Strategic alliances and partnerships will always form the basis of a sound future for a company. However, developing your own opportunities and not just waiting for RFQ’s to come in the door via the Group structure should steer the company toward becoming proactive and discovering new business.
Getting out of the comfort zone though is not always easy. People tend to think the same way they always have. Chances are everyone was looking at the successes of the past, and no one focused on the future. When you are in a crowded market like metal fabrication it is even more important to take note and stop any possible bleeding.
One such company that has done this is Plasma Cut. The company was established in 1986 and subsequently purchased by the Afmetco Group in 2008.
Afmetco (African Metals Corporation) was established in 1993 as a niche supplier of specialised stainless steel plate, sheet and related products but has evolved into a group of companies whose core focus is the stocking, processing and distribution of stainless steel and aluminium throughout Southern Africa.
Within the Afmetco Group, Plasma Cut has strategic alliances and partnerships with associated companies: Euro Steel – a stockist and distributor of stainless steel, special steels, aluminium and other corrosion resisting materials in almost every commercially available form, Specstrip/Berrick Trading – a stainless steel decoiling and reslitting company, Euro Steel Pipe – a fabricator of large-bore longitudinal stainless steel welded pipe, East Cape Manufacturing – manufacturers of stainless steel pressings for catalytic converters, Euro Special Steels – a fabricator of abrasion resistant high impact high strength carbon steel plate, All Alloys – a specialist supplier of exotic metals and alloys in sheet, plate, tubes, pipes, fittings and bar to the oil, gas, petrochemical, chemical and metallurgical industries, Alsysco Aluminium – a provider of custom extrusions solutions, and projects company AMS Projects, a company that is focused on the power, mining and transport industries.
Plasma Cut has recently taken delivery of two new Gasparini X-Press 330 press brakes, delivered by Talmac Machine Tools
Plasma Cut has three Trumpf CO2 lasers delivered by Retecon Machine Tools
The group is predominantly positioned in South Africa with branches in all the main centres, but also has operations in neighbouring countries.
Plasma Cut was formed by Mischel Frljak and had a long association with its supplier Euro Steel, now a group associated company. The company initially operated as a stainless steel and aluminium service and solution centre, however, through the acquisition of modern CNC equipment, it can now offer cut–to–size laser cutting (including laser tube cutting facilities), high definition plasma cutting, guillotine cutting, bending, rolling, cylinder and flange rolling on edge, flanges (standard and to spec), bars (flat and angled), channel, plates (standard and polished), pipes, tubes, fittings, CNC machining, brushing, polishing and fabrication services.
The company has for a long time focused on stainless steel and aluminium, although it is not limited to these materials. It moved into its 8 000 m² facility, which is situated in Wadeville, Gauteng, in 2008 and adjoins the associate company Euro Steel facility. This offers a number of advantages for Plasma Cut. It partly acts as a service centre for Euro Steel, whose business is the processing of stainless steel and aluminum flat product, such as plate, sheet and coil, long products such as angle, flat and round bar, wire and tubing, and a range of extruded aluminium products.
“However, one of the biggest advantages of having Euro Steel on your door step and being one of our main material suppliers is that it can save you a huge amount on transport costs and material delivery times,” said Colin Gray, MD of Plasma Cut.
Plasma Cut has two Davi CNC pinch plate rolls, from Italy, for rolling shells and cylinders, which range from 0,7 mm to 16 mm thick
Plasma Cut had been contracted to manufacture 70 stainless steel bellmouth screens for a new dam that is being constructed in a neighbouring country
“Metal service centres are finding themselves under increasing pressure to cut costs and deliver on time so any advantage you gain can be the difference between you winning an order or not,” continued Gray.
Not just a service centre
Although the company has all the equipment that are the hallmarks of a service centre, including three Trumpf lasers that can cut up to 25 mm in mild steel, 20 mm sheet thickness in stainless steel and 12 mm in aluminium, a plasma cutter that processes plate up to 90 mm in stainless steel and 30 mm in mild steel, a couple of guillotines, a seven-axis CNC bending press, from Amada Japan, for light-gauge precision bending, which coincides with its precision-cutting facilities, and another 300 ton press brake, it has invested in other metal fabrication and manipulation equipment that certainly takes it away from operating just as a service centre.
“In fact we do not like to call ourselves a service centre anymore,” said Manny Da Silva, who has been Technical Director at Plasma Cut for the last eight years.
“Even before the company joined the Afmetco Group Plasma Cut had already diversified into adding value by manufacturing components, offering fabrication and assembly of cut-to-size components,” continued Da Siva.
Two Davi CNC pinch plate rolls, from Italy, for rolling shells and cylinders, which range from 0,7 mm to 16 mm thick, two vertical boring mills, a Doosan CNC lathe and a Doosan CNC machining centre compliment the cutting and bending equipment. Additionally, the full range of welding, polishing and brushing are included in the company’s service offerings.
An example of the company’s diversification was on view when I visited. Plasma Cut had been contracted to manufacture 70 stainless steel bellmouth screens for a new dam that is being constructed in a neighbouring country. The bellmouth screens, which involve cutting, bending, machining and welding, weigh about 200 kilograms each and are fitted in front of the bellmouth intakes on the dam wall. The screens can either be raked or removed for cleaning and the primary purpose of them is that they are used to prevent floating material entering the power station turbines or the outlet works.
The bellmouth screens, which involve cutting, bending, machining and welding, weigh about 200 kilograms each and are fitted in front of the bellmouth intakes on the dam wall. The screens can either be raked or removed for cleaning and the primary purpose of them is that they are used to prevent floating material entering the power station turbines or the outlet works
Plasma Cut is not just a service centre
Plasma Cut has also supplied the large bore piping (1 200 mm nominal bore) and the end brackets for a 200 metre piping project at the same dam construction. Each pipe weighs in at four tons and is nine metres in length.
“Many of today’s consumer products, commercial and industrial processing machines, and automotive components are being exposed to continually higher temperatures and more severe corrosion. As this transition to more challenging environments occurs, an on-time supply of high-quality processed stainless steels and other specialty metals becomes vital to industry. Many steel suppliers that process carbon steel grades are being asked to slit more exotic and often more difficult stainless steels. All too often both the processor and the customer are disappointed with the results. We regard ourselves as specialists in the field of stainless steel. Working with clients to provide the best solution and then completing the processing and assembly aspects,” explained Colin Gray.
There were also numerous examples of stainless steel components that were being manufactured for balustrading. Most components would be brushed and/or polished before being welded and assembled, and then erected on-site.
Da Silva believes that the company’s competitive advantage lies in the fact that it is not just a service centre and thus it does not outsource, but is able to add value by cutting components to customers’ specific requirements, and then offering the add-on value services.
Also, the company’s partnership with supplier Euro Steel enables it to source the material at competitive prices, which are passed directly on to the client.
The 80-strong employee company services the chemical and petrochemical industries, as well as the automotive, catering, mining and general engineering sectors. It is also ISO 9001-2008 TUV certified.
Adding to its services, Plasma Cut has recently taken delivery of two new Gasparini X-Press 330 press brakes, delivered by Talmac Machine Tools. The machines are manufactured under Gasparini’s Eco Concept, and are said to be environmentally friendly, offer energy savings, speed, noiselessness, limited maintenance, less waste and extreme precision and repeatability.
Polished components for balustrading
Two vertical boring mills, a Doosan CNC lathe and a Doosan CNC machining centre compliment the cutting and bending equipment
The machines have a 330 ton force and 3 000 mm bending width and were specifically purchased by Plasma Cut so that the company can now offer larger and wider bending operations.
“We were always restricted by our width. Talmac came up with the solution of putting two 3 000 mm machines together so we can now offer up to six metre width bending. More importantly, we saved quite a bit of money because we did not have to put in foundations for a much heavier machine, and we can now either use both machines in tandem, or singularly,” explained Da Silva.
“Going forward we are investigating the possibility of a new high definition plasma cutting machine as well as adding to our rolling department.”
“The best metal fabricating partner in a supply chain is the one that not only provides on-time delivery of quality products, but also provides complete and open communication. Today the only means to do that is by opening up information technology systems to those important customers,” explained Colin Gray.
“We have developed an online system whereby the client can log in online via our website to view the status of his order. It will give you a real-time status of where you are in the production line and when delivery can be expected. It gives the clients peace of mind; it helps us to improve our service and of course facilitates planning. That is of course if we do not have a metals industries strike.”
“The best way for you to maintain or earn “preferred” status with your clients is to show them that they can have visibility into the your operations and tell them that they are always welcome to check on things, such as a job status or shipment delivery date.”
Colin Gray, Managing Director and Manny Da Silva, Technical Director at Plasma Cut for the last eight years
A general view of the shop floor
“Your clients have always demanded the best quality, lower prices, and streamlined delivery. But today your clients want something a little more … revealing. They want access to information about their parts, orders, shipments, product documentation, account status, and even deeper access to your business data, such as quality or job status.”
Sealing the deal with an electronic handshake
“Your clients are dealing with marketplaces that increasingly demand service delivered right away and their way. This need is in turn driving them to evaluate their supply chains—of which you are a part—and address their weakest links. Will your metal fabricating operation be identified as that weakest link, forcing your clients to seek other partners better equipped to meet these real-time information requirements?”
“There was a time when business was done with a handshake. Today this has been replaced with an electronic handshake. Your data systems must shake hands with your clients’ data systems.”
“As with any inflection point when it comes to embracing innovation, leaders and laggards will emerge. Manufacturers that standardise their business on the latest ERP technology have a competitive advantage through an end-to-end system that supports their manufacturing business processes, improves client relationships, and fosters supply chain collaboration that leads to enhanced productivity and cost efficiencies. These leaders will master the show-and-tell game to maintain their preferred supplier status.”
“Plasma Cut has a simple policy as is relates to client service: Jobs are turned around in days, not weeks. If the company’s best clients need same-day service, they get it if at all possible, while at the same time embracing the electronic revolution. We believe we have mastered this with E-Track Online,” said Gray.
For further details contact Plasma Cut on TEL: 011 902 5550 or visit www.plasmacut.co.za