Flushing out a niche – keeping it clean with stainless steel

It has always been difficult to pigeonhole a metal fabricator. Does a shop specialise in sheet metal or plate; light enclosures or heavy fabrications; precision aerospace or work that isn’t so precise; industrial work-like vessels or piping skids; architectural and ornamental work; structural fabrication; or a combination? There’s nothing new about such diversity in this business.

One thing that binds together these diverse brands of fabrication is a common challenge: standing apart in a competitive market. Coastal Manufacturing, based in North Coast Road, Durban, KwaZulu Natal has done just that.

“Designing, fabricating and assembling equipment and other products for food-grade applications would not normally be associated with the manufacture of sanitary ware and drainage products. That is unless they are being fabricated in stainless steel,” explained Ian Overall, who now runs the family business that his father Alistair acquired in the 1980s.

A drinking fountain manufactured in stainless steel

A stainless steel toilet

“The term ‘food grade’ and its many variants refers to surfaces that must have, ironically, a sanitary finish – a finish that is safe for processing food products and can easily and reliably be cleaned and sanitised. Regardless of the material used, there are myriad of government and local authority requirements, for occupational health & safety and quality reasons, that must be met every step of the way during and after manufacture for products used in the public domain.”

“Stainless steel offers an attractive option and there is a good reason why stainless is used in most restaurants and in food preparation and manufacturing facilities across the country. It’s virtually indestructible!”

Durable and resilient to almost anything
“Not only are stainless steel counters aesthetically pleasing but they are resistant to water, heat, stains and just about anything else! Stainless steel has a non-porous surface, which means that no type of liquid or substance can penetrate into the material at all. Bacteria, mold and other common household germs don’t stand a chance with stainless. You are being given the opportunity to enjoy a completely hygienic surface for preparing meals as long as you practice regular cleaning habits.”

A stainless steel wash hand basin in the process of being manufactured

Coastal Manufacturing also manufacture stainless steel counter worktops and tables for food and general applications

“Stainless steel is even more attractive if you are manufacturing sanitary ware products that are being used in many correctional, police services and public toilet facilities. Stainless steel vandal resistant sanitary ware is a must in these situations.”

Coastal Manufacturing might not be your big corporate fabrication company but the business that has been family run since it was acquired in 1985 has stamped itself in the construction, architectural and plumbing industries as a niche manufacturer of product that not many other fabricators are interested in.

“You don’t get thousands of orders every month for the type of products that we manufacture. This is possibly why not many companies or fabricators venture into this area of manufacturing.”

“I joined Dad in the business once I had completed my service requirements, after leaving school. It seemed like a natural initiation into the working environment for me. Since the passing of my Dad I have taken over the full responsibility of the company.”

“My brother Bruce also joined the company on the sales and marketing side for a period but he left 12 years ago. At the time when Bruce was with the company we complimented each other very well as I looked after the factory and manufacturing side and Dad did what he enjoyed most – design and development.”

Additionally Coastal Manufacturing are the distributors of Herbish stainless steel products

Coastal Manufacturing has its own range of OVE® stainless steel sanitaryware (WC pans, basins, sinks, tables, wall benches) and also manufactures mixing and dispensing tanks

“It was one of Dad’s original product designs that helped grow the company and is now automatically specified when it is required by a local authority or government institution. The wall mounted stainless steel urinal was not developed overnight – it took him 10 years – but once accepted in the market place it led to us designing and manufacturing associated products and also developing and manufacturing products for the plumbing and, food and beverage industries, all of which we still manufacture today.”

“Urinals were once installed exclusively in commercial or institutional settings, but are also now available for use in private homes. As you know urinals come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from different materials, depending on the situation where they will be used and the external or aesthetic requirements.”

“We specialise in urinals that are used in an institutional setting but are not restricted to this particular type or design. The OVE® model stainless steel autoflush urinals are very popular when a new prison, correctional services facility or a police station is either being built or the same facilities are being refurbished.”

“Because of where the standard or purpose-made range of urinals that we manufacture are being installed they have to be vandal proof with low maintenance. Generally they are made of grade 304 stainless steel in a 1,2mm gauge.”

Coastal Manufacturing’s shopfloor staff

Coastal Manufacturing’s management and administrative staff

“However, our sanitary products are not limited to the law related establishments. We have supplied products that have been used in schools, railway stations, hospitals and magistrate courts. Wherever there is high usage they can be used, even in shopping centres or malls.”

“From a strictly metal fabricating perspective we are not a business with a large manufacturing space crammed with modern CNC equipment. You can only attain that distinction if you are in a space where customers commit to larger and more consistent orders. We are operating in an area where we manufacture a number of different products but with small runs, so it does not warrant having the latest production orientated equipment on the floor.”

“The broad range of products don’t require hundreds of holes to be punched, we don’t require tons of sheet to be cut or formed and we are certainly not a “high-tech blacksmith” company. It is very rare to see a small business such as ours that has been established for over 30 years outsourcing any work. Owners will generally build the company over the years and gradually bring in the various operations that they had to outsource because of financial constraints when they began.”

At this point Overall had no problem showing off the older machines and more traditional fabrication processes that he feels still serve the company well. On the shopfloor are a press brake and a guillotine that the company acquired many years ago. Additionally there is a folding machine that his father had manufactured in the early years of the company’s history and is unique to Coastal Manufacturing.

A stainless steel floor channel. Coastal Manufacturing also manufacture stainless steel grease traps

A wash hand basin ready for installation

“Most of our sheet metal work is outsourced and the machines that we have on the floor are only used for some specific needs. The product range that we sell, although now quite broad in numbers, is not made up of many variations in one product for example and we are not shipping thousands a month. Therefore it does not make any economical sense to have idle machines on the floor.”

“In fact you could in essence call us a welding, grinding, polishing and assembly business marketing our own products under the OVE® range.”

“Our OVE® range of sanitary ware and drainage systems are well-known in the construction industry. Complimenting this range, we also manufacture various other stainless steel plumbing and architectural products as per client requirements.”

Some of the products in Coastal Manufacturing range include:

• OVE® stainless steel sanitaryware (WC pans, basins, sinks, tables, wall benches)
• OVE® stainless steel grease traps and floor channels
• Stainless steel shelving
• Stainless steel doorframes
• Stainless steel counter worktops and tables (food and general)
• Stainless steel wall protection angles, door protection plates and cladding
• Kick plates and push plates in stainless steel, aluminium or brass
• Stainless steel mirrors
• Hospital door and fire door linings
• Stainless steel foot rails and bump rails
• Rodding eye and manhole cover and frames
• Gutters and flashings
• Mixing tanks
• Dispensing tanks

“Another area that we are prominent in is stainless steel drainage systems. I have already mentioned the advantages of stainless steel. In the case of drainage systems stainless steel is even more compelling to use as the material of choice especially if you are in an environment such as Durban where materials are very susceptible to corrosion. It’s an incredible material for both household and commercial use.”

Additionally Coastal Manufacturing are the distributors of Herbish stainless steel floor drains.

“Herbish Drainage Systems has been involved in the design and manufacture of stainless steel floor drains, grease traps, strip channels, shower channels and linear floor channels for over 20 years. They use the metal spinning process used to form custom, concentric, three dimensional metal parts using a circular blank of metal which is spun onto a mandrel (die) the exact I.D. of the required part.”

“All the products we market for Herbish are manufactured in stainless steel and compliment our range of products.”

Coastal Manufacturing has recently moved to a new factory after operating from the same shop for virtually the same time frame as the company has been in business.

“If the move was not forced on us I don’t think we would have moved. However, now that we are settled in our new factory we are not sorry that we did make the move as it gave us a chance to re-energise the business. The majority of our 12-man staff compliment have been with us for many years and we all needed a change of environment.”

A grease trap that has been assembled and ready for delivery

Coastal Manufacturing also manufacture door frames

“We are now more organised in the work flow and even though we have less space in the new factory, we are not falling over each other anymore.”

“Going forward we are going to have to replace our press brake and guillotine because they are getting ‘long in the tooth’ like me. More importantly we have to be on top of our game with the design of our products. We have already embraced this situation and you will see that the products we market these days are not just bits of material welded together.”

“Stainless steel is a functional, practical material with unique aesthetic appeal. Architects and engineers the world over are taking advantage of stainless steel’s unique combination of properties.”

“It is a versatile material that is eminently suitable for numerous building and constructional applications, including facades, roofing, windows, doors, building entrances, furniture and a host of attractive interior applications.”

“Visually attractive, with a sense of strength and permanence, stainless steel requires only minimal maintenance across its many applications. An exciting and contemporary material, yet with an impressive history spanning many decades, stainless steel blends successfully with its environment, reflecting surrounding colours and images with a dynamic and often stunning effect.

“Smooth continuous surfaces, the absence of crevices, allowance for self cleaning, and free drainage are recognised factors of good design contributing to successful applications that architects, engineers and consumers are looking for nowadays. We therefore have to keep up with these trends.”

For further details contact Coastal Manufacturing on TEL: 031 563 6101 or visit www.coastalmanufacturing.co.za