The management team at Scientific Engineering has seen the manufacturing landscape change greatly over the last 25 years, including the company’s manufacturing processes and the product mix.
Scientific Engineering (Pty) Ltd has been around since 1966 as a leading manufacturer of laboratory and scientific equipment in Southern Africa. The company designs and manufactures its own range and does very little marketing of its own products. Product sales are generated through a worldwide dealer network and the laboratory products include platform, orbital and incubating shakers, ovens, incubators, waterbaths, circulators, circulating baths, steambaths, heatable baths, hotplates, furnaces, accessories, trolleys, clean air laminar flow work benches, electrode baking and holding ovens and hot boxes for the welding industry.
An industry builds to a boom, seeks cheaper manufacturing sources overseas, and ultimately comes back when these “legacy” products return to be made locally because the low volumes no longer justify overseas manufacturing. It sounds like a cycle that could drive a supplier of products that require large amounts of metal fabrication to the brink of extinction. It is a scenario that is a reality for many local manufacturers in the face of the Chinese onslaught, but that’s not the case for Scientific Engineering. The company counters this by continuing to produce products of a quality that cannot be matched by mass production, where quantity supersedes quality. More importantly it has built a reputation in tough markets like the USA, where stringent safety and quality tests have to be passed before a product is allowed to be imported, while still maintaining a leading position in South Africa.
The Managing Director of Scientific Engineering is Bernard Parschau, a passionate man who is carrying on the company started by his late father. This family foundation is infused in the culture of the overall company, where an open door policy and a lateral structure ensures that everyone is an equally valued and productive member of a team that shares a commitment to quality.
“The company was established at a time when there was a drive to build up the manufacturing base in South Africa. Coupled with a burgeoning mining industry at the time and the potential prospects in such markets as biochemistry, research, pharmaceuticals and industry in general, the product mix was carefully chosen,” said Parschau, a Mechanical Engineer, who joined the company in 1990.
Growth and product diversification
Up until then the company had focused on the local market but if it wanted to grow it would have to seek alternatives, such as exports.
“Although the export market had huge potential it also presented challenges that would be a barrier to entry for most companies. I am talking in particular about the US market. But the company had always thrived in a competitive environment and if it meant that we would have to place an emphasis on making sure our equipment complies with regulations, we were up to the challenge.”
Managing Director of Scientific Engineering Bernard Parschau with Production Director Fernando De Jesus in front of the Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015 three kilowatt fiber laser supplied by First Cut
The Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015 three kilowatt fiber laser comes equipped with a Bystronic ByTrans Extended sheet loading and unloading system
“These included the UL Standards and NSF Listing, two independent bodies in the USA that validate, test, inspect and audit your products for compliance and safety to a certain standard before certifying you to enter the market. Ultimately they perform functions that level the playing fields with their benchmark guidelines, safeguard the integrity of your product and enable consumers and businesses to feel confident about the products and services they purchase. These standards are in addition to the ISO 9001 certification we have.”
“The resultant disciplines and standards that we now apply to our manufacturing techniques mean we deliver quality and reliability and manufacture our equipment to a very high standard. We are glad that we have paid our ‘school fees’ because today the market is even more competitive”
Equipment for the food service industry
The company’s entry into the USA market virtually coincided with the product diversification that it undertook. In 1993, a South African catering distribution company approached the Scientific Engineering team with a proposal to develop a range of equipment for the food service industry.
“The way we manufacture our type of laboratory and scientific equipment is very similar to the way you would manufacture food service equipment. Simply put, the shell or body is made up of sheet metal components that have been either cut to size, pressed or bent, based on the shape of the component and then assembled with the various electrical, gas and other accessories being incorporated. The fit for our production capabilities coincided perfectly,” explained Parschau.
Anvil food service equipment
The company branded its new range of equipment Anvil, and it has now become synonymous with the industrial food service equipment in South Africa and worldwide.
“In the early days we developed a range of niche equipment, but 20 years later the division manufactures a broad range of products that can be found in restaurants, take away businesses, canteens, hospitals, supermarkets, hotels, bars, industrial kitchens and even school tuck shops, and is used by professional chefs and caterers. The range of plug-in, easy-to-use industrial food service equipment is used in either hot or cold processing situations whether it be in a permanent location or an outside catering venue.”
In December 2013 Scientific Engineering installed three Bystronic Xpert 150 hydraulic press brakes, supplied by First Cut
Sheet metal that has been formed and assembled
“The Anvil brand consists of three sub brands – Apex, Axis and Aire – and all products are manufactured to SABS standards. The range includes convection, deck, pizza and baking ovens, dough and other mixers, fryers, boilers, proofing and other cabinets, rotisseries, cake fridges, display units, warmers, salamanders, grillers in either electric or gas configurations, as well as a number of accessories.”
A natural progression for Scientific Engineering, which is the manufacturing arm of the company, was to enter the butchery equipment supply market, which it did in 1992. Here the company manufactures meat bandsaws, biltong slicers, cooker cabinets, mincers, patty machines, sausage fillers and smoker cabinets for this area of the food service equipment market. You can find the company’s equipment in butcheries as well as in fish, meat and poultry deli shops.
Manufacturing and design
Approximately 80% of Scientific Engineering’s sheet metal work, whether it is cut to size, pressed or bent, consists of light gauge stainless steel and 90% of this figure is grade 430, a non-hardenable steel containing straight chromium that belongs to the ferritic group of steels. This steel is known for its good corrosion resistance and formability, coupled with practical mechanical properties. It can be used in certain chemical applications due to its resistance to nitric acid. The remainder is made up of mild steel.
Scientific Engineering (Pty) Ltd has been around since 1966 as a leading manufacturer of laboratory and scientific equipment in Southern Africa. Drying and industrial ovens, furnaces, incubators, chambers, laboratory circulators, shakers, baths and accessories are part of the product mix
Laboratory equipment in the test stage
Sheet metal that has been formed and then welded onto fixtures
The company employs lasers, press brakes, punch presses and guillotines to carry out its sheet metal work and processes between 30 and 40 tons of metal a month. All assembly and packaging is done in house as is the wire harnessing. However, certain components are outsourced. These include aluminium high pressure and gravity sand castings, ferrous castings and some assemblies.
Despite an abundance of modern technology now available, Parschau confesses that in most instances they use standard controls that make it easy to service and operate the equipment.
“We keep things nice and simple in the way in which we produce our appliances with the aim of making sure they are user friendly. There is equipment that we have manufactured 30 to 40 years ago that is still fully operational. This bears testimony to the fact that it has been designed to last.”
“For each product produced by the company, meticulous care to design, quality aspects and market research has to be considered, reviewed and applied before anything can be manufactured. From the time of inception to the time a product reaches the market, can easily take up to 15 months,” Parschau explains.
Water urns being assembled
Part of the assembly area. Scientific Engineering manufactures its own wire harnesses
A gas floor standing fat fryer manufactured by Scientific Engineering
“We are very in touch with the end user. If we see an opportunity in the market, our team looks at gaining market intelligence to identify whether there is room for us to operate in, as well as whether the product falls in line with our core business and abilities. If it passes the first gate, we then make sure we have something which adds value compared to what existing offers are out there. This is then taken a step further as we start designing using SolidWorks and then developing prototypes. If these pass internal tests we send them out for field tests. This helps to ensure that the product designs are in line with market requirements. Once we have achieved that, we start a pre-production run of between five or ten units and double check that the unit is suitable enough for its intended purpose. When we are comfortable with the result, we approach our dealers so that the product may be launched.”
New sheet metal processing equipment
The company embarked on an equipment upgrade recently. “In December 2013 we installed three Xpert 150 hydraulic press brakes, which are equipped with a comprehensive database of material bend allowances and extensive bending configurations. The 150 ton capacity Xpert press brakes feature a 3 000 mm bed length, dynamic crowning, dynamic sheet thickness detection, LED optical bend guiding, high-speed ram, and the ByVision bending control with a 22” touchscreen interface that allows functionality and simple and rapid set-up.”
“Although we already have a Bystronic 3015 CO2 laser on the shopfloor, increased use of fiber optic technology in lasers is making laser cutting equipment more productive and cost-effective. This is the reason why we have now purchased a Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015, a high-power fiber laser cutting machine based on the BySprint Pro platform. The BySprint Fiber 3015 fiber laser is equipped with a 3-kilowatt fiber 3000 fiber laser, and even though it is powerful enough to cut steel, aluminium and non-ferrous metals such as copper and brass, we are only using it to cut our stainless steel sheets,” explained Production Director Fernando De Jesus, who has been with the company since 1987.
“The fiber laser was installed three months ago and comes with a Bystronic ByTrans Extended sheet loading and unloading system. The output of the new BySprint Fiber 3015 fiber laser has increased our production throughput, so much that it made no sense to slow it down by not adding the sheet automation,” continued De Jesus.
A double pan fryer manufactured by Scientific Engineering
A pie warmer
A cabinet with a trolley
“The machines are run on the BySoft proprietary software. The BySoft software not only provides a flat blank development, it will tell us whether we have the tools available and run a simulation of the bending sequence. Ultimately it has taken the skill out of the operation and returned it to the office, where it should be. Skilled press brake operators are hard to find, and if they take leave or become sick, the customer gets let down. We won’t have this problem in future.”
“The new Bystronic equipment suites our type of sheet metal production environment as we are not a service centre. All our work is for in-house use.”
Scientific Engineering operates from a 10 000 m² facility in Roodepoort, Gauteng and employs 130 staff.
“Many manufacturers try and give the market what they think it needs. We at Scientific Engineering believe it is very important, and possible. With sufficient market intelligence, one is able to analyse the market carefully and distinguish between what is required and not what is assumed to be required. There is a very subtle difference,” said Parschau in finishing.
Scientific Engineering has a call for punching operations. The company has a Trumatic 200 punch press supplied by Retecon Machine Tools
Scientific Engineering manufactures and supplies a range of butchery equipment such as a meat band saw
“Scientific Engineering certainly knows what the market requires and this comes from many years of close relationships with our dealers and end users in the field. We are industry leaders but one has to respect one’s competition. I think arrogance in any form is very dangerous. There are many first rate players out there that are also able to satisfy their customers, we just have to be better at the game than they are. The capital investments we have made recently shows that we are serious about this. We believe in our products and are a proudly South African company,” Parschau explains.