The local automotive industry is one of the most critical manufacturing sectors in the country, with vehicle and related component production accounting for approximately one third of South Africa’s manufacturing output. Total earnings from South African automotive exports reached R164.9-billion in 2017, comprising 13.9% of South Africa’s total export earnings.
In a further demonstration of the pivotal nature of the local automotive sector, the industry received a significant shot in the arm recently, with the announcement by Nissan South Africa that it intends investing R3-billion in its vehicle plant at Rosslyn north of Pretoria, in order to start producing its Navara model locally. Production will commence in 2020.
As long as a decade ago, local steel major and value-added processor Allied Steelrode understood the importance of the automotive and automotive component industry to South Africa’s economy – and the urgent need to supply products which would allow these essential sectors to be competitive in the world market.
“This has led Allied Steelrode to make several bold and visionary investments in advanced steel processing technology, which has notable benefits for our customers – particularly those within the automotive industry,” explains Allied Steelrode General Manager: Sales – Automotive, Lee-Ann Geyser.
Allied Steelrode’s suite of state-of-the art steel beneficiation equipment ranges from high-speed cut-to-length and slitting lines, to fully automated high-precision and high-speed guillotines, which are able to supply a wide range of products and sizes to the automotive industry.
“Change is constant, and nowhere more so than in the automotive industry. With the need to meet the market’s prevailing expectations concerning quality and reliability, excellent customer service and the shortest possible turn-around times are required by automotive Industry customers,” Geyser comments.
For its part, Geyser explains that Allied Steelrode has continued to evolve its market offering, and ensure that it is sufficiently versatile to meet customers’ requirements.
The various steel processing technology investments made by Allied Steelrode were therefore in response to – amongst others – the requirements of the local automotive sector.
Geyser comments: “Partnering with our customers by tailoring our offering to their requirements not only enhances our efficiencies – but our customers’ efficiencies as well, ultimately creating a demand for smaller cut-to-size products.”
“Part of our steel investment strategy ‘roadmap’ was to acquire an Amada fully automated guillotine; as well as the Samis disc press. In addition – and most significant of all – are our two stretcher levellers, which with their hugely powerful capability remove latent memory and inherent trapped stresses in raw steel. This means that laser cutting and subsequent welding can be more efficient, and the manufacturing scrap rate can be effectively reduced.
“The net result thereof is that we can deliver a superior quality product to our customers, which is easier and more consistent in terms of quality and reliability, for fabricators and manufacturers to work with,” she adds.
The success of the first stretcher leveller, installed in 2015, prompted the purchase of a second such machine, which was commissioned in 2018.
Geyser advises that, although the trademarked Allied Steelrode Stretcher Material (ASSM) brand is not yet supplied ‘as is’ into the automotive industry (as the material grade requirements are very specific in this industry), various steel products are processed at the company’s Midvaal stretcher facility which are utilised downstream in the automotive manufacturing sector.
In terms of gauges of steel supplied to the automotive sector, Allied Steelrode’s capabilities across all lines range from 0.30mm to 12.0mm, excluding plasma facilities which extend to 65mm. Currently, the principal gauges supplied to the automotive industry are in the 0.70mm to 9.00mm range. Allied Steelrode supplies the steel in both local and import material, ranging from cold-rolled, electro-galvanised, hot dip galvanised, hot-rolled, hot-rolled pickled and oiled, dual phase, and various high-strength steel products.
The Amada high-speed guillotine is an automated line, which delivers to exact requirements and – very importantly – eliminates double-handling and processing in the automotive component manufacturer’s production cycle.
“By delivering a superior product to our customers, they, in turn, can deliver quality that matches their customers’ requirements.
This promotes optimisation in manufacturing processes, reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. In other words, it allows our customers to work faster – and smarter,” Geyser continues.
In addition, the Amada medium and heavy-duty slitters add further functionality to Allied Steelrode’s products, where many customers have changed from strip feed to progressive tooling in order to reduce scrap, thereby optimising their costs and increasing efficiencies.
“Furthermore, by identifying the need for circular blank requirements, using the Samis disc press, we can again eliminate double-processing for our customers, and reduce their scrap rate considerably,” she adds.
The company’s cut-to-length line and synchro-shear also play a key role delivering accurately sized product, quality of levelling and greatly reduced turn-around times.
“This huge investment in technology – often during tough economic times – has been a substantial leap of faith for Allied Steelrode as a company, and therefore not a decision we took lightly,” comments Allied Steelrode’s CEO, Arun Chadha.
“However, when we see our local automotive manufacturing industry growing – as evidenced by the very positive news from Nissan recently – we are greatly encouraged.
“Furthermore, we are confident that our steel processing technology investments will specifically prove of invaluable support to the South African automotive sector, as it becomes an increasingly significant contributor to our national economy,” he concludes.