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Oct 10, 2003

Opening of thermodiffusion plant expected early next year

© Reuse this One of South Africa’s leading fastener manufacturers, CBC Fasteners, in conjunction with Distek South Africa, anticipates the opening of a thermodiffusion zinc- coating technology treatment plant in the first quarter of next year.

“The benefits of thermodiffusion plating are manifold, including greater anticorrosion properties than traditional plated product, and obviating some of the main negative aspects of hot-dipped galvanised fasteners, such as hydrogen embrittle- ment and nut over-tapping,” CBC director Israel Bender tells Engineering News.

He explains that Distek South Africa developed the ecofriendly corrosion-protection method in 1993.

The process applies a zinc coating, comprising zinc-iron alloy layers, by heating iron or steel com- ponents in a container with a special mix of zinc dust.

The change in iron and zinc concentrations through the intermetallic layers of the diffused zinc coating have been tested in South Africa by the CSIR and M&Mtec, using energy dispersive spectroscopy on a scanning electron microscope.

A comparison salt-spray test was also provided by Corrosion Advisory Technical Services, based in Randburg.

Bender adds that the past year has been challen-ging for fastener manufacturers.

“This time last year, the fastener industry de- veloped a reasonable amount of momentum relating to the weaker rand, having positively influenced the mining industry and export-based manufacturers.

“The reverse holds true today, with the strengthen- ing of the rand to unreasonable levels for export- exposed industries,” says Bender.

He adds that imports of fasteners are also having a depressing influence on component prices.

“Most of the imported products are from Indonesia and Thailand, where dumping of product is taking place at levels of R4 500/t to R5 000/t.

“These levels are barely above the steel price for local manufacturers,” says Bender.

He adds that dumping duties are expected to come up for review next year, as a result of circumstances not changing, and in certain respects becoming more severe.

Nevertheless, the fastener industry is in a better position today than it was four years ago and, therefore, is able to withstand the difficult times currently being experienced.

Bender says many people were concerned about the stability of the fastener industry four years ago, and since then some companies have disappeared from the industry, while others are playing a lesser role. He adds that, in the last few years, the industry was unstable and oversupplied, with the supply of fasteners exceeding demand.

“Despite the state of the industry, our company has been able to maintain volumes at 1 300 t/m, which is a significant volume in the South African market,” says Bender.

He adds that CBC exports 10% to 15% of its products to a number of countries, including the UK, France, Switzerland and Denmark.

In addition, in the past year, management acquired an investment stake in the company.

“This year has been exciting for us, due to this, giving management a stake in the operation of the company.

He adds that, as a result of this, investing in the company became more of a priority, therefore CBC acquired an East Rand-based tungsten carbide tool-room in June, to allow for the inhouse manufacture of tooling.

“We bought a sophisticated tool-room called Enterprise Tool and Die, in Springs, and relocated the company to our premises, in Krugersdorp.

“The acquisition also gave the existing staff the opportunity to remain with the company,” says Bender.

He adds that Enterprise Tool and Die is performing well, and that the company will operate as a separate entity.

“The acquisition provides CBC with a strategic advantage, due to the fact that it reduces lead times in the manufacturing process, provides flexibility and the opportunity to reduce imported tools.

“In addition, we plan to use Enterprise Tool and Die as a tungston carbide and precision-tooling supplier for other fastener manufacturers in the industry,” says Bender.

He describes the tool-room as one of the significant events at the company.

In addition, CBC is in the process of commissioning a third heat-treatment (Ht) plant as a backup plant, in order to cope with the current and future demand of high-tensile product.

“We anticipate that high-tensile products will be in great demand in the future,” says Bender.

He adds that production at the CBC plant is split between two ranges of product, namely mild-steel and high-tensile.

Bender says the fastener industry in currently taking a downturn, due to the current economic situation, which is creating a challen-ging environment.

However, the company is consolidating on every front, with increased focus on quality.

“This challenge has an advantage in that it is able to iron out many of the inefficiencies and problems being experienced in the industry.

“However, we are mindful that the macroeconomic situation will affect our customers as well,” says Bender.

He adds that, despite tough times, CBC has adapted and maintained its market, in spite of the strong rand.

In addition, the company has facilitated a number of training and development programmes for staff members at all levels.

“Our decision to implement training programmes is in response to the low skill levels in the industry, and the fact that training is lacking.

“We have implemented a number of training courses, such as financial management, adult-based education and training and HIV/Aids,” says Bender.

He adds that the company also has on-the-job training for employees, which is monitored by the company’s skills development officer.
Edited by: zeena isaacs
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
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