South African steel distributor BSi Steel reports that its service centre has acquired a second laser profile cutter for its Dunswart factory, in Gauteng, owing to increased demand for laser-cut steel.
The new laser machine will take up the extra demand for laser-cut products. “This demand, which has increased steadily over the past few years, has been spurred by fabricators who have found that accurate and clean-cut steel fits better into their steel operations,” says BSi Steel metallurgist Bruce Saxby.
Laser cutting has replaced ‘nibbling’ and other mechanical shape-cutting processes, owing to better quality, closer toler-ances and the reduction of finish-ing operations needed after conventional cutting processes.
The company believes that the new laser strengthens and complements the profile-cutting operations of the BSi Steel Plate Solutions division, which are equipped with high-definition plasma and conventional oxy-fuel machinery.
“Although the market is quiet at present, we are finding that customers always respond to service excellence,” states BSi Steel head of plate solutions Sampie van Rooyen, adding that the recent acquisition of distributor and processor of steel Brown McFarlane has put the BSi Steel Plate Solutions division in a leading position with regard to supplying cut-to-shape steel.
Plate Solutions, which also has a factory in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, specialises in pressure-vessel-quality, wear-resistant and high-strength steels, in addition to conventional structural and commercial quality plates.
BSi Steel recently established a series of express branches throughout Gauteng to emphasise the service aspect of the steel-supply business.
Steel service centres are all about high-quality service, says the company. “In fact, what we sell is a service and not only product,” says Saxby. This service aspect, which has driven the establishment of express BSi branches in Gauteng, is closer to the majority of customers.
BSi has recognised that the market can be better serviced by smaller branches that are situated closer to end-users. “The ‘shop around the corner’ concept has long been exploited by suppliers of many commodities and steel is no different. Express branches offer a more personalised service to the market and is closer to customers,” says Saxby.
He notes that, by understanding customers’ needs better, BSi can establish what cus-tomers’ requirements are and meet them more effectively, which, he says, is really what steel supply is all about.
“One of the main adaptations has been the arrival of imported alternatives to locally produced steels. Local mills have also under-gone ownership changes and their relationship with local steel users has become somewhat different,” says Saxby.
Further, he notes that local fabricators also face competition from overseas companies that offer turnkey products at prices that are difficult to match. The company is adapting its service offerings to be more competitive in the international market.
Saxby tells Engineering News that BSi is moving strongly into the supply of steel in preprocessed form. “Customers are finding that receiving steel that is cut to size, cut to length, drilled, rolled and bent, can add new efficiencies to their manufacturing operations and streamline their operations, while shortening delivery times,” he says.
“The easiest way to sell anything is by find-ing out exactly what the customer needs and then offering exactly that to them,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Saxby notes that the biggest potential for growth in the industry lies in the mining industry in Africa. “The South African market is important, but growth is greater in Africa, north of our borders, where international mining companies recently discovered development and mining opportunities,” he adds.
Saxby says that, despite the well-known difficulties of logistics, bureaucracy and corruption, new mines are being established throughout Africa. “BSi is well positioned to take advantage of this situation,” he notes.
BSi is actively pursuing new project busi-ness by consolidating existing branches and investigating the establishment of new branches in other African countries.