The month of August marked a significant milestone in the history of KPL Die Casting, an aluminium and zinc high-pressure die-casting foundry located in Germiston South, Gauteng.
“We have been in business for a full 21 years now so you could say we have come of age. During this period, we believe that we have developed a reputation in the high-pressure die-casting industry for consistently delivering high quality products on time and, to budget. This is endorsed by the loyalty of some of our 30-odd clients that we have which, relatively speaking, is a small number. Two of these clients showed faith in the business in the beginning and they are still our major clients these days. That says something,” says the entrepreneurial owner Sally Marengo, who runs the company with her husband Guiseppe, the engineer and trouble shooter on the manufacturing side.
Sally started her first business in 1992 importing bathroom accessories. However, a flood of similar imported products and logistical problems convinced Sally that local manufacture of niche product was a better alternative and this is how the foundry evolved.
The new Idra 700-ton high-pressure aluminium die-casting machine
Gerhard Kotzee from the ASCCI – a dti sponsored initiative – the mentor assigned to KPL Die Casting and Sally Marengo
With Guiseppe in tow, Sally made frequent trips to the local appliance stores to see where they could replace white goods components with a better and cheaper alternative. The first order came from a well-known manufacturer of fridges. Sally boldly told them that the fridge door hinges were over engineered and that KPL could save them large amounts of money. Once she had proved this to them, an order for 15 000 components was placed and Sally has not looked back.
Initially three high-pressure die-casting machines were purchased to cast only zinc components and this material was the main focus of the company for some time. However, subsequently a 350-ton high-pressure die-casting machine with an automatic ladle was purchased, when aluminium die-casting was introduced into the foundry. Despite the introduction of aluminium, zinc components still made up the majority of the majority of castings that the company was producing monthly. This ratio has gradually changed over the years and today KPL Die Casting casts more aluminium than zinc castings.
The aluminium side of the foundry is primarily casting components for the automotive industry, sanitary ware, lighting and mining industries and the zinc side is casting components for the sanitary ware and automotive industries.
Toolroom and machining
KPL Die Casting has evolved from just being a high-pressure die-casting business into a facility that offers tool and die manufacturing and maintenance as well as offering machining services.
KPL Die Casting manufactures four different housings for street lighting for a client
The new Idra 200-ton zinc high-pressure die-casting machine
“The talk in the machine tool industry is all about multitasking machines – milling and turning for example. Well we decided from early on that we had to be a company that could multitask and having its own toolroom that could also offer machining services was a natural progression.”
“Toolrooms play a crucial role in supporting the daily production of many high-pressure die casters or any production manufacturer that uses a tool or die to shape or form the same component repetitively.”
“Because they serve primarily in the background, toolrooms can become almost invisible features in many companies. For this reason, the toolroom’s inherent capabilities are usually taken for granted.”
“But at the same time they can become expensive overheads if the machines are not put to their full use or capabilities. Hence, we have made ours into a machining facility as well. It is generally repetitive machining but it is also another service that we can offer to our customers.”
“Currently we have three CNC lathes, two CNC vertical machining centers, a surface grinder and a spark eroder in this department.”
The last 18 months has been a big growth period for KPL Die Casting in more ways than one. First came a new Bruker spectrometer followed by the installation of two new ‘smart’ die-casting machines from Italian manufacturer Idra Presse.
“The first machine is a 700-ton high-pressure aluminium die-casting machine and the second one is a 200-ton zinc high-pressure die-casting machine. Both machines are the biggest and operationally represent the most technically advanced machines that we have invested in, which in itself brings new headaches but pleasant ones.”
KPL Die Casting has evolved from just being a high-pressure die-casting business into a facility that offers tool and die manufacturing and maintenance as well as offering machining services
Aluminium castings make up the majority of the casting tonnage at KPL Die Casting
“For a while now there has been a trend to convert sand castings into die-castings because of the need by castings buyers, especially in the automotive industry, for well-formed parts formed with metallurgical certainty, mechanical soundness, and excellent surface qualities. Also driving automotive designers toward die-castings has been the ongoing effort to make vehicles lighter and more fuel-efficient. The ability to die-cast complex parts in aluminium and nonferrous alloys, now in larger dimensions, is an ideal match for this automotive prerogative.”
“Coupled with these trends was our capacity inhibitions and quality control. Larger high-pressure die-casting machines also means that we can produce larger die-castings.”
Decorative castings for the sanitary ware industry
KPL Die Casting have installed a new 800kg melting and tilting gas fired furnace, a new 500kg gas fired holding furnace and a 300kg transport ladle. All of this equipment has been supplied by Silca Southern Africa
“Simultaneously we also invested in new auxiliary equipment such as a vacuum density tester, a new nitrogen degassing system, a new 800kg melting and tilting gas fired furnace, a new 500kg gas fired holding furnace and a 300kg transport ladle. Additionally, we have purchased a forklift attachment first to transport the ladle from the melting furnace to the degassing machine and then on to fill the holding furnaces of the individual die-casting machines. All of this equipment has been supplied by Silca Southern Africa.”
Safety and environmentally conscious
“To fulfill our safety and environmentally conscious concerns all of our existing equipment and the new machines have been filled with Ecosafe Plus hydraulic fluid. Ecosafe Plus is a water-based, non-flammable, biologically degradable and environmentally compatible hydraulic fluid with an innovative, glycol-free formulation based on a mixture of polymers, poly-alcohols, esters, corrosion-inhibitors and anti-oxidation agents.”
“In use Ecosafe Plus demonstrates very stable physical and chemical properties (%-H20, viscosity, pH etc.) by reason of its high lubricity and the great stability of the raw materials from which they are manufactured.”
Ntinga Project finalist
“During this period we have also been fortunate enough to be named as one of the finalists of the Ntinga Project, an initiative by Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) to identify and develop black-owned component suppliers in South Africa. The initiative includes an intensive 18-month mentoring programme run by VWSA, the VWSA Learning Academy, the VWSA B-BBEE Trust and the Automotive Supply Chain Competitiveness Initiative (ASCCI).”
KPL Die Casting have also purchased a vacuum density tester and a new nitrogen degassing system
Additionally, KPL Die Casting have purchased a forklift attachment first to transport the ladle from the melting furnace to the degassing machine and then on to fill the holding furnaces of the individual die-casting machines
“Gerhard Kotzee from the ASCCI – a dti sponsored initiative – is the mentor assigned to KPL Die Casting and his brief is to develop our company from being a third-tier component supplier to fulfilling the requirements of a first-tier component supplier for the automotive industry. The mentorship covers everything from administration, finance, production to delivery. This includes assisting with the implementation of the industry standards and quality process audits such as VDA 6.3, IATF and OSH on top of our ISO9001:2015 accreditation that we already have.”
“In brief KPL Die Casting is undergoing a complete overhaul of the whole company’s systems and processes. It is a deep and rigorous process but it will take the company from being structured to one that is highly-structured and meets the norms and standards that are required by the automotive industry market that we have been developing and growing in. Even I have to change my ways in how I run the company.”
“Despite this the benefits to the company and our non-automotive clients are enormous and, when our mentorship period is completed, we should be in a position to supply any automotive OEM in the future.”
“The support that we have received from the Trust goes beyond anything we received from any commercial bank. We have been able to increase our production capability as well as achieve leading edge technical capacity which has unlocked new markets.”
Some of the dies that KPL Die Casting uses
The last 18 months have been a big growth period for KPL Die Casting in more ways than one. First came the installation of a new Bruker Q4 Tasman spectrometer
Undaunted that she is one of a handful of women heading up her own foundry in South Africa, Sally Marengo certainly knows her business and the high-pressure die-casting industry. She has been successful in building a business that currently employs 86 staff and now with her participation in the mentorship programme the business can only become even more successful.
“The saying goes that behind every man there is a good woman but in the case of KPL Die Casting the opposite could be said. Without Guiseppe at my side the company would not be where it is today. He is the engineer and over the years he has implemented many changes that have made our processes more productive and reduced our scrap levels. From the beginning it has been a priority of mine to involve myself on the manufacturing side so that I can feel confident when talking ‘engineering’. It is no good trying to implement solutions when you do not know what you are talking about.”
“I am also very fortunate in that I have a great engineering team and my right-hand lady, Debbie Derman, the financial wizard who has been with the company for 18 years. This somewhat lightens my burden of running KPL Die Casting.”
For further details contact KPL Die Casting on TEL: (011) 873 0264 or visit www.kpl.co.za