STEEL: Specialised Cutting & Maintenance for Special Steels
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Specialised Cutting Training and Maintenance Gives Special Steels the Edge
Special Steels, one of South Africa’s leading special steels merchants, delivers value-added service to its clients, not only by providing top quality grades of steel, but through its investment in top grade cutting equipment.
In addition, the company places a serious emphasis on preventative maintenance, believing that machinery which runs at optimum levels of efficiency enables better client service.
This is according to Theuns van der Merwe, General Manager of Special Steels.
“For us, maintenance is not a sideline issue, but a key focus in our day to day operations”, he says. “Not only does it prevent major downtime, but it enhances productivity levels and enables us to offer consistent cutting quality to our clients.”
In line with this ethos, Special Steels has engaged the expertise of a cutting industry specialist, who services their sawing machines on a weekly basis.
According to Vernon Moss, an independent cutting specialist with many years of industry experience, the company’s focus on preventative maintenance is really paying off:
“Special Steels has the best maintained P-150s in the business”, he maintains. “With the kind of thorough maintenance which the company invests in, these machines could last a lifetime!”
He is referring to the two Everising P-series circular cutting machines which have recently been installed at the company’s facilities by sole South African agency for Everising, First Cut (Pty) Ltd.
Weekly quality control is supplemented by calibration of the equipment, also on a weekly basis, to ensure optimum performance.
In addition, says van der Merwe, Special Steels takes the time and effort to ensure blade longevity.
“We do this by monitoring the shavings, on an hourly basis, which indicates the age of the blade and the correctness of the ‘speed and feed’. We replace blades long before they show the signs of wear and tear.”
However, Special Steels believes that its state-of-the-art cutting equipment is not the company’s only asset. “An equally important component to our business is quality training”, says van der Merwe. “We see training and upskilling as an important investment in the company’s future.”
Therefore, the company has initiated a tailor-made in-house training programme, while at the same time commissioning a custom-designed operator training manual for its staff.
The programme was put in place in order to facilitate the training of new staff, as part of their induction, as well as to consolidate and refresh the skills knowledge of existing staff.
This is according to Byron Ferguson, Special Steels’ Managing Director. He adds: “We find that quality training by a quality person – in this case our cutting specialist Vernon Moss – engenders a sense of pride and care in the finished product.
“Our training programme has had an impact on productivity levels and accuracy in cutting. Not only is the quality of the output more consistent, but there is less wastage.”
Van der Merwe agrees, adding that the programme, at the end of which every operator receives a certificate, has resulted in increased motivation amongst staff and reduced turnover.
“Experience and knowledge in the industry are important, so by investing in our staff we hope to encourage not only pride in work but loyalty to the company”, he says.
“Our training programme teaches operators to become familiar with the properties of the steel they work with, and which downward speed is appropriate for the type of steel used – that is, getting the ‘speed and feed’ correct,” Ferguson maintains.
Operators also learn about proper blade selection, how to extend the longevity of a blade, accuracy in square cutting, trouble-shooting and safety.
“Safety is also very much part of the focus”, notes van der Merwe. “Regular, quality training helps guard against complacency.”
The company has standardised its machinery to Everising, and has a total of 13 bandsaw and circular saw machines.
According to van der Merwe, the training has helped those staff members who wish to upgrade, or become more versatile in their product and machine knowledge.
Ferguson concludes: “The upskilling of staff goes hand in hand with our proactive stance on maintenance. They both go a long way in enabling Special Steels to deliver a quality cut along with quality customer service, every time.”
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