Pride and appreciation at Adlam Engineering

You get one shot to make a first impression. One opportunity to show your customers and suppliers that you provide a steady, reliable product that will generate repeat business. How do you make this happen?

Manufacturing a reliable and quality product is one option. But that is only a percentage of the total package. Lead-time and delivery reliability is another aspect to differentiate oneself from the competition. Competitive pricing is another. In the normal course of business there are many paradigms that I can give but one always forgets one of the most important ones: The visual impression. Many times the visual impression is also always the first one and the lasting one.

Directors Tommie, Rudie (CEO) and Thomas Adlam in front the Doosan DBC 130L II, an all-purpose 4-axis column type horizontal NC boring machine, which was installed in 2017

Conveniently situated through careful planning in close proximity to the various machining lines is the quality control department, which also takes care of marking of components for traceability purposes

From the moment you enter through the security door into the production area at Adlam Engineering you are taken aback. You immediately ask yourself: How can this place be so clean and organised because in reality it is a machine shop? Removing and shaping metal on machines that use oil and other fluids, and as a result have metal chips flying all over the place, is the primary function of the company. Sure, it is not the intensive care unit in a medical facility or the retail outlet where you go and buy your jewellery. But for a metal industrial engineering environment the first impression you get is for all intents and purposes, the intensive care unit or jewellery shop of the metal working environment. And it leaves a very positive and lasting impression.

Good housekeeping identifies visual accountability
During my career as an editor I have been fortunate enough to visit a number of engineering businesses that have metalworking as their primary focus. I can forgive the foundry operations for not having a neat and tidy manufacturing area because of the nature of the process that is involved. But for all those metal forming and shaping companies there should be no excuse. Housekeeping should be an essential element of the daily schedule and they will soon witness the benefits of efficiency, experience fewer work-related injuries and have better communication and attitudes among workers. Most importantly, they are bound to benefit from cost savings.

With industry working to be more efficient, due to fewer employees available to complete the work, and using equipment to its fullest potential, manufacturing organisations are seeking to be more intentional about processes that impact the bottom line.

OEM pump related castings that will be machined by Adlam Engineering

Also installed last year was a Doosan VTS 1620, a vertical turning center featuring a 2 000mm turning diameter and a high-rigidity ram-type spindle that enables heavy-duty cutting for large materials. All the Doosan machines were supplied by Puma Machine Tools

Much of this is driven by 5S Good Housekeeping practices. What does this refer to? A short definition is that 5S, or the five pillars of the visual workplace, is a systematic process of workplace organisation. A method developed by the Japanese, it works in relation with lean manufacturing so that organisations can Sort, Set in order, Shine (clean), Standardise and Sustain the process to complete the work in the most efficient manner for just-in-time deliveries.

Whether Adlam Engineering has followed the 5S Good Housekeeping practices or not I did not find out but it certainly is evident that they are doing something in their own way.

Established in 1974, by Tom Adlam together with his father, Tom Adlam and his brother Conrad Adlam, Adlam Engineering began in a small workshop in Pomona (a suburb of Kempton Park, Gauteng) that they rented with only one employee. The three of them started off as a partnership and later converted their partnership to a proprietary limited company in 1978. Younger brother Rudie Adlam also joined the company in later years, making it a true family business, which it still is today.

Adlam Engineering has two large Doosan CNC vertical boring mills that are capable of handling a capacity of 15 tons on the bed

The conventional machine department is segregated into turning and milling, gear hobbing and gear shaping

Rudie Adlam is the current MD/CEO. He is ably assisted by his son Tommie. Tommie, who has officially been with the company for over 24 years, has in actual fact spent a great deal longer there if you count the time he spent at the company during his school years. Rudie also has his nephew Thomas (the late Tom’s son) running the business with him and a fellow Director. Keeping it in the family Tommie’s brother-in-law Christo du Preez is the General Manager. Tommie’s sister Rina du Preez and Thomas’s sister Riana Braun are also part of the team.

“We take it even further with our family values because there are a number of guys on the floor who have a brother or relation working for us as well. As we are a private company it is not a case of nepotism but rather one of trust. We are a relatively big company now – we employ 195 staff – and need to have reliable and trustworthy staff.”

Adlam Engineering’s 11 000m² factory in Boksburg East has enough floor space to implement world class manufacturing practices and this the company has done, from the housekeeping to the flow of material, machining, inspection, quality control, testing, assembly and dispatch. The company has been located in the factory since 2008 when it was purpose built for their needs, and management had the opportunity to streamline and improve the processes that are required to manufacture their core products – gears and gearboxes.

“Our products turn the giants of a production line in many industries including mining (surface as well as underground), mineral processing, power train, oil, sugar, agriculture, construction, transport, marine, paper, power and general engineering. You can find them working on cone and rock crushers, rotary tables, wind turbines, heavy conveyors and other material handling equipment, lifts, cranes and hoists, canning and bottling equipment, power plant turbines and many others,” explained my host Gideon de Klein, the Operations Manager at Adlam Engineering.

The machining line that houses the large Doosan horizontal and vertical boring CNC machines

Approximately 70% of the company’s production schedule is work carried out reconditioning and repairing gearboxes, gears and shafts

“The company was established with a primary purpose of manufacturing industrial machine components by turning, milling, boring, grinding, hobbing and shaping and welding operations. We manufacture spur gears, single and double helical gears, internal gears, gears for intersecting shafts, worm gears, internal and external splines, sprockets and the other products that are associated with gear and gearbox manufacture. These gears include straight, spiral, hypoid, face and zerol bevel gears, depending on the application,” continued De Klein.

“The production floor has been shaped to have the various CNC machining processes all grouped in one area together. In other words we have a line that just does turning or milling, for example. Because of the type of products that we manufacture they do not require a cell to be set up. Our production is a varied mix of low-volume work. A big gearbox housing or gear can take days to machine on our large horizontal milling or boring machines.”

“Even the conventional machine department is segregated into turning and milling, and of course you must keep the gear hobbing and gear shaping machines together. Some of these machines in this department are older than the company but still machine to within specification. We have kept them, because for certain gears, once you have done the setup you can leave the machine to carry on progressively cutting unattended for hours. This frees up operators to perform other tasks.”

Quality assurance
Conveniently situated through careful planning in close proximity to the various machining lines is the quality control department, which also takes care of marking of components for traceability purposes.

Adlam Engineering also manufacture new gearboxes and gears

All types of material are machined

“The quality assurance programme currently in place is based upon compliance with ISO 9001. All projects are routed through the manufacturing operations and planned inspections are determined prior to processing. In-process inspections take place constantly as components are manufactured. Skilled machinists and inspectors document inspections in an environmentally controlled inspection laboratory, which includes a Mitutoyo Bright Apex CMM machine. A constant temperature and humidity level is held to insure consistency in all measurements. Instruments specific to the measurement of gear tooth geometry are calibrated and certified to maintain the highest degree of accuracy,” explained De Klein.

Reconditioning and repair
Accounting for approximately 70% of the company’s production schedule is work carried out reconditioning and repairing gearboxes, gears and shafts. The process begins in the stripping department that is housed in an adjoining building. Once stripped and washed a detailed damage assessment and failure report is compiled before a quote is sent to the client for approval. With nearly half a century of experience in reconditioning and repairing industrial gearboxes Adlam Engineering’s knowledge in this field is vast.

“Increasingly OEMs and their Tier-One suppliers are asking for solutions to revive a gearbox to its former glory because of the costs associated with acquiring new ones. We have dedicated skilled teams that assess and recommend a solution for each individual gearbox. Reverse engineering of gears and components is an intricate component of the whole solution. Every gearbox is tested on our various test benches after assembly to ensure the gearbox is running smoothly and according to standard.”

Adlam Engineering has a Hofler Rapid 1600 CNC gear grinding machine

Adlam Engineering machine castings and forgings and from billet and block

“Once we are satisfied with the repair or reconditioning the client is supplied with an electronic data pack that includes every aspect of work carried out during the process, including photographs of before and after and all the documentation related to that particular gearbox, gear or shaft. This assures complete accountability and traceability because the products are deployed in big industrial situations and failures are virtually not an option.”

Field service department
A new innovation in the company was the introduction 18 months ago of the field service department. The company’s field service division staff operate in all the major industrial sectors that Adlam Engineering are involved in. They ensure that all repaired or manufactured product is installed, operated and maintained within the correct parameters that the product was designed for. Their parameters include periodic maintenance, condition analysis (vibration and samples), strip, repair, upgrades, installation and commissioning, as well as civil, mechanical and electrical capabilities.

New equipment
The machining lines at Adlam Engineering consist of equipment from Leadwell, STC, Mazak and Victor, which have mainly supplied machines for the milling and turning lines. However, by far the dominant supplier in recent years has been Doosan. The company has turning capacity up to 2 000mm in diameter and 1 560mm in height. Milling sizes are varied depending on whether it is a CNC machining center or a CNC vertical boring mill.

The inspection laboratory includes a Mitutoyo Bright Apex CMM machine

CV joints that have been manufactured on a CNC lathe

Installed towards the end of 2017 was a Doosan DBC 130L II, an all-purpose 4-axis column type horizontal NC boring machine. This brings to three the number of Doosan horizontal boring mills that the company has purchased. Additionally Adlam Engineering has two large Doosan CNC vertical boring mills that are capable of handling a capacity of 15 tons on the bed.

The Doosan DBC 130L is suitable for a diverse line-up of medium to oversized components. It could support applications ranging from parts processing to fine cutting processing. With its newly designed spindle, it could take on cutting jobs that require high strength. The machine has XYZ travels of 4 000mm x 2 000mm x 1 800mm travels.

Also installed last year was a Doosan VTS 1620. The heavy vertical turning center featuring a 2 000mm turning diameter and a high-rigidity ram-type spindle enables heavy-duty cutting of large materials.

All the Doosan machines were supplied by Puma Machine Tools.

Gear grinding – Hofler Rapid 1600 CNC gear grinding machine
Relatively new in the gear grinding department is a Hofler Rapid 1600, which can cater for workpieces with diameters of up to 1 600mm. With standard features that include a cast polymer machine bed, a torque motor-driven machine table, an integrated inspection system, a sturdy grinding spindle and a dressing system for frequent profile modifications, the machine can grind components up to 100mm high and take a load up to 14 000 kilograms.

The company is planning to invest in more equipment this year to increase capacity.

Heat treatment, normalising and NDT
“We are very capable of manufacturing most of the components required for our machining and manufacturing process. We even have a number of testing bays. All materials processed are either supplied by our preferred forge or foundry or in billet and block form from our steel supplier. Heat treatment and normalising is done by subcontractors, as is our NDT. In our business it is a must to do NDT via a third-party so that we don’t have any comebacks. Before NDT inspection we have our own NDT done so that we are equally accountable,” said de Klein.

Design and development
“We are committed to quality, to products that fit, products that work and products with superior performance. At Adlam Engineering we provide engineered solutions and answers to problems that hinder our customer’s production. We have invested in the latest 3D Design Software for our experienced design team to work with, allowing them to redesign problem areas on machines to maximise productivity. We are able to design alternative replacement parts that allow us to improve problematic parts. This also means that obsolete machines or gearboxes can be refurbished to original specifications,” said Tommie Adlam after my tour of the immaculately kept production floor.

The mix of CNC equipment includes a Mazak Nexus 6000 horizontal machining center supplied by Hi-Tech Machine Tools

The company also has a Victor Vcenter H500 horizontal machining center

“All parts are designed with extreme care to make sure superior performance and quality standards are met. We are also able to receive electronic drawing formats in DXF, DRW, TIF or PDF file formats that we can print at our offices to speed up the quoting process. For manufacturing we can also receive IGES, PRT and STEP files to make sure that your true models get machined precisely as you have constructed it,” concluded Tommie Adlam.

Advanced planning and scheduling
Adlam Engineering’s product mix is made up of standard products (for the mining sector) with pre-defined production steps and set prices and non-standard products that are heavily reliant on the accuracy of costing and estimation. This variety made it hard for Adlam Engineering to trace and plan properly, considering that a normal finished product could contain up to 200 components. After having considered several APS (Advanced planning and scheduling) systems, Adlam chose Preactor 400 APS.

The company says it could not operate without an advanced planning and scheduling system.

For further details contact Adlam Engineering on TEL 011 841 9608 or visit