Sheetech SA gets on with business

Skills training forms part of the company’s community upliftment.

It has always been difficult to pigeonhole a metal fabricator. Does a shop specialise in sheet metal or plate; light enclosures or heavy fabrications; precision aerospace or work that isn’t so precise; industrial work like vessels or piping skids; architectural and ornamental work; structural fabrication or a combination? There’s nothing new about such diversity in the business of sheet metal manipulation or fabrication. One thing that binds together these diverse brands of fabrication is a common challenge: Standing apart in a competitive market. One such business is Sheetech SA.

Although the owners, Paul Alaraju and Liston Chetty, had no real experience in running a business before they established their company in 1996 they have proven that dedication and hard work will lead to a company being successful. Even though the company has reached a milestone age of 21, the two partners continue to look to grow the business, while at the same time giving back to the community in the form of a corporate social investment project that entails training and upskilling able bodied people and those with disabilities, in the fields of welding application and practice and engineering fabrication.

Sheetech SA owners Liston Chetty and Paul Alaraju

One of the more recent investments that Sheetech SA have made on the equipment side is in a Coastone Cone C9 servo electric press brake. Built in Finland, the servo electric press brakes are direct ball screw driven, and are equipped with linear guides. The machine was been installed by Metal Chip Machinery’s agent in Durban MAC CNC

“We met while working at the same company. We started off small by offering a variety of sheet metal services. There were only three of us in the beginning and we had three second hand machines at our disposal. Relatively speaking the company and client list grew rapidly and by 1998 we had to find a larger facility to operate from. This led us to the Queensmead Industrial Park located in the Queensburgh area of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. We have remained in the same factory, which we now own, ever since and through growth over the years we have also purchased the factory next door. In total we now occupy an area of 6000m²,” explained Paul Alaraju.

So what can a sheet metal fabricator do to set itself apart? Investing in automation and the latest technologies, combined with improvement efforts and smart management can help shorten manufacturing time and improve on-time delivery rates. Shortening the order-to-cash cycle lowers costs, which in turn gives shops the ability to lower prices and still make a profit.

When you think about where manufacturing is headed, with new technology and increased use of improvement techniques, world-class quality and delivery theoretically could be commonplace one day. How then does a shop continue to grow in such a competitive environment? To introduce another revenue stream and mitigate the pains of unpredictable contract work, many job shops launch their own product line. Of course, a product line comes with its own uncertainties, the biggest one being the new products’ actual demand.

Sheetech SA have also recently purchased two Turkish manufactured MVD press brakes. They have a force of 100 tons with a bending length of 2 600mm whereas the company’s older MVD machine has a force of 400 tons with a bending length of 5 200mm, and a material thickness up to 10mm can be bent

Surprisingly Sheetech SA is a recent convert to laser cutting. Previously the company outsourced all its requirements but in 2015 made the decision to purchase its own machine – a Trumpf Trumatic L3030. A second machine – a Trumpf Trumatic L4030 was soon thereafter part of the capital equipment purchases. Both machines have a bed size of 4 x 2 metres

Sheetech SA have differentiated themselves from others by offering a wide range of metal fabrication and metal pressing solutions, hence offering customers a one stop solution. Sheetech SA is also contracted to a number of powder coating companies and electro-plating companies so that the customer’s choice of finishes are achieved and a complete product is delivered to the customer.

“When we moved to our present location, not only were we limited by space restrictions but also the services that we offered. This soon changed after the move and has continued to grow throughout the history of the company. Our staff compliment jumped to 12 from three, and we made sure that the skill sets amongst the new employees went beyond just cutting and bending,” continued Paul Alaraju.

“The company has grown to the extent that we now employ over 60 staff and we have 124 machines at our disposal. We also service a number of customers in numerous industries including construction, automotive, visual and advertising displays, industrial and electrical enclosures, transport and rail, shopfitting, electronics, mining and catering, among others.”

Sheetech SA has its own machine shop where the company has conventional lathes, milling machines, a surface grinder and drills

Sheetech SA has 17 CNC press brakes, three CNC punching machines and four guillotine machines at its disposal

The company’s client list is also impressive including South African Breweries, Merlin Gerin, Automotive Control Systems, Autotronix, ABB South Africa, Honeywell, Omniflex, CI Shurlok, Daimler Chrysler, Smiths Manufacturing, Siemens South Africa and Visualworks.

“We have always believed in adding value where we can. This is why we offer laser cutting, bending, punching, stamping, welding, machining and finishing and assembly services. We even go as far as making our own tools for the 22 presses that we have in the stamping shop. Although we still outsource powder coating and electroplating we are in the advanced stages of planning to install our own powder coating plant.”

Surprisingly Sheetech SA is a recent convert to laser cutting. Previously the company outsourced all its requirements but in 2015 made the decision to purchase its own machine – a Trumpf Trumatic L3030. A second machine – a Trumpf Trumatic L4030 was soon thereafter part of the capital equipment purchases. Both machines have a bed size of 4 x 2 metres.

“Both machines are second hand CO2 laser cutting machines but with relatively low ‘mileage’ on them. In time we will look at the fiber route but it’s all about affordability. We have been investing in equipment in other departments so we will address the laser cutting department when the need arises.”

Sheetech SA cut, bend and punch mild steel and stainless steel components for customers

Sheetech SA fabricate, assemble and finish products and components for customers

“However, we have recently installed a Nitrogen converter to operate the machines and are realising a 50% saving in input costs. Traditionally, oxygen is most commonly used when cutting steels. Thin steel does not require a significant amount of power due to the burning process, which involves an exothermic reaction – a chemical reaction of oxygen-burning iron, which releases excess energy through heat and light. Nitrogen is generally used when cutting stainless steel or aluminium in order to achieve excellent quality. Unlike oxygen, nitrogen serves as a shielding gas in light gauge material to stop the burning process and allows the laser to vaporise the material. This means that power is the determining factor in cutting speed; more power equals more speed.”

CoastOne Cone C9 servo electric press brake
“One of the more recent investments we have made on the equipment side is in a Coastone Cone C9 servo electric press brake. Built in Finland, the servo electric press brakes are direct ball screw driven, and are equipped with linear guides. The cornerstone of the Cone development has been ergonomic design to provide an efficient working environment for the operator and a user-friendly programming system. The user-friendly programming system makes tool set-ups fast and are perfect for short runs and hot production requirements.”

The company’s client list is also impressive including South African Breweries, Merlin Gerin, Automotive Control Systems, Autotronix, ABB South Africa, Honeywell, Omniflex, CI Shurlok, Daimler Chrysler, Smiths Manufacturing, Siemens South Africa and Visualworks

Sheetech SA has grown to the extent that they now employ over 60 staff and have 124 machines at their disposal. Sheetech SA also services a number of customers in numerous industries including construction, automotive, visual and advertising displays, industrial and electrical enclosures, transport and rail, shopfitting, electronics, mining and catering, among others

“The CoastOne C series use no hydraulic oil and consume very little electricity. And with no hydraulics to keep cool, the heat generation is eliminated. The electrical savings alone can result in up to a 50% saving when compared to hydraulic press brakes.”

“Additionally, we believe that a servo-driven press brake provides better cycle times and lower maintenance levels than a hydraulic press brake, especially in this domain of bending. In addition to the fast acting ram, the X and R back gauge provides impressive production capabilities in small lot sizes, something today’s fabricators must take into account.”

“The machine has been installed by Metal Chip Machinery’s agent in Durban MAC CNC.”

“We have also recently purchased two Turkish manufactured MVD press brake. They have a force of 100 tons with a bending length of 2 600mm whereas our older MVD machine has a force of 400 tons with a bending length of 5 200mm, and a material thickness up to 10mm can be bent.”

“This department now has 17 CNC press brakes, three CNC punching machines and four guillotine machines at its disposal.”

“Bending, welding and fettling are all done in the building that we relocated to in 1998. The second building, which we purchased in 2011 which is located next door, houses our press department and is where the cutting, punching and assembly takes place. It also includes our machine shop where we have conventional lathes, milling machines, a surface grinder and drills.”

Project with Merseta to upskill
“The second building also houses our training and education centre. The company embarked on a project with Merseta in 2008 to upskill people with disabilities, as part of social investment in giving back to the community.”

Components ready for delivery

Sheetech SA have differentiated themselves from others by offering a wide range of metal fabrication and metal pressing solutions

“The Education and Training Division (ETD) is a Merseta accredited training centre. The ETD was initially developed for staff training but has branched out into doing learnerships and skills programmes for the community and students from V.N. Naik School for the Deaf.”

“Even the recruitment and selection process is geared towards helping local students into the industry. We also choose promising school students for learnerships in the field of engineering fabrication. Students are given the opportunity to receive proper on-the-job training in the sheet metal industry.”

“On average we will train between 50 and 70 students a year, both able bodied and those with disabilities.”

“We find a way to do any job for any customer at a high standard of quality. Having worked in the past with large-scale organisations the company sees opportunities across a range of industries. There are major opportunities for sheet metal fabrication in the various sectors of the automotive, locomotive, aviation and catering industries. Our current quality and BBBEE ratings place us as an ideal partner for collaboration with larger entities.”

“We are ISO 9001:2008 accredited and have been so since 2001.”

The growth in Sheetech SA isn’t coming from a product line but instead the company offers a comprehensive sheet metal manufacturing service. It’s not just about sheet metal anymore, though Sheetech SA has remained true to its custom fabrication roots. It simply took value addition a step further. It hired talent and combined the directors’ knowledge with existing expertise in metal fabrication and assembly.

“At Sheetech SA all customers are treated with the same level of importance. The products do differ in size and type from customer to customer but the quality of manufacturing never changes.”

For further details contact Sheetech SA on TEL: 031 464 8015 or email info@sheetech.co.za