Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Guia Engineering, a precision engineering shop based in Jet Park, Gauteng. Established in 1982 by Miguel Magan who qualified as a fitter and turner in Spain before he emigrated to South Africa in 1968.
“Generally speaking virtually every toolmaker, fitter and turner or someone with a similar technical or mechanical qualification that has emigrated from countries like Spain, Italy or Portugal to South Africa has ended up starting their own machine or general engineering shop after spending the first few years working for a company when they first arrive in South Africa. My Dad was no different,” explained Santi Magan, son of Miguel and the owner of Guia Engineering for the last 21 years.
Guia Engineering machine a high-mix of components
“That is another phenomenon in that you will mostly find that the companies are family owned and run and a high percentage of the time you will find that either the one son or the brothers have succeeded dad and taken over the company. Some are even heading into third generation but this is less of an occurrence these days because the third generation sons are not that keen to get involved with the family business.”
“You will also find that these family established companies have started off small with only a manual centre lathe and a universal mill at their disposal because that is all that they can afford. The period is before the time of CNC and they did not have access to what we have today in the form of the Internet of Things, AI, CAD/CAM, machine learning and many other productive tools.”
“It’s not that they set out to run their own business but because they come from a culture of where there are many small to medium size family run businesses in many different industries, it is inevitable that after getting frustrated with working for a boss, they branch out and start their own company.”
Santi Magan, the owner of Guia Engineering
“Life is not easy in the beginning but with an understanding wife, who will stick by their husband no matter what and through hard work, long hours and wanting to succeed, they manage to secure one or two bigger contracts than what they started off with. This allows them to graduate from working in a garage type situation and move to a bigger factory, employ staff and purchase more equipment.”
“From there they continue to grow because of the quality of their work and their willingness to provide a good service to their clients.”
“This scenario that I have painted could be true for many families in South Africa and it does not matter whether he is Miguel from Portugal or Spain or Mario from Italy.”
“You will also find that the son or sons have worked in dad’s business on weekends while still at school and have their dad as their mentor. It is a forgone conclusion that the son joins the company and then takes over from dad when dad retires, but not before dad has at least had his 70th birthday. I know I am generalising but still it has worked successfully for quite a few family-owned businesses where the owner has emigrated from Europe. I think you will find that this scenario is not unique to South Africa. I am sure it happens all over the world.”
The most recent of the machines to be purchased was installed in September 2021. The Doosan Puma 2100GT lathe joins a number of other Doosans that the company has. The machine has a maximum swing of 720mm, a maximum turning diameter of 481mm and a maximum turning length of 1 275mm. The machine was supplied by Puma Machine Tools
Guia Engineering occupies 1 250m² of factory space
“I started to work with Dad in 1985 and eventually purchased the business from him in 2000. Dad had built the business on the basis of providing production based machining as well as machining spare or replacement parts for equipment used in FMCG manufacturing companies. If you can get the mix right and still achieve the process flexibility then you are succeeding. But to do this you also have to surround yourself with the right people and right equipment.”
“Towards the end of the 20th century there were some big changes that took place in Guia Engineering. Firstly we purchased our first CNC machine in 1998. It was a Hitachi Seiki lathe that came with a Fanuc 5T control. Hitachi Seiki was a strong brand in those days and this is probably why we purchased it.”
“Then two years later the company ownership changed hands – to me – and Dad went on retirement. The transition into CNC machining at Guia Engineering required more than just a shift in machining operations. It required a new mindset and a new way of running the family-owned business. Hardest of all, it required that one generation let go, and allow a new one to step in.”
The company is not confined only to the popular CNC machining centers. It also has two Fanuc RoboDrill T14’s that makes quick work out of any milling, drilling or tapping jobs. It has a XYZ stroke of 500mm by 400mm by 330mm and a pallet/table size of 650mm by 400mm
Guia Engineering is a precision engineering shop
“I am grateful though that when I took over from my Dad, he got out of the way. He let me make my own mistakes and learn even though I already had 15 years of experience with the company. The transition for us was not as complicated as some people have it, especially when there is less time involved.”
“The big fear I had in my life when I took over the running of the business was that I was going to disappoint my Dad. It’s a scary feeling to think you failed. There were times I thought, man, I’m not going to make it, but fear or failure is also a great motivator.”
“Pretty much every job shop looks for process flexibility from the machine tools it selects to use to people it employs. These shops need to be process agile because of the nature of the work they do for their customers. Just like it is important for businesses to remain flexible we need to as well with our machining.”
The business has been built on the basis of providing production based machining
Last year the company purchased a Coord Benchmark 3 CMM, a high-performance measuring machine, and enclosed it in a temperature controlled room for accurate results
“Often jobs are given at short notice and they come with a short delivery expectation and are short on profit margin. Therefore it’s necessary to manufacture efficiently to have a chance of getting the job in the first place. Once in house, making good parts in ways that make the shop money becomes task number one. It is no wonder then that job shops tend to be creative in ways that help streamline the metalworking processes to maximise productive machining time and minimise costly non-productive time.”
The company’s second CNC purchase only took place in 2001 – a Topper Tongtai lathe. Thereafter the company purchased a few Hyundai Wias which were known as Hyundai Kia. Guia Engineering has not stuck to one brand of machine builder but rather has built up an array of manufacturers and will have more than one machine from the same manufacturer. Today there are 20 CNC machines that the company has on the floor and the mix is made up of 6 mills and 14 lathes.
The most recent of the machines to be purchased was installed in September 2021. The Doosan Puma 2100GT lathe joins a number of other Doosans that the company has. The machine has a maximum swing of 720mm, a maximum turning diameter of 481mm and a maximum turning length of 1 275mm. The machine was supplied by Puma Machine Tools.
Guia Engineering keeps stock of components for clients
Guia Engineering can machine between 8 000 and 12 000 components every month
This is not the maximum turning length that company is capable of. Guia Engineering already has a Doosan Puma 400LM lathe that is capable of a turning length up to 2 028mm, a maximum swing of 770mm, a maximum turning diameter of 590mm.
Prior to the Doosan machine arriving the company purchased a Hartford LG1000 open fronted vertical machining center that has a table size of 1 150mm by 510mm, a table load of 700kgs and XYZ travels of 1 000mm by 510mm by 630mm. The machine was supplied by Redman Engineering Supplies and is one of two Hartfords on the floor.
Another new machine that has been installed recently is a Hardinge GS 200 CNC lathe that has a swing of 457mm, a turning diameter of 284mm and a turning length of 406mm. What is different about this machine is that it has been supplied with an Iemca Advantage 66 bar feeder, the first bar feeder that the company has purchased. The equipment was supplied by 600SA Machine Tools.
The company is not confined only to the popular CNC machining centers. It also has two Fanuc RoboDrill T14 that makes quick work out of any milling, drilling or tapping jobs. It has a XYZ stroke of 500mm by 400mm by 330mm and a pallet/table size of 650mm by 400mm.
“We like to look at purchasing at least one new CNC every year. Some of the older machines were replaced with newer models to keep up with current trends. In total we have acquired five new machines over the last three years.”
The company has purchased three Matrix DLS automated tool dispensers from Iscar to keep complete accountability of tooling
The Hartford LG1000 open fronted vertical machining center that has a table size of 1 150mm by 510mm. AMP have provided Guia Engineering with SolidWorks and Mastercam software
“All our machines have different configurations so we can have a high-mix of components that we machine while at the same time being very flexible and versatile.”
“We would all like to operate like a Japanese 5-axis aerospace component machining shop that has high-speed machining of high-value components delivering high value-added machining services to its blue-chip customer list. However, this ideal is not really possible in South Africa, especially if you look at the aerospace industry in our country.”
“Delivering high-quality parts is no longer enough to set a shop above the rest. Advances in technology and equipment have made it easier than ever for machine shops to deliver tight tolerances and complex geometries. In order to compete, shops need to do more than just produce exceptional parts. They need a quality-first mindset that guides every part of their business, their service and their relationship with customers.”
“To get us focused in this mindset we added a further 600m² space to our existing 650m², which we moved into in 2005, achieved ISO 9001:2015 accreditation, acquired three Matrix DLS automated tool dispensers to keep complete accountability of our tooling and then last year purchased a Coord Benchmark 3 CMM, a high-performance measuring machine, and enclosed it in a temperature controlled room for accurate results.”
The company has a Doosan Puma CNC lathe that can take components up to 2 000mm between centres
Another recent purchase is a Hardinge GS 200 CNC lathe with a barfeeder
“Applying quality standards across all facets of our business, and holding our 25-strong team accountable to those standards, has made us a stronger company today. Our customers noticed too, as we have expanded upon existing customer relationships while adding dozens of new customers.”
“In total we machine between 8 000 and 12 000 components every month. They are too numerous to list but some include sockets, plugs, many different housings and for one particular client it is components that are used in underground flameproof situations therefore surface finish is critical and of course there must be no porosity in the casting.”
“Besides having a very good relationship with FMCG clients such as Unilever, Nampak and Tiger Brands we also supply clients in the pump, petrochemical and other pharmaceutical companies.”
Guia Engineering will machine components from bar and use an Amada bandsaw to cut material
Many different types of components are machined at Guia Engineering
“We also have an Amada band saw to cut-to-size the bar work that we do. There is a cross-section of metals that we process but the majority is made up of stainless steel and high alloys.”
“The software packages we use are EdgeCAM and Mastercam for machining and we also have SolidWorks although we don’t offer design services. Most of our clients CAD software or similar and we need to work on similar platforms when drawings are delivered.”
“I want the shop to keep going because I look at this place like an heirloom. My Dad passed it on to me and I would like to pass it on as well. But that is way down the line and I am still too young. And as I said previously pushing it to a third generation is not always easy to do these days.”
For further details contact Guia Engineering on TEL: 011 823 2522