Expand, don’t contract.
It seems counterintuitive, but great companies expand during slowdowns; they don’t pull back.
Despite the economic woes of the last couple of years Secant Engineering has been investing in its future as well as increasing capacity and capabilities to cope with demand.
For many contract or job shops, the difference between extinction and survival lies in the flexibility of process that yields good parts. But nowadays a job shop has to maximize flexibility in terms of services offered.
Over the years Secant Engineering, based in Springs, Gauteng, has endeavoured to become a fully-fledged general engineering shop. The services that the company now offers include CNC machining, laser cutting, CNC bending, fabrication, cutting, welding and finishing solutions to its clients, having started off as a company that just offered CNC turning and milling operations.
Last year Secant Engineering purchased a Messer MultiTherm 4000 CNC Hi-Definition plasma cutting machine. The Messer MultiTherm incorporates the patented “True-Hole” cutting technology, which significantly improves the quality of cut holes in terms of roundness and reduced taper
“Meeting customer demand for both quality components and consistent, on-time delivery is essential for any shop’s competitiveness. However, having to subcontract work that can’t be done in-house can add weeks or months to delivery times and compromise quality standards,” explained Colin Kirby Smith, the elder of the two brothers that run the family business today.
This was the issue faced by Secant Engineering for some years before the company took a major decision that would shape its future. First up the company migrated to being a fully-fledged CNC shop as well as adding drilling and tapping to their capabilities.
However the company still had its hands tied when it came to fabrication work and the other disciplines in metalworking that clients were expecting of them. Driven by the frustration over lack of control, mounting customer demand and pursuant of the goal of becoming a complete general engineering shop, in 2006 Secant Engineering made its first venture into the fabricating arena.
The Messer MultiTherm comes fitted with Hypertherm’s 400-A HyPerformance Plasma HPR400XD plasma-arc metal-cutting system. This unit can pierce up to 50 mm and edge start up to 80 mm on mild steel. Longer consumable lifetime is obtained from the new XD system
First to arrive was a Bystronic 4.4 kW laser cutter with a bed size that could accommodate sheets up to 3000 x 1500 mm. At the same time two Durma pressbrakes, one with 100 ton capacity and the other with 200 ton capacity, were purchased to support the laser work. This added bending capabilities to the company offerings and was the first step towards the company becoming a full fabrication service centre.
The first Bystronic was followed shortly by another 4.4 kW Bystar, but this time with a bigger bed size of 4000 x 2500 mm.
Realising they were lacking on the bending side Secant added an extra pressbrake to the shopfloor. This time they decided on an Amada RG-100 with 110 ton capacity with a bending length of 3045 mm.
Before long a third Bystronic laser – a Bystar 3015 equipped with 6kW resonator – was purchased. This allowed the company to cut thicker materials and also opened up new markets, particularly in aluminium.
By this time the bending department was not keeping up with the cutting division so the company added an Amada HDS 220 ton 4 metre servo drive pressbrake.
The oxy-gas cutting machine that Secant Engineering purchased is fitted with the Burny Phantom control that has a completely integrated package featuring a PC-based numeric control, 2 or 3 axis drive amplifiers and a comprehensive operators console
In between, Secant Engineering also formed a welding department, and housed in a separate building is a paint bay that provides the surface finishing to the completed components / fabrications. An Everising H-260 horizontal bandsaw, a BySpeed 3015 laser cutting machine and an Amada HDS-1303NT press brake that has a 3110 mm bed with 143-ton capacity was also purchased.
The CNC machining department benefitted with the addition of two Victor Fortune VCenter-102 machining centres and a VCenter-130 machining centre.
Orders of smaller lot sizes and the demand for shorter lead times led the company to pay attention to its quoting and design departments both for the forming and fabrication side. This department uses SolidWorks, MasterCAM and Amada software.
Metal plate processing
The one area where the company did not have any significant experience was in plate processing. Now the family-owned business has added plate processing to the array of services that it offers clients. Last year the company purchased a Messer MultiTherm 4000 CNC Hi-Definition plasma cutting machine as well as an oxy-fuel cutting machine fitted with a Burny Phantom controller.
Secant Engineering has also purchased a Yaskawa Motoman 20 D-6, which means it has an extended reach, and it comes with a HSB 5000 positioner
The Messer MultiTherm comes fitted with Hypertherm’s 400-A HyPerformance Plasma HPR400XD plasma-arc metal-cutting system. This unit can pierce up to 50 mm and edge start up to 80 mm on mild steel. Longer consumable lifetime is obtained from the new XD system.
The Messer MultiTherm incorporates the patented “True-Hole” cutting technology, which significantly improves the quality of cut holes in terms of roundness and reduced taper.
The plasma marking function reduces post processing production times. All identification and line marking can be done on the parts before they are cut and removed from the bed.
The Messer Global Control CNC system has enabled Secant Engineering to quickly achieve full production with minimal time needed for training, while the on-line Internet service function enables remote and quick diagnosis of any faults, resulting in the minimum amount of production downtime being lost.
Also just arrived on the floor, again to increase throughput, are two Durma press brakes. Installed this year was a Durma AD-S 30135 Synchro CNC hydraulic press brake, which has a 135 ton pressure and maximum bending length of 3050 mm. Installed last year by the company was a Durma E 40400 press brake, which has a 400 ton bending force and four metre bending length
The Messer MultiTherm 4000 cuts up to 80 millimetres mild steel thick plates and 75 mm stainless steel and aluminium. A maximum size plate of 3 x 12 metres can be handled.
The Messer MultiTherm 4000 with a 3 x 12 metre working area is a multifaceted gantry cutting machine which can be adapted individually to every area of application, for example with multiple torch oxyfuel cutting, plasma systems, marking or a combination of all processes. What is more, the MultiTherm® can be upgraded at any time to another cutting operation so that it is a flexible system with a sure future.
The oxy-gas cutting machine fitted with the Burny Phantom control has a completely integrated package featuring a PC-based numeric control, 2 or 3 axis drive amplifiers and a comprehensive operators console. The operators console contains functions for up to six oxy fuel stations and two plasma stations along with markers and auxiliary functions. The Phantom also features integrated 2 or 3-axis AC or DC drives and uses Windows® XP Embedded.
“We purchased these two machines because of the pressing demand and the new markets that we wanted to get into. It is as simple as that,” said Graham Kirby Smith the younger brother of the two-man management team.
Secant Engineering constructed a purpose built 2000 m² under roof building for the two new machines. “We had run out of space in our existing buildings but more importantly we wanted to have the plasma and oxyfuel cutting operations separated from the remaining operations so that there is no contamination. It also gives us enough space to expand operations in this department when the need arises,” explained Graham.
Motoman robotic welding
“Having moved into plate processing the very nature of the process dictates that we would encounter more welding work. Although we are mainly cutting to size and processing specific components at this stage, we have been engaged to do a project where there is repetitive welding of the same components. Robot welding, in the true sense of the words, completely automates a welding process by both performing the weld and handling the part. The robot may weld a pre-programmed position, be guided by machine vision, or by a combination of the two methods. However, the many benefits of robotic welding have proven to make it a technology that helps manufacturers increase accuracy, repeatability, and throughput and this is exactly what we are using the Motoman for,” explained Colin.
Secant Engineering have added a Bystronic Byvention 3015 laser cutting system to their laser department in the last 18 months. They now have five Bystronic laser systems on their shopfloor
“Ours is a relatively small system, it is a Yaskawa Motoman 20 D-6, which means it has an extended reach, and it comes with a HSB 5000 positioner. We have manufactured some jigs and there is one staff member that operates the department. He just churns it out for us but the time he saves on the welding is amazing. Who knows how we could progress in this department?” said Colin.
New Durma press brakes
Also just arrived on the floor, again to increase throughput, are two Durma press brakes.
Installed this year was a Durma AD-S 30135 Synchro CNC hydraulic press brake, which has a 135 ton pressure and maximum bending length of 3050 mm. Installed last year by the company was a Durma E 40400 press brake, which has a 400 ton bending force and four metre bending length.
When I first visited this company in 2009 it had a CNC machining division and a couple of laser cutting machines and press brakes housed in two separate buildings. Fabrication, welding and painting use to take place outside in what looked like chaotic yet organized chaos. The company has subsequently invested more money in capital equipment and buildings during the past three years than ever before. It is now a company that can compete with the best. Both brothers continue to be hands on in running the business, and judging by their characters they will continue to do so in the future.
For further details contact Secant Engineering on TEL: 011 818 3640 or visit www.secanteng.co.za