WD Hearn celebrates 80 years in business

Cape Town based CNC machine tool, metal cutting machinery and metrology supplier WD Hearn celebrated its 80 years in business in March 2017.

WD Hearn is one of the oldest and largest machine tool companies in South Africa, offering a wide agency portfolio that covers virtually all metalworking and metrology needs.

The company’s origins stem from 1937 when it was started by the well decorated Brigadier W.D. Hearn, the late Officer Commanding of The Queen’s Own Cape Town Highlanders. The Brigadier was one of the Frontiersmen from the Manchester Squadron who served with the 9th Belgian Lancers in 1914, receiving the Ysier Medal from the King of the Belgians.

After WD’s retirement the company had various owners up until 1985, when members of staff including Ray Cooper, Don Brenton, George Mills and Bob Hamilton acquired the company in a ‘management buy-out’ after realising that their futures were insecure.

Since then, Ray Cooper and George Mills remained on as the sole directors of the company until 2015 when George Mills retired and Ray Cooper took ownership of the company.

WD Hearn specialises in the sale of precision metal cutting machines. They offer a vast range of machine tools that cover virtually all toolroom, job shop, production and general engineering requirements, whether it is basic conventional milling and turning to complex five-sided multi axis CNC operations.

Sales Director Graeme Cooper and Managing Director Ray Cooper

1997 saw WD Hearn breaking new ground by acquiring the national distributorship of Leadwell CNC machines of Taiwan. Leadwell specialise in stand-alone machining centers, turning centers, multi axis lathes, gantry type machining centers and drilling and tapping centers. To date over 1000 Leadwell machines have been installed in South Africa. The company has seen increased sales year on year since then with ‘high tech CNC equipment’ constituting 80% of sales.

Major emphasis is placed on quality management and top line after sales service. The company believes that it is vitally important to supply the most technically advanced equipment, as well as offer the best support money can buy. WD Hearn gives training on all the products they sell and also offer expert advice on most of the manufacturing and process needs of an engineering client.

The company’s vast customer base includes many of South Africa’s blue chip companies as well as a number of municipal and government entities. Yet the company has never forgotten their roots by offering the same quality service no matter how small a client’s company is. WD Hearn is striving to become South Africa’s leading machine tool importer and distributor.

WD Hearn has agency agreements with many leading machine tool manufacturing companies with the major emphasis being on metal cutting.

From Europe they represent one of the leading and largest global machine tool manufacturers – FFG Europe & Americas. FFG recently acquired MAG Industrial Automated Systems Group, which incorporates many specialised companies manufacturing equipment for the metalworking industry. MAG represents the merging of many great names supplying agile manufacturing systems and transfer lines mainly to the automotive industry. Besides developing solutions for high performance cutting, automation and composite systems for the aerospace and power generation industries MAG companies also deliver heavy duty vertical turning centers and machining centers for general industry. Other companies in the Group manufacture horizontal and vertical turning machines, crankshaft machines, multi station manufacturing systems and multi-way rotary transfer machines for highly precise, high performance applications.

WD Hearn was involved with the major installation of over 100 CNC machines at Ford Motor Company South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2011. The R3.4 billion project is to manufacture and machine blocks, crankshafts and engine heads for the 2.2 litre four cylinder and 3.2 litre five cylinder Duratorq TDCi diesel engines for the Ford Ranger.

In 2014 WD Hearn expanded its portfolio when it was appointed a South African distributor for Renishaw, a global leader in metrology with core skills in measurement, motion control, spectroscopy and precision machining. They develop innovative products that significantly advance customers’ operational performance – from improving manufacturing efficiencies and raising product quality, to maximising research capabilities and improving the efficacy of medical procedures.

Renishaw’s products are used for applications as diverse as machine tool automation, co-ordinate measurement, metal 3D printing, gauging, Raman spectroscopy, machine calibration, position feedback, CAD/CAM dentistry, stereotactic neurosurgery and medical diagnostics. In all of these areas they aim to be a long-term partner, offering superior products that meet customer needs both today and into the future, backed up by responsive, expert technical and commercial support.

In 2015 WD Hearn was appointed the distributors for Mitsubishi Electric EDM and WEDM machines. Mitsubishi’s range of next generation EDM machines, encompassing the very latest wire cutting and die sinking are all manufactured at the Japanese manufacturer’s state-of-the-art plants in Japan and China. The company operates under the Monozukuri principle. The principle translates into “an inspired approach to the art and science of making things should be at the core of our beings.”

The company’s portfolio was expanded further in 2015 when it was appointed as the agents for Kitamura Machinery, a family owned Japanese manufacturer of CNC equipment. Kitamura manufactures a full line of CNC vertical, horizontal and 5-axis machining centers sold to a customer base in 52 countries worldwide. Besides machining centers Kitamura also manufactures a range of CNC bridge mills and jig borers. In addition Kitamura offers a variety of systems and cells tailored to fit any type of machining application.

2015 also saw WD Hearn start to market Nikon Metrology products, a Japanese company offering metrology solutions for applications ranging from inspection of micro-components to the assembly of the largest aircrafts. The optical precision solutions contribute to an efficient manufacturing process enabling manufacturers to deliver premium quality products in a shorter time. The portfolio comprises CMMs, 3D laser scanners, X-ray and CT systems, large-scale metrology solutions and an extended range of vision measuring systems and industrial microscopes.

During that same year the company started to market Flow Waterjet Systems water jet cutting products and Graeme Cooper, son of owner Ray Cooper, was appointed Sales Director.

CNC Technology Centre in Gauteng
In March 2016 the company expanded its presence in the Gauteng region with the opening of a purpose built CNC Technology Centre in Bonaero Park, in conjuction with EJE Electronics, a preferred Siemens Partner. The CNC Technology Centre is also the new home for the company’s Gauteng branch.

WD Hearn has offices in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg. The company represents Kitamura Machinery, Renishaw, Mitsubishi Electric, Siemens, Nikon Metrology, MAG USA, FFG Group (Rambaudi, Jobs, Sigma, Hessapp, Huller, Boeringer), Flow Waterjet, Leadwell, Starrett and Sanco, selling and servicing a range of CNC machine tools, measuring equipment, engineering accessories. More recently the company has been appointed to represent the Swiss manufacturer of high-end CNC equipment, Tornos.

“Our focus is on sharing ownership of the installation of equipment and technology into metalworking and general engineering companies in both application and through the expertise of our skilled technicians. Over the years we have built extensive product knowledge within the WD Hearn group in application, service and repair,” said WD Hearn MD Ray Cooper.

“Our continuing mission is to provide a market-driven services portfolio inspired by an intimate understanding of our customers’ needs, while at the same time keeping our commitment to a ‘Different Thinking is Better Thinking’ policy.”

“As a result we have carefully chosen hi-tech suppliers from Europe, America, Japan, USA, Taiwan and Korea to cover virtually all job shop and production requirements. We are continually evolving our product line to match the lightning fast evolution of technology in today’s competitive world.”

For further details contact WD Hearn on TEL: 021 5345351 or visit www.wdhearn.co.za