Standardises on Feeler CNC machines.
There is no doubt that many companies have experienced a drop-off in business during the past year. The economic downturn has affected almost every company in some way. During these times, it is critical that companies maintain a long-term business focus while taking some short-term actions to help weather the storm.
The latest machine to be installed at P&C Technologies, in December 2020, is a Feeler VMP-50A vertical machining center with a fourth axis that was supplied by Craft Machine Tools
Not so though for Patric Fourie, Steven Liebisch and Natasha Jones who have combined their individual talents of entrepreneurship, machining experience and administration to put their engineering business P&C Technologies on the map in a relatively short time. Only established in November 2019 the company already has some big-name companies as their clients that they can boast about.
You could say the young upstart team are brazen, but no it is not that. Rather they are passionate about what they do and their enthusiastic approach can be clearly seen in the machining operation that they run in Anderbolt, Gauteng. They have seen an opportunity and started a business with fresh ideas, initiatives and insights without the fear of handing over the reins to someone that believes they know more than them.
Fourie and Liebisch, both in their early forties, have been in the engineering industry for most of their working careers. Fourie is more focussed on product development as well as client liaison and communication while Liebisch, a third-generation machinist and qualified tool and die maker obsessed with CNC machining, programming and software. A combination that works well when you consider the third partner looks after administration.
One of the first CNC vertical machining centers P&C Technologies acquired was a Feeler VMP-40A, also supplied by Craft Machine Tools
P&C Technologies are not just limited to CNC machining. One of the first machines the company purchased was a Chmer Q 4025L gantry style linear motor EDM. Such has been the demand for the company’s EDM capabilities that P&C Technologies have now ordered a second machine and the local agent Extreme Machines Technologies should be installing it in April
Although still young Fourie and Liebisch have between them built up years of experience. When they decided to open up their own business their plan was to concentrate on machining high-value components for original equipment manufacturers in demanding industries such as commercial, mining, industrial and military sectors.
“We did not see ourselves as a small job shop machining parts on inexpensive machine tools in a small garage. There is nothing particularly wrong with that since there are plenty of companies making money that way. We had a different vision for our business. We wanted to move beyond just cutting parts at the whim of purchasing agents or buyers to one that offers value-added components and services that appeal to customers’ higher manufacturing objectives. This is the way, we believe, to maintain the kind of good success that would allow us to consistently grow and invest in resources required to reduce our customers’ production costs.”
With a healthy combination of courage and financing, Fourie and Liebisch set out to turn their idea into reality. It depended, they knew, not just on building a good attitude toward customer service, but also on building the kind of machining capabilities that would be flexible and efficient enough to deliver the performance their service-oriented business model demanded. They would no longer be competing with low overhead small machine shops. Indeed, they knew they couldn’t remain competitive with garage type operations as their business grew larger – no one can. But they would have to offer the flexibility those shops deliver when they want to and do it all the time for all customers, with consistently high-quality, and while keeping an ever-vigilant handle on cost control. It was no easy task, and it left virtually no aspect of the business untouched by change. But just 18 months later what has emerged is a machining and manufacturing facility that they envisioned from the beginning.
CNC lathe work is carried out on two Feeler FTC-450s
The CNC slotter, also supplied by Craft Machine Tools
“A meticulously organised and efficient shop was priority number one. Starting with a clean sheet we had no excuse not to get it right from the beginning,” said Fourie.
“Today metalworking and machining shops have more machine tools to choose from than ever before, allowing them to determine the best machine and process for their application. We decided to settle on a standard platform for our CNC machining centers and CNC lathes. Machining can lead to a range of challenges, such as troubleshooting maintenance issues and finding employees who are cross-trained to run an assortment of machines.”
“We did not want to have one of everything and zero flexibility in terms of shifting components to different machines in the event of downtime for repairs or maintenance. When needed, we wanted to do this with minimal effort but also to have minimal hassles with the associated tooling and setups. By standardising our CNC platform operators can run multiple machines and can quickly learn to setup and programme virtually any machine in the shop.”
“We chose Craft Machine Tools and the Feeler CNC brand for a number of reasons. Anyone can sell or buy machines. What truly matters is how effectively you deploy your labour (operators) and capacity to deliver maximum value to our customers. And of course how your supplier fits into this.”
Various components manufactured by P&C Technologies
“We are not big on this side but we do have a welding and assembly department that manufacture various fixtures and structures for OEM fleets in the mining industry. Currently we are busy with a project whereby we are supplying a major mining house with a side and walkway structure for their large trucks used in the mining industry.”
“In the machine tool industry there are many words and phrases thrown around about machines. User-friendly, best-in-class, faster and more reliable, consistent, better-than-normal are just a few to name. Well we can truly say the same for Craft Machine Tools in the dealings that we have had with them.”
“The latest machine to be installed, in December 2020, is a Feeler VMP-50A vertical machining center with a fourth axis. The XYZ travels on this machine are 1 300mm by 610mm by 600mm, it has rapid feeds of between 24 and 36m/min, a table size of 1 420mm by 600mm and can take a load of 1 500kg.”
“This is the seventh machine we have purchased from Craft and the inventory consists of two CNC lathes, four CNC machining centers and a CNC slotter.”
“This latest machine was purchased purely to increase our capacity and capabilities. We already have a Feeler VMP-40A vertical machining center that has XYZ travels of 1 020mm by 520mm by 505mm. But we needed a bigger machine not necessarily to take on machining of heavy and big components, but if we are requested to do so by clients at least we will have the capability to do so.”
The well maintained shopfloor
The majority of the components that P&C Technologies machine at the moment are not more than 15 kilograms, although on some special projects they have gone up to 250 kilograms
“However, in saying this we are in the process of purchasing of two boring mills – a horizontal and a vertical – which will give us the ability to machine large components.”
“To ensure we continue delivering customers’ orders on time we will be procuring an additional CNC lathe Feeler FTC 450 and another Feeler VFP1300A with 4th axis.”
“The majority of the components that we machine at the moment are not more than 15 kilograms, although on some special projects we have gone up to 250 kilograms.”
“Powertrain components such as end yokes, output flanges and pinion shafts and gears are regular components that we are machining.”
“Other powertrain solutions such as driveshafts, mid-ship assemblies, CV shafts, as well as steering and chassis components are regularly being turned or milled on our machines.”
“Most of the components are manufactured from EN19T, EN36B, EN 8 and 9 and Weldox 700 material. If requested we have that capability and machines to process other materials such as aluminium and stainless steel. We also machine castings for clients.”
Not limited just to machining
“However, we are not just limited to CNC machining. One of the first machines we purchased was a Chmer Q 4025L gantry style linear motor EDM. The machine has capabilities of XYZ travels of 400mm by 250mm by 200mm, UV travels of 60mm by 60mm, a maximum workpiece size of 750mm by 560mm by 195m and a maximum weight size of 550 kilograms.”
Partners Patric Fourie, Natasha Jones and Steven Liebisch
“Such has been the demand for our EDM capabilities that we have now ordered a second machine and the local agent Extreme Machines Technologies should be installing it in April.”
“We are not big on this side but we do have a welding and assembly department that manufacture various fixtures and structures for OEM fleets in the mining industry. Currently we are busy with a project whereby we are supplying a major mining house with a side and walkway structure for their large trucks used in the mining industry. All sheetmetal processes are shopped out although we are looking at purchasing our own hydraulic press brake complemented by a CNC laser cutter.”
Unique product offering
“Through our experience of working previously with the mining industry we have developed a product of our own – a mining emergency chute system that can be used on shovels, trucks, draglines, loaders and any other equipment where a fast escape route needs to be provided.”
“The emergency chute system is used extensively in the mining industry and is gaining interest in other industries where emergency evacuation is needed.”
HVAC and air-conditioning systems
“We are also providing custom HVAC and cab climate systems for heavy-duty commercial trucks, off-highway machines and specialty vehicles used in the mining and other industries.”
“We are focused on providing thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality within reasonable installation, operation and maintenance costs. The opportunity to distribute this range fully supports our strategy to provide exceptional products and services to our customers across a multitude of industries, not just mining alone.”
Powertrain components such as end yokes, output flanges and pinion shafts and gears are regular components that P&C Technologies are machining
“We are certainly proud of how far we have come but we are even more enthused by the opportunities and challenges ahead. We employ 33 staff at our facility in Anderbolt and there are another 10 staff employed as product support technicians at our satellite sites in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.”
The principle of standardisation is applied across the shop wherever possible and in particular with shopfloor personnel.
“We keep away from specialising the operator. All are skilled machinists, both for the flexibility they provide, and for the broad contributions they can make toward continuous improvement. Knowing a lot only about a little area is only marginally useful in this shop’s holistic approach. We want people who can understand the entire process, people who can figure out how to fit all the pieces together in the best possible way. Moreover, by having interchangeable assets – both human and technical – they all get utilised at very high levels, and can be applied easily to shifting patterns of demand.”
For further details contact P&C Technologies on firstname.lastname@example.org