Established in 2001, JC Impellers Foundry has spent many years specialising in the manufacture of impellers and other pump components but has now transformed into a jobbing foundry.
“While orders for impellers and other pump components from the South African wear resistant engineered product manufacturers were strong, we could compete and survive in specialising in these areas of component manufacturing. We always knew that we were limiting ourselves but we also knew that our focus brought other benefits to our clients,” said Greg Smith, owner of the Wadeville, Gauteng based foundry.
“At one stage we were producing nearly 4 000 impellers a month for the local market. However, this all changed some years back when there was a major shift from local OEMs towards cheap imports of components from countries like China, India and others. We were blown away by the pricing of these imports and could not compete. When you consider all the extra costs that South African foundries have to incur because of bureaucratic rules and high power and labour costs as compared to the countries I mentioned, it is not a surprise that we could not compete.”
“There are various bodies that are lobbying certain governmental organisations to increase and enforce localisation content, especially at the SOEs and government departments. The South African Valves as well as the Pumps Cluster, for example, were especially formed to revitalise the manufacture of valves, pumps, seals, motors and couplings in South Africa, but this does not seem to have had any impact.”
JC Impellers have recently installed a spectrometer and are now able to do certification for all the materials that they cast
“High quality, increased productivity and cost reduction are vital for the success of the South African manufacturing industry as it works to reduce its reliance on component imports while growing its export potential in a slow economy. It is crucial that South Africa creates an inviting environment for component manufacturers that supply the original equipment manufacturers operating in the country.”
“While industry as a whole in South Africa has had to deal with pirate parts from the east, the mining sector has had trouble with inefficient parts being used in its pumping systems. Some of the materials that companies pump can be corrosive, abrasive, or dangerous to handle.”
“Sometimes the substance is so corrosive or abrasive that it will destroy the impeller in a matter of weeks. It means that they have to budget to replace the impeller, and the cost will be tens of thousands each month,” says Smith.
“I read recently that a large number of foundries in a certain area of India shut for two days in protest against increasing input costs. The ripple effect on the downstream industries that relied on these foundries that are the backbone of these industries was significant. Maybe that is what all the foundries in South Africa should do to draw attention to our plight because every single foundry in South Africa is suffering. In fact we could extend it to all manufacturing companies.”
JC Impellers have transformed from specialising in the manufacture of impellers and other pump components to a jobbing foundry casting components such as cable joiners
“It could be drawn to our attention that Europe is a huge market for pumps and we should be exploring avenues to become a subcontractor of pump components for one of these producers in Europe, especially with our favourable exchange rate. But to a large extent Europe is self-sufficient and entry barriers are relatively high, and rivalry makes competitive pricing and a good reputation very important.”
“From our 4 000 impellers a month we are now down to on average 400 a month.”
“Fortunately we had predicted the difficulties and the drop in demand that we would be facing some years back and changed our strategy to one where we would become a jobbing foundry that could cater for a different environment of components that we could cast, before it was too late. The company name does not lend itself to reflect this strategy change and we could change this in time. But in the mean time we have focussed on acquiring new clients from other industries and we have been reasonably successful in our endeavours.”
“To do this we had to change the mix of the materials we melt and over and above the cast iron, SG iron, LG2 and PB1 metals that we were casting we now also offer steel, aluminium, stainless steel, manganese and chrome iron melting. To accomplish this we invested in two furnaces – one being a 450 kilogram induction furnace and the other a 220 kilogram one. This has now allowed us to take our maximum size casting of 60 kilograms to 350 kilograms. This immediately opened up a whole new avenue of potential business.”
The materials that JC Impellers now melt and over and above the cast iron, SG iron, LG2 and PB1 metals that they were only casting now also include steel, aluminium, stainless steel, manganese and chrome iron melting. To accomplish this they invested in two furnaces – one being a 450 kilogram induction furnace and the other a 220 kilogram one. This has allowed JC Impellers to take their maximum size casting of 60 kilograms to 350 kilograms. This immediately opened up a whole new avenue of potential business
“This includes manufacturers in the power generation, railways, mining, pulp and paper, food manufacture, farming and general engineering industries. We now manufacture components such as cable joiners, bogey and hopper wheels, valves, scrapers, knuckles, hey needles, engine components, gearbox housings and even 25mm and 38mm grinding media balls for the mining industry.”
“There is no stopping us now. If it fits the profile of our foundry setup we are prepared to cast the component. And this does not limit us to one-offs. We are certainly not a production type foundry that churns out 1000s of the same component. We don’t have the equipment to do that type of casting. But we can certainly do 100s of the same casting if required.”
“We have also added to this side of the foundry. Although we have installed a second hand spectrometer it was purchased from one of South Africa’s leading foundries and has all the necessary documentation required for operational approval. We are now able to do certification for all the materials that we cast.”
“Another plus for us is that we have been awarded ISO 9001:2015 certification. This only comes into operation officially in September this year but in the mean time we have passed all the necessary system requirements and will operate under these conditions.”
JC Impellers now manufacture components for clients in the power generation, railways, mining, pulp and paper, food manufacture, farming and general engineering industries. These include cable joiners, bogey and hopper wheels, valves, scrapers, knuckles, hey needles, engine components, gearbox housings and even 25mm and 38mm grinding media balls for the mining industry
“We are a relatively small foundry producing 50 tons of castings a month in the various metals and employ 24 permanent staff. Both Danie Cronje, my foundry manager who joined me in January 2018, and myself, have been in the foundry industry all our lives and we even worked together earlier on in our careers. My partner, Alex Thompson, sadly passed away last year and I was not coping running the business on my own. Danie was fortunately available and could take over running the foundry aspects of the company.”
“Currently we are refurbishing some of our equipment by replacing the pumps and drives. Going forward we are looking at expanding but that is in the future. We changed our strategy four years ago and it has worked. Now we need to increase our throughput before we can expand.”
For further details contact JC Impellers on TEL: 011 827 1913 or visit www.jcimpellers.co.za