‘Ongoing product development and innovation’ is a catch phrase many companies use to market themselves, but in reality nothing much changes in terms of the products and each ear it pretty much looks the same as the previous year.
Visiting Brelko Conveyor Products, however, is an eye-opener because here you’ll always find new innovations, not only in terms of the wide range of conveyor spillage control products they manufacture, but also in the manufacturing processes used throughout the factory.
“Bulk Handling Today” accompanies managing director of Brelko, Kenny Padayachee, on a walk through the company’s facility in Booysens. “The last quarter of 2012 was tough in terms of business due to the turmoil in the platinum mining industry, but we’ve learnt to survive the troughs and peaks of this business,” he says. ‘We did not allow these ups and downs to impede our research and development on the product development programme we’ve been working on over the past twelve months to improve some features on certain products.”
We were particularly impressed with the new features introduced to the V-plough belt cleaning system Brelko has been manufacturing since the company was founded twenty-five years ago. The V-plough has always been a bit of an awkward component in that it takes up a lot of space, especially in the larger sizes, to handle and transport due to the V-shape being manufactured in a fixed configuration.
“We decided to re-design the concept entirely in order to make in collapsible for easier handling, fitting and maintenance,” Kenny explains. “The specially formulated polyurethane (PU) wear blades now have a tongue-and-grove configuration to form a hinge at the V-joint, allowing the two legs of the V-members to open and close. Now the plough is folded up for easy packaging in a box, making it much easier to handle and store than the old fixed assembly.
This is in line with Kenny’s new approach to all products the company manufactures. “in the past we made all the parts for the spillage components and only assembled a complete unit as the orders came in,’ explains Kenny. ‘Since we’ve expanded our warehouse and dispatch area considerably, we assemble each component as a complete unit before it goes to packaging here it is boxed in single or multiple units before being stored in the warehouse.
“Each box which, but the way, we also manufacture in-house, is clearly marked as to its contents and how many units are in the box,” adds Kenny. “When a customer now orders 12 ploughs, for example, we simply pick 23 boxes each containing one plough from our warehouse and the order goes out immediately. The management system then automatically triggers an order for 12 ploughs to the factory, ensuring that we always have certain predetermined levels of stock in the warehouse.”
To accommodate this new approach, assembly rigs were designed and installed at each production line to streamline assembly and packaging of the product as a complete unit. At a sub-component level, many of the processes have been automated, not only to speed up the production of parts, but also to maintain consistency in quality. “the nitrogen cryogenic pressing process, for instance, has been reduced to one single operation compared with the several steps it had to go through in the past,” explains Kenny.
A clear indication of just how production has grown is shown in the consumption of PU on the wear part manufacturing line, an area where automation is to be introduced in the coming months. “In the past we used around 500kg of polyurethane a month,” Kenny adds. “This now stands at 5 tonnes, justifying an automated PU dispensing system which we’ve already ordered. Here we’ve also re-designed the moulds to reduce waste, not only to save material, but to reduce the amount of rework previously required to clean up the part.”
In the yard we come across a large container being refurbished. Kenny explains, “We have 37 service teams either out on the road or based on site at customers who have maintenance contracts with us. We buy containers, and fit them out as on-site storage space for the spares and tools required at each installation.”
Kenny’s business philosophy of paying meticulous attention to detail is not only evident in Brelko’s product line and the supply chain he has created, but also in the time taken to training their own and customers’ staff on the products. ‘We all know how tough it’s been out there lately and now, more than ever, it is important to look at the quality of the products you buy,” he warns in conclusion.
“Down time is expensive, so if you purchase a product you have to make sure you organise a qualified technician who can install it properly or make sure your own people know how to do it. For this reason we not only train our own people at our dedicated training centre, but we also training customers and their technicians to understand how our products work and how they should be fitted correctly.”
Brelko is accredited Level 3 B-BBEE, is also a value adding enterprise and is Sanas approved.
Bulk Handling Today