When Wilfried Kappmeier and George Whittal sat talking over a cup of tea just over 50 years ago, planning their new venture of owning and running their own foundry, they could not have envisaged that their company would reach the milestone of 50 years in business.
Wilfried, a patternmaker who immigrated from Germany and George, a moulder were both working at Apex Foundry in Vereeniging and being the ambitious young men that they were, it did not take long for them to start talking about running their own business. The opportunity came when Woodridge Foundry in Houtkop, Vereeniging had excess factory space and Wilfried and George took up the option to rent the premises and start Sigma Foundry.
This took place in 1964 and it was the beginning of a lifetime friendship and business relationship between the two, who both passed away in the last couple of years.
Essentially the foundry started as a jobbing ferrous foundry and this is still true today, although the company has expanded into melting both ferrous and non ferrous metals and they do cast small production runs for some of their clients. The only metal that they did not get involved in from the beginning was manganese steel. This has now changed and Vereeniging Foundries does include manganese steel amongst its offerings, albeit on a small scale.
In 1970 the company changed its name to Vereeniging Foundries. This coincided with a move to new and bigger premises in Duncanville, Vereeniging.
By this time George’s son Bryan Whittal, who used to spend most of his school holidays and spare time at the foundry, had joined the company. Following in his father’s footsteps Bryan trained as a moulder, and today he still has a display in his office of the moulding tools that he took over from his father. Now collector’s items, some of these tools date back to before the Second World War.
Bryan will soon reach the half-century milestone as well having now been with the company for 49 years. “All my working life,” as Bryan said.
It was only in 1988 that Wilfried’s son Andreas Kappmeier joined the company. He had studied cost accounting but it did not take him long to learn all the aspects of running a foundry, from the patternshop to fettling.
The next big move for the company came just over twelve years ago when the company moved to bigger premises, also in Duncanville, Vereeniging.
Vereeniging Foundries have recently installed three new continuous mixers comprising two 10 ton an hour and one five ton an hour mixer with all the accessory equipment, manufactured and installed by Endeco. The two larger continuous mixers have been positioned in the foundry to make use of the maximum arc of the mixers
Endeco have also manufactured and installed a new six ton an hour sand reclamation plant with new holding bins and silos
“We had simply run out of space in the previous factory. We moved to what at the time had
7 000 m² under roof and was situated on a property of 42 000 m². This gave us ample space for the foundry to dramatically improve flow lines, productivity and quality. It also allowed us enough room to expand, which we have done over the last three years,” commented Andreas.
Expansion, new foundry equipment and establishment of machine shop
Andreas and Bryan decided three years ago that if they were going to take the company forward they would have to formulate a plan that would allow them to increase volumes, add value and quality and adhere to the anticipated new stringent atmospheric emissions licence (AEL) rules.
“We looked outside our office window and saw a vast expanse of land, part of our 42 000 m² property, that was not being utilised. We had also had numerous calls from clients to supply castings that were either pre-machined or fully machined and not just a casting. The obvious choice was to start a new machine shop and we established Landolinx Engineering. We formed a JV with Rudolph Lubbe, who has been in machining all his life, and set in motion the plans to get the business started,” commented Andreas.
“We needed a building so we decided to build our own. Having plenty of vacant land we decided to build three other buildings of similar size and let them out to other companies. The original size of the machine shop was 450 m². This section of the business has grown so much since it started two years ago that we have now built a 670 m² building, and the machine shop activities will move to this new building in the next couple of months.”
“Although we have maintained our foundry equipment over the years we reached a point where it had become tired, uneconomical and unproductive. For example, we were operating with 25 year old continuous mixers and our sand reclamation plant consisted of a home made rotating drum sieve and a Jones sand dryer. I think we were dumping more sand than we were reclaiming.”
Andreas Kappmeier and Bryan Whittal
The new five ton an hour Endeco continuous mixer
“The foundry improvements became a priority when we established that the Vaal Triangle and surrounding areas had been declared a national air pollution hotspot (or priority area) in terms of the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan. We would have been hard pressed to qualify for AEL and could have faced heavy penalties or even shutdown.”
“To date we have installed three new continuous mixers comprising two 10 ton an hour and one five ton an hour mixer with all the accessory equipment, plus a new six ton an hour sand reclamation plant with new holding bins and silos. This has all been done on the chemically bonded sand side of the foundry.”
“The green sand side of the foundry is also being upgraded and the necessary emissions requirements are being implemented.”
“Additionally we have installed a complete dust extraction / venting system throughout the foundry and once it is complete in a couple of months time we will adhere to all the legal environmental control requirements.”
“All of this equipment has been manufactured and installed by Endeco and they are also undertaking to upgrade and overhaul our shotblasting equipment.”
The green sand plant is currently being upgraded to meet the atmospheric emissions licence (AEL) rules
“In the last few years we have also done a major overhaul of our furnaces. The inventory consists of two one ton Raydyne induction furnaces and two Vulcan furnaces, one being a 500 kilogram and the other a 300 kilogram. For the non ferrous metals we run two gas fired furnaces with a crucible size of 120 kilograms.”
“Once we have completed the current capital expenditure we will look at deploying more funds into the melting department. We know what cost savings and significant production improvements we have made with this new equipment so the decision will be an easy one.”
New fettling building
“To further enhance the working conditions and add structure to the production side we have built a 300 m² building complete with a new five ton overhead crane, which adjoins the foundry, to house our fettling operations. It will consist of five bays and it will still have room to house similar type operations in the future.”
“As stated earlier, we have formed a joint venture and started a machine shop, with the aim to co-market the capabilities of both the foundry and the machine shop to existing and separate customer groups, as well as to plan and invest together in new projects and capabilities to increase the customer base and market reach for both companies.”
“The relationship between the foundry and the machine shop allows both entities and managers to continue directing day-to-day operations. The “limited” overlap in capabilities creates an opportunity for future investments in new machines to increase capacity and flexibility, allowing the shops to manage workloads jointly and capitalise on new opportunities.”
Vereeniging Foundries have recently been awarded a contract to cast a number of different castings for a coke slot oven for complex by-products (gas and tar). The pictures above depict the mould (tray), cores and castings for numerous bubble caps that will be used in the final structure. These castings are made in grey iron 250
“Currently we have a mix of new and second hand CNC machines comprising four CNC milling machines, three CNC lathes and vertical and a horizontal boring machines. Once housed in its new facility the machine shop will be able to expand and purchase new equipment as the business and demand grows.”
The foundry employs 55 staff and 12 are employed in the machine shop section.
The foundry has its own pattern shop, heat treatment equipment and a spectrograph. Besides the moulding lines it also has four jolt squeeze moulding machines in the greensand production foundry. It is not accredited for any quality standard, but management systems that have been put in place adhere to recognised quality certification. They are currently in the process of preparing for a NOSA grading and hope to improve on their previous four-star rating, and have attained a Level 2 BBBEE rating for the last two years.
Principally Vereeniging Foundries casts general engineering castings including wear parts, pumps, impellers, casings, bellows, bearing housings and a huge range of general engineering parts and is capable of taking on any casting offered to the company. Vereeniging Foundries also has large orders for the chemical, mining and agriculture industries.
This casting, weighing in at 1,4 tons, also forms part of the coke slot oven structure
A stainless steel pump casting manufactured by Vereeniging Foundries using CD4MC material. The casting weighs approximately 840 kilograms
There have been a number of interesting castings that the company has cast over the last 50 years. The heaviest casting that they’ve cast was a 12 ton die casting but today they like to limit themselves to three ton and under.
Most grades of metal are cast including cast iron, SG, steel, manganese steel, ADI, stainless steel, high chrome, Ni-rest, Ni-hard, aluminium, brass and bronzes.
“Both Bryan and I are very proud to have been given the opportunity to continue what our fathers began 50 years ago because of the excellent reputation that they had in the industry,” Andreas revealed, “but mostly because of the very fine people at Vereeniging Foundries, and their efforts to always do the right thing. Our employees are hardworking, dedicated, loyal, and smart. We have so many people who have celebrated long-term anniversaries with the company.”
The new machine shop, Landolinx Engineering was established through a JV agreement. Rudolph Lubbe, who has been in machining all his life, is the JV partner
The machine shop was established to co-market the capabilities of both the foundry and the machine shop to existing and separate customer groups
SG 50 elbow castings in the machine shop where pre and final machining takes place. The machine shop will be moving into a new 670 m² building
“We are also very proud of the history and development of the company. We have seen many competitors come and go over the last 50 years, while Vereeniging Foundries has remained strong. I think this speaks volumes about the quality of the people, both past and present, who have made our company a long-term successful operation.”
For further details contact Vereeniging Foundries on TEL: 016 454 9443