using a variety of materials and customer-supplied components. These include heat exchangers, pressure vessels, skid mounted assemblies, bases, forgings and castings, most of which require extensive fabrication and machining.”
Strucmac have a number of CNC turning centers on their floor
“Although I would agree that thinking smart has been a tradition for Strucmac since its inception in 1995, the thinking big was a more gradual development. We can now control our own destiny by keeping work in-house and processing our own engineering. Using our own machines effectively keeps lead times short and costs down.”
“The job shop is 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.”
For further details contact Strucmac on TEL: 011 822 2399 or visit www.strucmac.co.za