Rising from the embers

Think about the various reasons why a machine tool might be out of service. Envisioned instances might range from the bearable – setting up a new job or performing routine maintenance – to the drastic – a machine crash.

Though a crash is certainly damaging in terms of repair costs and production loss, most owners/shop managers know how to react to and recover from one. It’s less likely that they’d know what to do if a lightning strike set their facility ablaze, or if the nearby creek overflowed its banks and flooded their building, destroying a number of high-cost machines.

Recent heavy rains in the Johannesburg area have caused chaos on our roads and left some businesses with costly mopping up and repair bills. One service centre that I know of recently got a double dose of mud engulfing its factory floor – both instances occurred after heavy rains and were only a couple of weeks apart. The key to a quick recovery from a disaster situation is knowing the answers to the questions before a tragedy occurs. Questions such as: How will we prove to our insurance adjuster what our equipment was worth? How do we replace a machine that’s no longer being produced? What exactly does our insurance cover?

Cradard Engineering developed and patented a secure safety valve adjustable lock out system that is used in the chemical industry

Components manufactured by Cradard Engineering

Many businesses have not devoted sufficient forethought to such harsh scenarios. One such business was Craddard Engineering, based in Westmead, Kwa Zulu Natal. Fortunately for owner Craig Goddard he has been able to get his business up and running again in a relatively short time frame and is now thriving.

Goddard started off his career in the mechanical engineering field in 1987 when he was employed by a company that supplied components to the automotive OEMs. While working for the company he studied mechanical engineering at Technicon Natal for four years and achieved a higher national certificate in mechanical engineering. When Goddard left the company in 1991 he had a position as a process engineer and was responsible for implementing processes to manufacture the various automotive components that the company manufactured.

From 1991 until 1997 Goddard worked for a commercial refrigeration company, also based in the Westmead area.

“My responsibilities at this company were to develop new and more efficient refrigeration products, put the production equipment in place and ensure all equipment was adequately maintained. This included both shaping and forming equipment.”

MJH Machine Tools supplied Cradard Engineering with an Akira Seiki SR3 CNC machining center

Components manufactured by Cradard Engineering

“I then moved onto a general engineering company where we designed and manufactured high temperature butterfly and ball valves that were used in extreme conditions. My responsibilities at this company were to design and manufacture all the components for the valves that the company was manufacturing for the chemical and related industries.”

“I spent four years with that company before joining another engineering company where we repaired industrial gearboxes, built special purpose machines and machined components for various industries. My responsibilities were to fault find with regards to the repairs of the gearboxes as well as run the CNC and the manual machinery section.”

“After a four year period with that company I decided that at the age of 42 years it was time to start my own company. It was in 2008 that I established Cradard Engineering as a general machining business. However, with the experience I had gained at the companies I previously worked for and the contacts I had made over the years there were a number of options open to me so that we would not just become a run of the mill machining shop. Besides wanting to own and manage my own business I also had ideas of developing my own products.”

“Many people dream of starting a machining business. Once you understand the risks and take steps to minimise them through careful planning, your odds of success are far greater, and the chance for personal satisfaction is much more achievable.”

The company is adept at machining components to replace broken or wear parts for industry so customers do not have to import them from OEMs

MJH Machine Tools also supplied a BML series YDPM 600 CNC lathe

“Believe me, there are many risks associated with starting any new business. We have all heard the statistics that a high percentage of new businesses fail within the first year of operation. However, it is the unseen and unplanned risks that come once you get past that first year, often because of situations beyond your control, that really test your courage and mettle.”

“Despite the inherent risks associated with starting a machine shop, many people have been successful in fulfilling their dreams. In almost every case, successful start-ups are born from a good plan.”

“The first machines I purchased were all second hand or refurbished machines. They included a Leadwell CNC machining center, a Mori Seiki SL4 lathe, a one metre between centres conventional lathe and a drill press.”

“At the time, I was a one-man business with a will to succeed. Fortunately I had organised with my previous employer that I would be supplier to them by providing an alternative machining option.”

“For the first two years of the company’s existence I remained a one-man business. 2010 was a momentous year in the company’s short existence. Firstly, I decided to purchase my first new CNC machine and I also decided to employee and train two apprentices as fitter and turners. Those two youngsters are still with me and they have just completed their qualifications.”

“However, despite a setback in 2014, we have grown to a position whereby there are now 12 staff employed in the company.”

First new CNC
“My first new CNC machine was a Quick-Tech machining center that we acquired from Walker Machine Tools.”

“The machine was setup in the first factory that I rented which is in the same factory complex that we are in today. The Quick-Tech was purchased because we had steadily being building up our client base and various components that we machined and needed extra capacity.”

Cradard Engineering refurbish rail wagon wheels when required

Craig Goddard, the owner of Cradard Engineering

“Besides general engineering machining we were making a name for ourselves in the field of rebuilt and redesigned components for production machinery for various industries. This would entail modifying them in some cases and my design experience certainly helped. The programme we use for both machining and designing is Edgecam.”

“Additionally we are very adept at machining components to replace broken or wear parts for industry so customers do not have to import them from OEMs. Being able to share manufacturing know-how rather than merely selling machine time makes life as a job shop owner more rewarding. Interacting with engineers and responding effectively is a more satisfying use of skill and experience than it was in the “shut-up-and-make-the-part” days. The key is having the machining and the software resources to turn ideas into parts. That makes all the difference in the value a shop can add, especially when creativity counts as much as productivity.”

Disaster in 2014
“The company was growing at a steady rate. Then I was hit by one of those unseen and out of my control disasters. An electrical fault in the office turned the factory into a blazing inferno. You can’t imagine the feeling that overcomes you as you see your business and life savings being destroyed by fire.”

“All I can say is that every company must have a plan because it’s never too late to start planning for the worst. Proactive shops see the value in developing their own disaster recovery plans. Safety and survival starts with good planning. That means every company should develop its own emergency action plan. Know what you have in terms of equipment, tooling and materials at all times otherwise it is only the insurance companies that are going to win. I wish I had.”

“We only managed to save a couple of smaller conventional machines. All four of our CNC machines went to the scrap yard.”

Cradard Engineering’s first new CNC machine purchased was a Quick-Tech machining center that the company acquired from Walker Machine Tools

“Fortunately MJH Machine Tools and Walker Machine Tools came to our rescue as they could readily supply new machines. Even so it took six months to get up and running again and during this period we scrambled to serve customers.”

“MJH Machine Tools supplied us with an Akira Seiki SR3 CNC machining center and a BML series YDPM 600 CNC lathe. Walker Machine Tools replaced like with like and supplied us a Quick-Tech 1070 CNC vertical machining center.”

Development of own product
“With my experience of working in the valve industry I have also developed and patented my secure safety valve adjustable lock out system that is used in the chemical industry. The lock out prevents the valve from being activated remotely and is adjustable to allow for variation in valve closing positions. In short it should be impossible for any accident to occur.”

“We aim to develop this range of products in the future.”

For further details contact Craig Goddard of Cradard Engineering on TEL: 083 458 6506