Covid-19 has brought with it doubts and concerns about supply chain security, availability of stock and lead times, says First Cut’s Consumables Division director, Gary Willis.
The pandemic has caused companies accustomed to ordering international private-label products to re-evaluate their supply risk.
“First Cut is able to offer these customers a quick and cost-effective, local solution,” he points out, adding that the company is also supplying its blades and welding consumables to many critical-supply industries including the fabrication, meat and timber sectors.
Many cheaper brands of welding electrodes are imported into South Africa, but Willis asserts that First Cut’s electrodes are a cost-effective and quality mid to upper-range product that can be supplied in short lead times.
Demand, as expected, was initially slow, as the country moved to Level 4 of the lockdown, but with the company’s sales team entering the market, this is “starting to grow nicely”, says Willis.
“We are currently running well below capacity with eight-hour shifts in place, five days a week. As demand grows, we have plans to increase this to include a second, third and, ultimately, fourth shift to accommodate seven days a week. So we have plenty of capacity.”
“Prior to the disruption caused by the pandemic, companies ordering cutting and welding consumables from overseas would often have to order large quantities four to six months in advance. In a state of global uncertainty, we anticipate increased import delays and hiked prices because of surging foreign exchange rates.”
Therefore, supporting South African supply chains and local manufacturing just makes far better business sense,” Willis advises.
First Cut’s consumables division has been the ‘beating heart’ and lifeblood of the company for the past 64 years, says Willis, highlighting that the company has manufactured bandsaw blades at its Cape Town factory since the company’s inception in 1956.
“Over the years, First Cut has balanced the sourcing and supply of world-class cutting machines and consumables with a strong local manufacturing presence, and trusted technical support teams.”
In 2019, First Cut concluded an agreement with German cutting technologies company Messer Cutting Systems, to acquire its existing South African agency and manufacture a range of Messer welding electrodes at its factory in Benrose, Johannesburg.
“First Cut welcomed the opportunity to locally manufacture Messer welding electrodes, as the range very much fits with our quality ethos and current product portfolio,” explains Willis.
First Cut manufactures a range of Messer electrodes, which includes electrodes for welding mild steel, carbon-manganese steels, stainless steels and so-called ‘problem’ steels where welding has to take place under difficult circumstances or dissimilar types of metal need to be joined together.
“We also manufacture and distribute electrodes for gouging and hard-facing applications,” Willis adds.
As First Cut’s new electrode range is manufactured under licence from Messer, the products have to comply with German, British and American quality standards such as DIN, AWS/ASME and BS.
Sample product has been sent to Messer for quality certification and there is continuous monitoring of formulae and processes, while First Cut has made a substantial investment in a high-quality electrode press and industry-standard drying and baking ovens.
“First Cut is mindful that each of its 240 staff members represents a family and a broader community impacted by drastic and widespread economic disruption of this pandemic. Every South African company and individual can play an active role in our country’s economic recovery by supporting local businesses,” Willis advances.
In the case of the company’s Messer welding electrodes, supporting local means that customers will not only save on import costs, but acquire top-quality, locally-manufactured electrodes at affordable prices, he concludes.
ISO 9001:2008-certified First Cut is based in Gauteng and has a national footprint, with manufacturing facilities in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and product distribution across South Africa.