There is no coincidence when you have a surname such as Turner, you are a qualified fitter and turner/machinist, you are in the business of machining and the company name you choose is Turntec Engineering.
Turntec Engineering was founded in 1995 by Derrick Turner because he knew there was a brighter world out there, as against working for a mine three kilometres underground repairing pumps, winders and locomotives.
“Growing up in Westonaria, a small mining town west of Johannesburg was tough. Mine dumps and sinkholes were your playgrounds and the unsightly landscape that you became accustomed to. Generally it was inevitable you would end up working for one of the mining companies, with most making it a lifetime vocation, and I was no different,” described Derrick.
It is all the more remarkable that Derrick, who did not have a father figure in his life because his dad died in a car accident just before he was born, has managed to extract himself out of the ‘hole’ and build a very successful business.
One of the recent additions to the shopfloor at Turntec Engineering is a Hurco TM8i CNC lathe with travels of 203 x 508mm, a turning diameter of 256mm, a turning length of 458mm and a bar capacity of 52mm
Turntec Engineering machines components from all types of materials including engineering plastics
“I worked on the mine for a couple of years after qualifying but realised that not seeing the sun virtually every day of my life was not for me. I then managed to find a position selling engineering plastics. This did not last long as I was retrenched and was really fed up with that experience. I decided then that if I wanted to get anywhere I had to control my own destiny. I was young and had no commitments so I went knocking on doors offering a service of the ‘middleman’ for company’s machining requirements.”
“As I made my rounds to the local machine shops, I became more and more frustrated with the quality of work, the excuses and late deliveries. In short I had no control, as I was very reliant on them. Maybe it was because I was going to the machine shops with those run of the mill components that nobody else wanted to machine. Rather than continue with building up a bad CV I decided that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, and that is when I purchased some entry-level machines, including a lathe and a mill drill.”
“I set up my machine shop in the garage of the townhouse complex I was staying in, and those run of the mill components that nobody else wanted to machine, which included parts from engineering plastics, became my revenue stream, except now I was cutting out the ‘middleman’ costs.”
Turntec Engineering has designed and manufactured its own inspection equipment which is used by most of its bottle manufacturing and packaging clients
Turntec Engineering now has five Hurco machines including a Hurco VM10i vertical machining centre that has a XYZ axis travel of 660 x 406 x 508mm, a table size of 762 x 356mm and a table weight of 340 kilograms
“My ambition from the beginning was to build a reputation of quality and on time deliveries. I had high standards in my own personal life so there was no reason they should change once I started my own business. But with this philosophy comes sacrifices. In those days it was a case of work first and rest later, but the rewards were that I could purchase more equipment and acquire more contracts.”
“The downside was that I had to find a home with a double garage.”
A significant milestone in the company’s short history occurred in 2000 when, due to expansion, Derrick had to move the company from the double garage into a rented factory in Kya Sands. That same year he took on his first employee – Norman Ngwenya – who is still with him today, managing the conventional machining side of the business.
“Initially I employed Norman as a cleaner, but I soon realised he had an aptitude for working on the machines so I began training him. Today he can read technical drawings and can machine components from start to finish. He is a big asset to the company.”
“At that stage I also decided to concentrate on the glass manufacturing and packaging industries. I had slowly been building up a reputation with them, and consequently I was offered more complicated components to machine. They were mainly components such as bushes, liners, chain guides, shafts, gears and parts machined from engineering plastics. Where necessary we would reverse engineer so as to save the company huge costs on imported components.”
The company has two Haas TL 1 toolroom lathes and a Haas TM 3 toolroom mill
Vicki and Derrick Turner
“By this time we had two mills, three lathes and a shaper on our equipment register. I was still running most of the machines, setting up the jigs and turning out 100s of the same component when requested. It involved long hours and I had no life other than work.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I was not complaining but I knew I had to make a change.”
“I visited the Electra Mining show in 2006 and came across a TL1 toolroom lathe with a CNC control on the Haas stand. I had always been hesitant about CNC but was assured by Haas that if I did not take to CNC the machine could still be operated as a conventional lathe with a fancy DRO on it. After three days of training I understood the concept and it was the beginning of the next big change in the company – Turntec’s CNC revolution.”
“Our first machine from Haas arrived in early 2007. We subsequently purchased a Haas TM 3 toolroom mill in 2009, and another Haas TL 1 toolroom lathe in 2010.
“In the meantime I had continued to build up the reputation of the company and we expanded with our existing clients. I also took on another two trainees and my wife Vicki joined me in 2008. Vicki had always been at my side while I was working in the ‘home office’ situation and had learnt to operate the conventional machines, so it was not long before she was also being trained on the CNCs.”
“Vicki’s role these days is to look after the operational aspects of the business.”
“Space limitations also saw us move the company in 2008 to another complex in Kya Sands, and then we moved again to the current location in 2011. At the beginning of the year we rented the unit next door and now we have 800m² of factory space at our disposal.”
“The mix of materials that we machine has also changed over the years. In the beginning it was 80% engineering plastics and 20% metals, both ferrous and non ferrous. This mix has now completely reversed with metals making up 80% of the mix.”
Turntec Engineering have developed a two piece aluminium coolant ring which is bolted to the spindle housing and induces the coolant accurately, while also reducing the coolant drip once the pump has been turned off
Components that Turntec Engineering has machined for clients
“In 2010 we received a relatively big order to manufacture components for the hot ends of a glass manufacturing machine. Although they were not a very big components they had to be manufactured in tool steel that required profiling, drilling, tapping and slotting from billet, but the delivery schedule of three weeks was tight especially as it required fairly complex machining. Our reputation was on the line with the client.”
“Hurco could help us out with a machine that would be our first foray into the CNC machining centre arena. The Hurco VM 1 vertical machining center has a XYZ axis travel of 560 x 356 x 457mm, a table size of 762 x 356mm and a table weight of 340 kilograms. It was perfect for the contract, but what impressed me were the WinMax controls that are so user friendly.”
“We have subsequently purchased four more Hurcos. A Hurco TM6 lathe with travels of 178 x 356mm, a turning diameter of 316mm, a turning length of 340mm and a bar capacity of 45 mm was delivered to us after I purchased it at the Electra Mining exhibition in 2012.”
“Then in October 2014 we acquired our second machining center – a Hurco VM 20i vertical machining centre equipped with the WinMax control. The machine has traverses of X 1010mm, Y 508mm and Z 508mm and is equipped with a 4th axis and through spindle coolant.”
June 2015 saw two more Hurcos arrive on the company’s shopfloor. One was a Hurco VM10i vertical machining centre that has a XYZ axis travel of 660 x 406 x 508mm, a table size of 762 x 356mm and a table weight of 340 kilograms, and a Hurco TM8i CNC lathe with travels of 203 x 508mm, a turning diameter of 256mm, a turning length of 458mm and a bar capacity of 52mm.
“We simply needed more capacity since we have recently won some large orders for stainless steel components such as pins, shafts, flanges and nozzles, and the Hurcos fit into our production planning.”
Not just about machining
Turntec’s motto has always been ‘Getting better before you get bigger’. Rather than making a major new machine tool purchase the company has always exhausted its capacity on the existing equipment. What this has led to though is the company always looks to refining the designs of components in order to make them easier to manufacture without compromising their function. As a result, Turntec is regarded by its clients as their research and product-development partner. Although the company has not dealt with companies in the medical environment until recently, the shopfloor certainly resembles a surgery or one operating in an R&D setting.
The company has a vibrating surface finishing machine that uses ceramic media to deburr components
The fabrication division at Turntec Engineering
“We believe in first impressions so when a client visits us there should be no doubt in their mind of our professional approach to engineering. An example of this is the owner of a company, in the same area as us, that designs and builds coffee roasting machines for the local and international markets, who walked in off the street and immediately said, before we could even quote, that from now on we would machine all his components. We worked with the client to develop not just the machining process, but also some design changes to bring the cost of machining down. We now machine 35 different components for him, the majority of which are from stainless steel. In some instances we advised a change in material specification of some of the components. We even visited his factory and assisted him with his assembly setup.”
The relationship with this particular client has evolved even further. Turntec now has a fabrication division where all of his welding and assembly is done.
Included in this division is a vibrating surface finishing machine. The machine is essentially a deburring machine that uses ceramic media. According to Turner, most of his clients are requesting that their components are finished off with this operation.
Inspection equipment development
The problem solving attitude of the company and management leads to opportunities, and Turntec has benefitted with the close attention that they have given their clients. The company has designed and manufactured its own inspection equipment which is used by most of its bottle manufacturing and packaging clients.
“It is strange that we have our own product to market especially as we are principally a machining company. The development arose with the advancement and new concept in bottle labeling. Gone are the days where the label on a beer bottle for example, was easily removed when it came into contact with water. Once the label was off you could not identify your beer. All beer drinkers will remember those days, and it was not just entirely the label’s fault.”
“Marketing and new labeling products have ensured that this does not happen anymore. However with the new labeling technique the bottle dimensions have to be accurate. Our inspection equipment, which uses gauges, has been labeled the ‘Go-No Go’ instrument and can be used either in a stand alone situation or for inline inspection.”
“Another product we have developed is a two piece aluminium coolant ring which is bolted to the spindle housing and induces the coolant accurately, while also reducing the coolant drip once the pump has been turned off.”
Turntec Engineering’s first employee Norman Ngwenya is still with the company today managing the conventional machining side of the business. Norman started with the company in 2000 as a cleaner but owner Derrick Turner soon realised he had an aptitude for working on the machines so he began training him. Today Norman can read technical drawings and can machine components from start to finish, and according to owner Derrick Turner he is a big asset to the company
Members of the management team at Turntec Engineering include Patrick Loubscher, Wikus Senekal, and Jody Sutherland
Other developments within the company have seen Turntec employ a full time Sales Manager 18 months ago, Jody Sutherland.
“Being a perfectionist I was mothering every component that came off the machines and neglecting the clients. Even though we only have 30 clients, all of them established big names in the bottling and packaging industries including brewery and soft drink name brands, they all need attention. Other areas where we have clients are in the mining, automotive, construction and recently the medical industries.”
“It is not common for a machine shop to have a sales/relationship manager. Normally the owner takes on this responsibility and we were no different. You know what it is like – we don’t want to let go. Jody has been operating in the same space as we do and we had built up a relationship so I employed him. His input has been invaluable.”
Other services that Turntec offer include prototyping, reverse engineering and design using a full suite of high end software. Turntec currently employs 20 staff.
“November 1995 was the birth of Turntec Engineering, and now 20 years later I am very pleased with the graduation of the company. The shop has won work by being more than a job shop. It has evolved over the years as we have become more competent, without forgetting that the clients are number one in our lives,” remarked Turner in conclusion.
For further details contact Turntec Engineering on TEL: 011 708 7427