First Cut faces up to the challenge of representing Bystronic

Cites ‘total optimisation of automation is the future’.

Seven years ago, First Cut, one South Africa’s leading manufacturers and distributors of capital equipment, cutting consumables and precision measuring tools for the metal, timber, textile, meat, DIY, paper and plastic industries, was appointed the distributor for Bystronic, a Swiss manufacturer of laser and waterjet cutting systems, press brakes and system software.

“We have come a long way since 2011 and we believe that First Cut has built the brand of Bystronic into a powerful and recognisable force in South Africa. First Cut has invested heavily in marketing, branding and promotion and in the all important back up services such as spares, training and service,” said Andrew Poole, Managing Director of First Cut.

“We would not have been able to do this alone though. Without the support and forward-thinking of Bystronic, who we now regard as our innovative partners, the development of both ourselves and our customer’s businesses would not have been possible.”

Andrew Poole, Managing Director of First Cut

“What has been remarkable in this short period that we have been associated is how the industry has changed. Seven years ago fiber in the laser market was still relatively new but today nine out of 10 machines sold by Bystronic are fiber operated. CO2 still has a call for cutting thicker materials and this could remain so going forward as the focus has now shifted to automation, software and service. Bystronic has developed from a machine manufacturer into a supplier of end-to-end solutions. In order to not just satisfy but to exceed the customers’ high expectations, Bystronic is consistently expanding its customer services.”

“The fourth industrial revolution is in full swing with its prime objective focusing on greater efficiencies, with the help of big data digitisation and interconnectivity or the Internet of Things. However, while the factory of the future is intelligent and Smart Factory orientated, optimisation of the whole production process is the future and this involves automation.”

Automation in focus
“The advent of the 10 kilowatt ByStar Fiber has really put automation into focus. The speed with which this machine processes material has made everybody give their attention to the material flow of laser cutting processes. Versatile loading and unloading automation solutions have to ensure that the material handling is perfectly matched to the high process speeds of laser cutting.”

“This is one of the main reasons that Bystronic has acquired 70 per cent of the shares of Antil S.p.A., an Italian manufacturer and solution provider for the loading and unloading of cutting systems. It will allow us to offer a broader range of technologies for automated sheet metal processing in the cutting and bending process chain.”

“We now have five 10kW ByStar Fiber machines installed and there are a further three in transit to South Africa that should be installed by the end of the year. To give you an idea of how the cutting times have changed: One of these customers now completes his cutting operation in two hours as compared to what used to take 10 hours. Another one, cutting 3mm aluminium, is now cutting the kit in one hour and 36 minutes. This used to take them 12 hours on their previous machine. The time now available to them all points to automation.”

Automation is transforming the sheet metal industry
“Bystronic have always provided automation solutions but they have realised that it is now transforming the sheet metal industry. In the latest Bystronic World magazines they explain the benefits and I quote: ‘Automation is not only increasing productivity, but also making work more exciting. Over the past few years, technological progress has massively reduced the cost of automation in the sheet metal processing industry and has enabled automation solutions to be used more efficiently. Nowadays, robots for press brakes can reproduce tool settings for stored programmes with incredible precision. Setting up the machine used to take longer than the manufacturing process itself. Thanks to these advances, automation solutions are now also of interest to medium-sized enterprises.’”

Maurice Zermatten, Gareth Jackson and Hannes Pretorius

When does an automation solution for cutting make sense?
“Again I quote from the Bystronic World: ‘Until a few years ago, automation only made sense for heavy metal sheets or when processing large batches. Nowadays, we increasingly also recommend an automation solution for small batch sizes and light metal sheets. Above all, the decisive factor is the cycle time of the cutting plan. Because modern laser machines are so powerful, it’s impossible to keep up with the short cutting cycles when the loading and unloading is performed manually. As a general rule, automated loading and unloading can increase the efficiency of a cutting machine by 40 to 80 per cent. The additional automation of the warehouse unleashes the laser’s full potential.’”

The challenge of representing Bystronic
“Bystronic has developed from a machine manufacturer into a supplier of end-to-end solutions. In order to not just satisfy but to exceed the customers’ high expectations, Bystronic is consistently expanding its customer services. As their ambassador in South Africa we have to take up the challenge and meet their expectations. And it is not just about selling and servicing the equipment we sell. It involves a whole basket of factors, which are frequently not tangible.”

“Progressive industrial companies realised a long time ago that in the future, customer service cannot be limited to solving problems. Customer services have to become more proactive. Companies have to act before the customer even faces a problem. At the same time, the focus must shift to the customer experience: When using the machines in their factory, customers must feel as carefree as when staying in a five-star hotel.”

“We at First Cut have acted so that our customers can optimise the Bystronic products that they use and help them develop their production processes.”

Three dedicated staff working in the field of sales
“We now have three dedicated staff working in the field of sales in Johannesburg alone. Our sales staff in our branches are also Bystronic trained and dedicated to the brand.”

Chris van Aswegen

“Gareth Jackson, who is our laser Sales Manager, has intimate knowledge of the Bystronic machines having previously worked on ‘the other side’ prior to joining us. Gareth worked for his father Percy as his Production Manager before the company was sold three years ago. Laser Sprint were one of the first companies in South Africa to deploy a Bystronic machine on their production floor. Back in the early 2000s Laser Sprint had the proud record of investing in the largest Bystronic machine in the Southern Hemisphere – a Bystar L 4030/12 laser cutting machine with a cutting area of 12 x 3 metres. At the time it was only the fifth machine that Bystronic had sold and the first outside of Europe.”

“Maurice Zermatten takes care of the Bystronic press brake sales. He also worked in an engineering company that beneficiated sheet and plate before changing careers to first initially technical backup and then sales.”

“We have now completed the jigsaw puzzle by adding Hannes Pretorius to the team. Hannes joined us in July 2018 and has worked his entire professional career in sheet metal sales and technical backup. As I said earlier the future of the factory includes the development and implementation of software to the whole process, not just production. His skills in this area will be invaluable to our clients.”

“Bystronic have also developed a MES software solution for sheet metal parts production. The Bystronic MES interlinks all the manufacturing steps and guides sheet metal products on the ideal path through the production process. A customer can now plan, monitor and control their production from the incoming order right through to the finished product, therefore
optimising throughput times and costs.”

Nitrogen gas generators
“An area that we are encouraging clients to go into, and where we and the clients are having great success, is equipping the lasers with Nitrogen gas generators. Operating at up to 15 bar gas pressure our clients are realising a payback period of between four and six months, depending on their production workload. Additionally, the generator has a 10-year lifespan.”

Service, training and spares
“Right from the outset we said we would invest heavily in spares, training and service. We kept our promise and we now have a team of 15 technicians in the service department, which is headed up by Chris van Aswegen. 12 of his staff have had intensive training at Bystronic headquarters in Switzerland.”

“Expectations have grown in the service area and Bystronic have realised that their task is to cover their customers’ backs as they, the customers, are facing many more challenges from their customers in their day-to-day business. Shorter lead times are becoming even shorter. Industry 4.0 is exposing inefficiencies so both Bystronic and First Cut have to be proactive with predictive maintenance schedules to significantly reduce downtime. This is aided by technologies such as remote diagnostics and maintenance. In short it is our goal to eliminate potential problems before they even occur.”

“You can only achieve this if you have well-trained and customer orientated personnel. First Cut has committed to this and it is part of our company philosophy.”

“Because in the age of automated and networked manufacturing, sheet metal processing companies need to be able to rely on the comprehensive know-how of their technology suppliers. This applies not only to the development of innovative products by Bystronic, but also to their distributors like First Cut.”

For further details contact First Cut on TEL: 011 614 1112 or visit