A Perspective from the Trenches on what’s happening in Abrasives
Measurecut, a South African distributor founded on April 1st 1964, takes the subject of abrasives very seriously. That’s why we jumped at the chance to get some perspective from Zane Butler of Measurecut on where the abrasives industry is heading, and what he thinks the future will hold—particularly for Measurecut’s core competency in automotive manufacturing.
Butler cited that the automotive “Hub” of South Africa is reaching its “5 year cycle.” New models and parts are coming through at OEMs and top tier suppliers, and Measurecut is expecting some exciting developments over the next 12 months. With the industry moving towards more aluminum manufacturing and new composite materials, the organization views this as an advantage due to the range of products offered by abrasives supplier Rex-Cut.
Butler explained it this way: “Since 2012, a mind shift in manufacturing has been happening in South Africa. There is less emphasis on the cost of abrasives and more focus on the cost of the finished part, with time becoming the largest factor. South Africa has had a large labor problem in recent years and companies are looking more at working smarter to reduce costs, as well as shifting to robotic applications.”
“Robotics will play an even larger role in the South African market in the next 5-10 years,” he continued. “With our labor issues, it is the natural progression in order to compete with International markets. Stronger machines, faster grinding, the demand for better finishes will have a large impact on how abrasives are used in South Africa going forward. With the Rex-Cut range of products, we are at the forefront of technology for abrasives, so we’re in a very good position.”
So what types of challenges does a distributor face in this industry?
“Incorrect use of the abrasive is by far the biggest mistake we see with our clients,” stated Butler. “In South Africa, it is considered normal for the operator to use brute force to get the job done faster, rather than letting the abrasive do the work. This can be corrected with training, which is becoming more of a norm with in-house training centers, as well as with suppliers like ourselves providing training sessions wherever we can.”
“Operator safety and compliance are ever-growing concerns in our market,” he continued. “When it comes to abrasives, the person who must be looked after is the operator. The safer the grinding wheel or cutting disc, the happier the operator, and in turn—management. Proper abrasive wheel selection occurs when the operator or production leader is informed of the product and has seen what each grit size, or type of grain used, achieves. Often, the wrong abrasive type is used on applications leading to long grinding times, re-working of the parts, and downtime, which is a big no-no. With Rex-Cut, the ability to grind, blend, and in even some select applications, ‘polish,’ makes it a very easy product for operators to use and saves immense downtime. The bottom line is that more productive grinding time = less cost, less labor requirements and less electricity waste.”
Butler also spoke about the challenge of informing clients who remain to believe that the cost of the abrasive is the biggest contributor to the overall cost of the application or part. He pointed out that when a client has used a product for 20 years, it’s a tough mindset to change to consider something more innovative. But he does see the change happening. “We have a client that deployed Rex-Cut Type 1 wheels in an automotive brazing application,” he shared. “The time saving with the new wheel is astronomical and the client is extremely happy with the Rex-Cut product for the application. Another interesting application has been Stainless Steel work performed for a large Pharmaceutical company. Rex-Cut Type 1 wheels removed the weld in this application and gave a good finish in very tight corners and hard to reach areas.”
Measurecut is investing in growth of personnel and facilities, as well as opening satellite branches in South Africa. The organization recently opened a Cape Town branch to cover more clients and plans to add even more branches in the future. The goal is to facilitate a faster turnaround time on client projects and be the change agent to save clients time and money.