This family-owned job shop has developed an integrated business in order to satisfy customers’ changing needs. In doing so it has become an example that other shops might want to imitate.
The job shop is a make-it-best-you-can environment where almost every new job represents new process challenges. It’s also an environment where profit or loss hinges on how efficiently the shop can get a job done. By performing more services than generally found in a single discipline job shop, some of the business risk is spread over a group of jobs rather than just one. It has also cultivated customer loyalty by becoming a unique kind of vendor.
In the case of Munot Engineering, it has built a business based on flexibility and breadth. It’s a business designed to handle components, from small wire cut components to large press tools and pump and valve components.
Munot Engineering has standardised on the Victor brand of CNC machine tools. The company now has seven Victor CNC turning machines in its lathe turning division
While the company has derived more work from its diverse capabilities, as one might expect, the company has also had to invest by upgrading its equipment regularly and expanding the facilities where the equipment is housed.
Like many other machine shops Munot Engineering started off on a small scale. Owner Linus Eveleigh had done his time and qualified as a fitter and turner at some big companies where he learnt how not to do things. One in particular – AS Transmissions and Steerings or Astas as it was commonly known – is no longer in business and closed for a variety of reasons. But Eveleigh remembers how the company had all these beautiful machines, as he put it. Many were not suited for the type of components that the company was machining. He was however, grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to and be able to learn his trade at the company and operate a variety of CNC machines.
“The machines were operating at between 15 and 20 per cent of the efficiency levels that they should have been operating at. No company can survive in those conditions and it was no surprise when the company was liquidated all those years ago. I had left their employ by then but my three years with them provided me with some valuable business lessons.”
The latest Victor machine that Munot Engineering has purchased, which was installed in 2017, is the biggest machine that the company has purchased so far. It is a Victor Vturn 1000 vertical turning lathe with a swing diameter of 1 100mm and a maximum turning diameter of 1 000mm
Munot Engineering evolved from an existing machine shop where Eveleigh had been a minority partner. Officially the company was established in 1997 in a relatively small factory in Benoni, Gauteng when the majority shareholder retired. Today the company still operates its conventional equipment in this factory but through the pressure of expansion the company has had to acquire two more factories, within walking distance of the original factory.
Standardising on one brand of machine
“My older son Gavin joined me in 1998 and my younger son Terrence joined the business in 2000. Terence is very computer orientated so he started to drive us toward getting CNC equipment and in 2000 we purchased our first CNC – a Takisawa lathe. Two years later we purchased a second CNC machine but this time it was a Victor. We have been loyal to the Victor brand ever since and except for the two Haas machines that we inherited through an acquisition about four years ago, all 11 of our other CNC machines are the Victor brand. The latest one, which we installed in 2017, is our biggest machine that we have purchased so far. It is a Victor Vturn 1000 vertical turning lathe with a swing diameter of 1 100mm and a maximum turning diameter of 1 000mm.”
“With the addition of this machine we now have vertical turning capabilities, which we never had before. We now have the ability to pursue work that we would never have been able to bid on before.”
Each Victor CNC turning machine in the lathe turning division is equipped with its own gantry type crane
One area of the company is dedicated to machining graphite components on a Victor Vturn 20E
“In total we now have seven Victor CNC turning machines and four Victor CNC milling machines. We have standardised on one brand of machine because this has eliminated operator training issues while reducing process time and tooling costs. It has also allowed us to adopt a machining process that is as uniform as possible.”
“Our CNC lathes and CNC mills are used for production runs as well as jobbing operations. We are a business that doesn’t just focus on one client or product range. If the component can be fitted onto the machines that we have then we will machine it. This could be bushes, sprockets, pump components, pins, bushes shafts, dies and moulds, you name it. And in most materials as well.”
“The way we are set-up now is comfortable but it hasn’t always been that way. We were determined to operate from the one factory and we did that for a long time.”
“We wanted to expand the business by getting more clients and a varied mix of components to machine. The components that we were machining mostly were mainly maintenance type components. We had all the necessary conventional equipment and had already invested in CNC capabilities.”
“But we had a stumbling block. We were comfortable with our situation and we had no problem meeting deadlines and deliveries. But every time a new client came around to see how we functioned they were put off by the clutter and lack of space in our machine shop. Despite our assurances we kept on losing new business contracts. Fortunately there were those companies that did not worry about the situation and we continued to grow the business.”
Munot Engineering also has two Haas machines – a VF9 CNC and a VF5 CNC milling machine. The company inherited these two machines when they acquired a company where the owner wanted to leave the machining industry
Munot Engineering makes use of surface grinders
“I became really frustrated with the situation and with my sons encouragement we first purchased a second factory close by and then just over a year ago we moved equipment into a third factory, which adjoins the second factory.”
“This really was a big step forward because it gave us plenty of options to position equipment because of the space we had at our disposal. The result is that we have left all the conventional equipment, which we still use regularly, in our original factory, moved the CNC milling machines and other equipment into the second factory and the third factory has become our dedicated turning lathe operation and, we still have room to add more machines.”
Other equipment allows for flexibility
Munot Engineering has built its business on long-term relationships with customers. These are the kinds of relationships that have let Munot Engineering invest in the latest capital equipment that suits the company’s needs. Eveleigh also attributes the company’s steady growth to an emphasis on quality and customer service, a well-trained workforce and an ongoing commitment to stay abreast of the latest technologies.
However, over the years the company has added other metal working equipment to the inventory list that allows the company to offer more than just turning and milling processes. Housed in the same building as the Victor CNC milling machines is an Excetek wire EDM with XYZ capabilities of 600 x 600 x 350mm, a CNC spark eroder and surface grinding machines.
Various components manufactured by Munot Engineering indicate the versatility of the company
The Excetek wire EDM with XYZ capabilities of 600 x 600 x 350mm
“In many die and mould shops, the choice between EDM and CNC milling is far less clear than it used to be. Changing technology has changed the rules. Milling, for example, can now be applied more broadly than ever before. Machining centers capable of following precise, complex tool paths at high feed rates have made it cost-effective for shops to use fast, light milling as an alternative to EDM in many applications involving hard metal, intricate detail and smooth finishes. However, EDM technology has gotten better, too,” explained Everleigh.
“For sharp inside corners, complex geometry, and where deep cutting is required and generally where long unattended cutting with minimal human attention is needed are some examples of where EDM will remain the superior process but for how long we don’t know.”
“We don’t regard ourselves as a die and mould shop but rather one that has these capabilities, and we do have a number of clients in these industries for whom we are repairing and refurbishing dies and moulds. It’s more about being flexible, versatile and offering more metal working processes than the average machining shop. We are looking at maybe getting a couple of plastic injection moulding machines in the future to manufacture products for customers, but that is still on the drawing board.”
One of Munot Engineering’s three factories houses the company’s milling/machining centers, surface grinders and Excetek wire EDM machine. This division is managed by the older son Gavin Eveleigh, who joined the company in 1998
Components ready for delivery
Having the next generation of Eveleighs in the business for such a long time has given the company the assurance that the ownership and management of the company is positioned to stay in business for years to come.
“It might not mean that the business will stay in the family though. Although I am the sole owner we are currently in negotiations with a black owned group that wants to buy in.”
“However, having my two sons in the business, basically since they both left school, has had many benefits – some which you can’t quantify. In principle Gavin looks after the shop that houses the four Victor CNC milling machines, Excetek wire EDM, the spark eroder and surface grinders. One of the Victor milling machines has 4-axis capabilities and we are currently investigating the possibility of adding 5-axis capabilities.”
“This factory also houses our two Haas machines – a VF9 CNC and a VF5 CNC milling machine. We inherited these two machines when we did an acquisition of a company where the owner wanted to get out of machining. He has now become a client of ours.”
Gavin, Linus and Terence Eveleigh
If a component can be fitted onto the machines at Munot Engineering then they will machine it
“The turning division is Terrence’s baby. But strictly speaking they are able to work on all the machines that we utilise as well as act as managers. Introducing CAM software and the JobBoss shop management and manufacturing ERP software has been as a result of their efforts. Currently we are at the halfway stage of being ISO 9001:2015 certified – again an initiative of theirs.”
“We can’t look at just the equipment required for today. We have to think about tomorrow and anticipate our requirements. We have to see where our customers are going and stay a step ahead of them.”
A good case in point is a new coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that the company is busy investigating the purchase of. The immediate need for this CMM is the customer’s requirement for 100 per cent inspection of certain components.
“We have customers in the automotive and rail transport industries that now require you to carry out officially documented CMM reporting as well as other quality checks. We did have a CMM machine but due to many different complications with the machine we are now having to make a new investment.”
Each machine equipped with its own gantry type crane
Many machine shops are considering automated machine loading and unloading systems in order to make more efficient use of their labour. To be effective in environments where short job runs and frequent change-overs are the norm, such automated systems must be flexible and intuitive to set up.
Munot Engineering manufactures its own range of flexible couplings – the Ludus coupling
Pump components that have been machined and are ready for delivery
However, machine shops just want an automated loading system that is simple, affordable and compact. Custom loading systems often do not provide the versatility for quick part change-over and require engineering time that can prolong this task.
Munot Engineering have looked at it differently though, without incurring massive costs. Some out-of-the box thinking has allowed them to minimise the tedious task of loading and unloading heavy components without putting stress on the operators.
“Some components that we machine on the Victor Vturn 1000 can weigh up to 1 250 kilograms, a weight that is very difficult for the operator to handle without some assistance. Most companies would use their overhead crane to perform this task. We still make regular use of our main overhead crane but if two operators are either loading or unloading a component at the same time one has to waste a considerable amount of time while the other completes his task.”
“To alleviate this situation we have equipped each machine with its own gantry type crane and now there are no more fights over who will be using the main overhead crane.”
Munot Engineering manufactures its own range of flexible couplings that are used on equipment in power stations and in paper and sugar mills, for example.
“We have been manufacturing these products for some time now. We acquired the rights when a client could not pay us for the machining work we did for them. The agreement we reached with the client is that we would take over the design and manufacturing rights. It is not a huge turnover for the business but still adds value. We manufacture the regular taper block sizes between 1008 and 5050.”
Currently Munot Engineering employs 25 staff and boasts of clients such as IPT, Weir Minerals and Transnet as well as some of the OEM automotive manufacturers.
For further details contact Munot Engineering on TEL: 011 421 3454 or visit www.munot.co.za