Brothers-in-law at Bryco Metals make a great combination

If you listen to the chatter about manufacturing in South Africa – chatter from generally poorly informed sources – you’ll hear two views that don’t inspire many to consider entering industry, whether it is owning a business or just working in the sector. The negative faction will say manufacturing is declining in South Africa because of all the government and labour challenges that are thrown at a company and the other faction will site costs, imports and a whole host of other reasons which, in their mind is fact and a denial of the reality. There has always been talk about manufacturing being a dirty and dangerous occupation, the older generation with experience are retiring and there is no training taking place to replace these mentors. In short, doomsday is around the corner!!

Well thank goodness it is not and even though the pandemic threw out unexpected challenges, it has not deterred the many positive individuals and companies that occupy the manufacturing space. One such company is Bryco Metals, an Elsies River, Cape Town-based sheet metal jobbing shop that specialises in processing and adding value to thin gauge aluminium and stainless steel sheet.

Bryco Metals processes many different components for Alu-Cab, a company that pioneered the design of one of the first-ever aluminium adventure canopies made

“Imagine taking a decision to acquire a business and then a month later the Covid pandemic puts the world into turmoil. It was almost as though the unthinkable was happening to us and financially it could be very damaging. I am sure there are many similar stories that have been documented or told, each with its own unique set of circumstances and very real to the individual or company. The unknown was more daunting and I am sure most of us do not want to live through that again,” said Ross Cowing, Managing Director of Bryco Metals.

Cowing and brother-in-law Bruce Botton, who is the Production Director, had both worked for Euro Steel, a company that specialises in the stocking, processing and distribution of corrosion resistant metals such as stainless steel, duplex stainless grade, hard wearing steels and aluminium, when they heard about Euro Steel’s decision to exit processing of sheet and other metal. They took the opportunity to purchase the metal processing side of Euro Steel in Cape Town.

Ross Cowing and brother-in-law Bruce Botton in front of the new Trumpf 1000 Punch/Laser combination machine

“It was a strategic decision that will be mutually beneficial to both companies for many years going forward. Euro Steel wanted to concentrate on being a stockist and distributor of metal. I have been on the processing side for most of my business career and Bruce, a qualified armature winder, has been on the technical, production and fabricating side of metal processing and shaping all his life,” explained Cowing.

“I also have a history and close association with Bryco Metals dating back to 1994, when I established Bryco Metals to fulfil a specialist role in the metal processing and manufacturing industry. We were a service centre that removed the barriers of entry for smaller fabrication companies as well as allowing companies to outsource the processing of their metal components, freeing up capital and allowing these companies to concentrate on their core competencies.”

“This is still the primary purpose of Bryco Metals today. It encourages companies to outsource all of the processing of metal components so that it is free to fabricate and assemble its product and componentry.”

“Bryco is essentially a service centre that processes material by cutting, bending and punching it, supplying this in kit form to different industries and businesses. We basically deliver a Meccano set of metal to a client and then they process the components further, whether it is welding, assembling, coating or painting and more or all these together.”

Press brake work is accommodated on machines up to 150 ton and 3 000mm wide

Bryco Metals’ Trumpf fibre laser is fitted with a Trumpf Liftmaster loading/unloading unit for sheet loading and part removal

“We have never developed or sold our own products. As soon as you get the reputation of basically being in opposition with your clients, it is then a struggle, as much as you might reassure clients that the products are your unique design and proprietary.”

“As running a big or small business becomes more complex it is vital that companies concentrate on what they are good at. Take for example a good sales representative. Although many in the metal engineering processing industry put little stock in the very idea of hiring a sales representative, it’s a critical role. A good sales representative can do much more than increase the company’s revenue. A representative who has some marketing savvy and familiarity with digital platforms can take on the professional management of your company’s brand and sales, allowing the company’s executives to focus on manufacturing in an environment riddled with supply chain constraints, high raw materials costs, challenges in recruiting workers, and continuing uncertainties regarding power supply in the case of South Africa.”

“In many small, family-owned companies, the owner, president, or operations manager has two roles: Running the business and making sales. This works, but typically not as well as having a dedicated sales resource. Managing a business wasn’t easy in the first place – doing so through the pandemic made it harder than ever.”

“It is even more evident on the metal processing side. If you do not have the competent staff and the complimentary quality processing equipment you are going to engage huge problems. You might say that if you outsource you are at the mercy of the supplier with long lead times that could affect the fabrication, assembly and delivery cycle for the entire plant. But you have to remember that the company that you have outsourced to regards you as a key customer and would not knowingly put the relationship in jeopardy.”

The Trumpf TruLaser 3030 4kW fibre laser has a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm

The new Trumpf 1000 Punch/Laser

“The metal processing industry is capital intensive and machinery is becoming increasingly sophisticated as automation and CNC techniques are largely being employed. Metal processors and manufacturers must learn to constantly change production lines as customer needs ask for diverse products that suit their specific needs.”

Latest technology in metal processing
“Since precision metal fabrication requires the latest in technology, we have invested heavily in machinery. In fact, we are so committed to delivering on our service excellence, that we have two of every piece of critical fabrication equipment in order to offset any potential breakdown in production lead times and to ensure that we have the capacity to meet the needs of additional outsourced production requirements to us.”

“Our range of fabrication equipment includes laser cutting and etching, CNC punching, press brakes, guillotines, polishing, de-coiling and cut-to-length.”

First and only Trumpf TruMatic 1000 Fibre automated punch laser machine in South Africa
“We are so serious about the aspect of deploying the latest technology on our floor that we have invested in the first and only Trumpf TruMatic 1000 Fibre automated punch laser machine to be installed in South Africa. The TruMatic 1000 fibre is a laser machine that punches holes, bends flanges, and forms threads. It is one of the world’s most compact punch laser machines available.”

For smaller bending Bryco Metals has two CoastOne C15 servo-electric press brakes

The new Trumpf Trumatic 1000 offers punching and laser cutting

“The Trumpf 1000 Punch/Laser combination machine is the Mr Flexible of our fleet, combining the latest technology to perform these two sheet metal processes seamlessly and easily.”

“The combination machine is achieved by adding a 3kW TruDisk solid-state laser and retrofitting the TruPunch 1000 with a laser cutting system, a laser evacuation unit, and a beam guard system. The machine is designed to sort finished parts up to 2 500mm by 3 000mm (punching and laser cutting) on the X axis, and 1 250mm by 1 550mm (punching and laser cutting) on the Y axis, automatically. It is configured with the manufacturer’s SheetMaster Compact, an automation system designed to load small to medium-sized sheets and blanks and unload micro-joint sheets and scrap skeletons.”

“We needed to upgrade our existing Trumpf punching machines. Although they are still punching well and we have a Trumpf 3030 4kW fibre cutting machine, like in the metal shaping industry where the trend is to do more than one process on one machine thus eliminating transfer and setup times, we wanted a similar setup for punching and laser cutting so as to keep up with orders. We were also finding that our two punching machines were not required as much as the lasers and, as we were getting tight on floor space, we decided to purchase the TruMatic 1000.”

Components processed for a client

Bryco Metals specialises in thinner gauge material from 0.7mm up to 6mm

“Now we need to educate our clients to take advantage of the combination machine just like our client Alu-Cab, a company that pioneered the design of one of the first-ever aluminium adventure canopies made.”

Steel processing and manufacturing for various industries
Bryco Metals’ core business is contracted fabrication and manufacturing for various sectors and industries. These include food and beverage, general engineering transport, commercial and recreational vehicles, electronic, industrial, and architectural applications.

“Not all projects we do are on an industrial scale. We have many ‘private’ clients and smaller businesses who come to us for the manufacturing of custom items. Whether it is a once off order, or a run of custom items for sale to the public at large, no project is too small for us.”

About us
“After establishing Bryco Metals in 1994 I ran the company until 2004 before selling it to Stalcor. This freed me up to pursue other interests. For various reasons Bryco Metals ended up with Euro Steel and I eventually joined Euro Steel in 2015. Bruce had been with them, on the production side, since 2007 and before establishing Bryco Metals I had worked for Robor on the sales side for 10 years,” explained Cowing.

“We – Bruce and myself – then purchased the company at the beginning of 2020.”

“More and more companies are outsourcing their processed steel component requirements. The reasons vary from reducing staff head count (more so now with the added challenge of Covid), freeing up capital tied up in equipment, access to the latest technology, as well as the benefit of being able to ramp up production to meet market demands.”

More components processed on the new Trumpf Trumatic 1000 punching and laser cutting. The trend is to have equipment that offers more than one process

The laser cutting machine department

“Given the prohibitive cost of technology and equipment associated with steel processing and manufacturing, some projects will require you to outsource the manufacturing process instead of taking on the capital investment to acquire new machinery or other resource capacity for production.”

Focus on aluminium and stainless steel
“The fibre laser changed the laser cutting game, not just for its speed but for its wavelength. And for using the laser beam to successfully cut aluminium, stainless steel and other non-ferrous material.”

“Cutting aluminium with a CO2 laser is of course quite common. But the CO2’s 10.6-micron wavelength still isn’t ideal, so the process remains a little like squeezing a small round peg in a larger square hole. It’s not impossible; the peg still fits through the hole, but securing it takes some effort.”

“Then at the beginning of this century, the fibre laser stepped into the fray with its 1-micron wavelength. Most common metals in the fab shop absorb more and reflect less of that 1-micron wavelength than the 10.6-micron wavelength. In the fibre laser arena, in fact, aluminium cuts very well, as do even copper and brass.”

“However, there’s a lot more to the cutting recipe than the beam wavelength. Other components include power density, beam focusing, kerf width, and the assist gas type and flow rate. Mix this all together in the right way, and you get the fibre laser’s eye-popping cutting speeds and clean cuts, even in a range of non-ferrous materials that were once considered too reflective to be cut with a CO2 laser beam of light.”

The press brake department

90% of materials processed by Bryco Metals are aluminium (60%) and stainless steel (30%)

“We know that when cutting aluminium and stainless steel you have to take a lot more care than when cutting mild steel, which the majority of service centres do. We have specialised in cutting aluminium and stainless steel and these two materials make up 60% and 30% of our production mix, respectfully.”

“Whether it is a once off order or a run of custom items, no project is too small for us. In fact, we have clients who only need one prototype for an innovative idea. As with any of our customers, we guarantee confidentiality and non-disclosure to anyone who wants to make a prototype for personal or commercial use.”

“Besides the laser and punching equipment that we have our press brake department has a capability of up to 150 ton by three metres. We also have guillotines, a panel bender and a finishing machine that grinds and deburrs components.”

“Although our equipment is capable of processing thicker gauge material, and we won’t turn away clients, we have specialised in thinner gauge material from 0.7mm up to 6mm, which in essence accounts for most of the production requests.”

“Like most of South Africans we have also been affected by load shedding but to keep us in business we have invested in a generator.”

For further details contact Bryco Metals on TEL: 087 086 9800 or visit