Thekwini Wire and Fasteners targets import replacement in automotive industry with new Robomac wire bender

Thekwini Wire and Fasteners has invested in a Robomac 5-axis CNC wire bender, a high-capacity sequential bending machine manufactured by French company Numailliance Retecon.

“We currently supply a fair portion of our production of wire components into the automotive industry. We noticed that some of the Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs are still importing components that we could manufacture if we had this machine. Also, there is a substantial amount of business that could be acquired from the non-automotive industry,” explained Bala Moodley, a Director of Thekwini Wire and Fasteners.

“Not so long ago automotive exhaust systems were essentially disposable. They required frequent repairs and wholesale replacement. Not so today. Modern exhaust systems last for years, the result of decades of research and development and continuous improvement on the part of exhaust component suppliers,” explained Mr Moodley.

“Today’s exhaust systems consist of a number of expensive parts. There are one or more catalysts, an oxygen sensor, maybe even a 2-stage muffler. There’s piping that’s not only shaped to clear underbody lines, but may also be made of premium metals, in some cases dual wall tubing. And there are sheet metal underbody heat shields to prevent the exhaust from igniting dry grass.”

“What’s holding everything together? A few clamp joints and some welds. What’s holding everything up? A few pieces of rubber with some brackets. What’s keeping everything aligned? Those same few pieces of rubber and brackets. Failures are common and range from cracked rubber to failed welds.”

“In addition, nowadays assemblers have a limited time to mount the exhaust system, so the fit must be perfect. Hanger brackets have critical dimensions and must be welded precisely to the exhaust system so that it will fit properly to the vehicle’s brackets.”

“This project is based around the supply of hanger brackets for an exhaust system, that our client Bosal manufactures, that will be used in the manufacture of the new VW Polo Vivo. We have also presented to Toyota South Africa Motors and they have shown interest in some components they are currently importing.”

“We will be targeting the automotive industry mainly to localise the manufacture of more components and thereafter various other industries and will be processing mainly low carbon steel components for the project with Bosal. However, we will be able to process medium carbon steel, stainless steel, copper and brass material.

“The project and subsequent purchase of the wire bender was initiated through our participation in 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.

“We were one of five companies to be chosen out of 350. Although we are now in the process of being a verified as a supplier to VWSA, it is intended that we become a component supplier that is not reliant on VWSA. A mentor was deployed to our company 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,” said Mr Moodley.

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, IATF16949 and OSH on top of our 1S09001: 2015 accreditation that we already have.

“We further expanded our vision when we were part of the South African delegation, supported by the dti, that exhibited on the national pavilion at the Wire and Tube exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2018. There we were exposed to the international community but were also able to investigate the wire processing equipment that was on display.”

“It was at that show that we decided to invest in the Robomac wire bender. Simply put, cold heading or setting is feeding wire into a machine, cutting it into pieces, and hammering on it. The material is not heated or machined, but formed into its desired shape at room temperature. The ability to form material instead of removing it deems this process extremely efficient and cost effective when manufacturing large quantities. The machine is fully CNC and automated so we can run large or short quantities.”

“The machine also has a larger than usual capacity, capable of bending steel brackets up to 14mm diameter and to cold form the cone and ring at one extremity with the enormous force of 60 tons.”

Mr Moodley is much indebted to his boss and partner for the first three years of the business who guided him through all aspects of running a business. The arrangement did ensure that Moodley’s business Thekwini Wire and Fasteners would start off with some level of security because his previous employers with whom he had been with for 29 years became his first client and was his only client for a few years.

Thekwini Wire and Fasteners is a member of National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM), SAWA South African Wire Association, DAC Durban Automotive Cluster and is a Level 1 BEE contributor.

For further details contact Thekwini Wire and Fasteners on TEL: 031 902 7097 or visit www.thekwiniwire.co.za