How Larcol Pressings reinvented itself

Larcol Pressings used to be a general engineering shop that relied on just about any work coming in through the door. In fact when the company was established it did not have a single client – just the will, hope and dream of two immigrants from Germany. This isn’t really a solid foundation for growth but somehow the company has survived and this year celebrates its 41st anniversary. This was not before the company reinvented itself and went through some major changes.

Degenhard Maisenbacher arrived in South Africa in 1968 having immigrated from Germany at the age of 23. He had read an article in a local newspaper in Germany on South Africa whereby South Africa was looking for people that had skills in engineering including fitter and turners, which Degenhard had qualified as. He took a decision of a lifetime that has seen him go through trials and tribulations, while still emerging as a successful businessman.


The staff at Larcol Pressings

My very informal meeting with Degenhard demonstrated his easy disposition with no graces attached, yet commanding respect from those that he has surrounded himself with. Dressed as though he was about to go on holiday Degenhard gave me the history of the company, in some instances giving precise dates of events.

Degenhard’s first six years in South Africa saw him work for two different general engineering companies that still exist today in the Germiston, Gauteng area. The yearning to control his own future had already begun and in his spare time he took on the adventurous task of building a press.


The new Gasparini PSG 330 press brake, which has a bending force of 330 ton over a four metre width, was supplied by Talmac Machine Tools

“I did not know anything about sheetmetal work at the time,” said Degenhard. Little did he know that sheetmetal and the cutting, manipulation and fabrication of it would years later be the mainstay of his business.

“The company found out about my dabbling on the side and, even though I was doing it in my spare time, I was shown the door,” said Degenhard with no regrets.

“My friend, Paul Lupp, and I then set up business and we waited for clients to come rushing in. After countless hours of hard work, they slowly trickled in.”

“Disaster almost struck on our very first job. I broke the tool, fortunately we had a neighbour who was a toolmaker and he helped us out of our predicament.”

“That client, which is a large multinational company and has gone through a number of name changes, is still a client of ours today. Fortunately they did not find out about the mishap with the tool until many years later.”


On the punching side Larcol Pressings has an Amada AC2510NT Turret Punch


Some of the components and products that Larcol Pressings fabricates

“We continued to operate as a general engineering shop for the first 25 years of the company, with no real focus in one area. Frequently we would purchase equipment to meet the demands of a new customer and this is how we ended up purchasing one of the first Amada Coma CNC turret punch presses in South Africa. It’s how shops justify the capital expenditure,” explained Degenhard.

“In 1989 we took a big decision in the company’s history to purchase land and construct our own facility, which is where we are located today.”

“We were also moving more and more towards sheetmetal fabrication work and over the next 10 years we purchased a second hand plasma cutter, two second hand lasers and various CNC turret punching machines.”

“We also embarked on a strategy to develop our own products and then try and market them, something we were not very good at.”

“We went about it all the wrong way. We did not ask ourselves questions such as who would buy it and why would they buy it? Is it for a broad market or a specialised niche? Is it unique, or is it a less expensive or a more functional version of something that already exists? What is the target sales trajectory? Can the product be protected, if necessary, from competitors that try to copy it?”


Larcol Pressings has an Amada FOM2 3015 NT laser, which represents the third generation of Amada’s proven FO series that was introduced in 1999


Components that have been fabricated

“It seems that when we come up with a product idea, mull it over and refine it a million times, that idea becomes our baby—the most beautiful thing in the world. Be very careful. That’s the first sign that blinders are being put on, very expensive blinders. I’ve been there, done that, unfortunately. We could spend up to R250 000.00 on product development and then it would fail.”

“Very few product ideas succeed in the marketplace. I strongly suggest that before you put any money into a new product beyond a functional prototype (if that), you work with people not involved in the product’s success to do one thing: Try to rip the idea and its presumed acceptability to shreds. If there are fatal flaws, you’ll find them at the least costly point.”

Change in direction
“1999 was a pivotal year in the company’s history. My partner and I had grown apart in our thinking of how to run the business so we split. That was 15 years ago.”

“It gave me an opportunity to reinvent the business. I took a conscious decision to concentrate on what we were good at namely being a sheetmetal and fabrication job shop. No more of this developing, designing, wasting money on products that don’t work. To give you an example, we were making what we thought was a brilliant product – Vesto Fuel Efficient stoves. After lots of frustration we showed it to someone and he said if we had made a couple of adjustments it would have worked. By that time we had given up the project. Anyway we are out of it now.”


Larcol Pressings offers a welding service


Larcol Pressings has a press and offers a dished end pressings

“My second big decision with the new Larcol Pressings was to inject money into the company and buy new equipment. We spent R12 million on new equipment however getting the finance was not easy. I remember virtually physically throwing the bank manager out of my office. Four years later, after we had obtained finance elsewhere and taken the company’s annual turnover from R6 million to R20 million he came around again to offer finance.”

“We have mainly stuck to lasers, turret punch presses and press brakes and upgrade them regularly. This is because most of our work centres around these disciplines. With it comes the welding and this enables us to do some assembly work for our clients. We do also have a small machining section where we have conventional lathes and mills.”

“Currently we run an Amada FOM2 3015 NT laser, which represents the third generation of Amada’s proven FO series that was introduced in 1999.The laser is equipped with a solid-cast frame, water assisted cutting, and a high-precision motion system. The FOM2 boasts new features such as automatic nozzle changer, cut process monitoring, and auto-pierce detection.”

“When the first generation Amada FOM2 was launched we were one of the initial companies to purchase one in South Africa, and again with the third generation.”

“On the punching side we have an Amada AC2510NT Turret Punch and numerous smaller Amada press brakes.”

New press brake
Adorning the shopfloor of Larcol Pressings is a new Gasparini PSG 330 press brake, which has a bending force of 330 ton over a four metre width.

“The machine incorporates the company’s automatic crowning system ASCG1 and the ‘Reflex’ frame deflection compensation system. The ‘Reflex’ system allows complete control over deflections encountered by the frame structure of the press brake when bending, both in the vertical axis and the horizontal or torsion axis of the side frames. This system incorporates a unique and simple method totally independent of the operator or CNC. It requires no adjustment and works in real time to eliminate the inaccuracies. The Gasparini ACSG1 crowning system comes as standard equipment. The system is comprised of both digital electronics and hydraulic control of the deflection encountered on the bed and ram during bending.”


Larcol Pressings has numerous smaller Amada press brakes


Larcol Pressings has been fabricating components for one client for over 30 years

“If I had my way the machine would be working 24 hours a day seven days a week such is its worth to us now. The machine was supplied by Talmac Machine Tools.”

Going forward
“I am now 70 and starting to take more of a back seat. I have surrounded myself with people that I can trust with many of them having over 10 years service. I could not do without them.”

“Gert Gissmann, who has been with me for over 20 years, looks after the shopfloor activities and my nephew Andrea Lusardi takes care of the programming side. My son Oscar, who has just completed his Masters degree in Business Management, has also joined the company and is becoming more and more involved. Cheers!”

For further details contact Larcol Pressings on TEL: 011 902 3275