01 October, 2023

Uys Loubser talks customer-centricity at Macsteel VRN

Macsteel VRN became part of the Macsteel group in 1990. Today Macsteel VRN supplies specialised steel for specific needs: Quenched and Tempered Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel flat and long products as well as Aluminium in flat and extruded form. Uys Loubser, Senior Branch Manager at VRN Gauteng explains: “We have a large network of steel service centres and that is where the value-add comes in. Our primary focus is the supply of further processing services (“profiling”) for flat steel products as close to our customer locations / operations as possible.

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We’ve invested in technologically advanced equipment which enables us to supply complex cut and profiled components with tight tolerance for industries supplying products to a diverse set of industries – from rail and transport components, to mining, to as far as stainless steel chambers for the medical industry.

We provide these solutions to our customers from a network of eight branches in Gauteng, Durban, Cape Town, Kathu, Klerksdorp, Rustenburg, Springbok and Witbank and with additional sales offices in Lephalale, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay and Vaal Triangle. Our footprint is shaped by the spread of targeted industries and in particular the mining footprint in South Africa… wherever there is a sustainable demand for our services.”

Adding Value

Loubser points out that no-one uses a raw piece of plate. Something must be done to every plate, it needs to be cut, bent or shaped in some way. Value must be added to it. This is where Macsteel VRN comes in. Aside from cutting we also provide cutting, weld-prepping, machining, drilling and/or rolling services for our customers.

“The customer sends us their design specifications as well as background to the application it will be used for. We provide expert advice on the best materials for the job and we work with the customer to agree on the best solution. Then we cut the material to size and, in the end, the customer is provided with a kit containing easy to assemble pieces,” he says. VRN carries significant stock of the specialised materials (carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium of different sizes and gradings.

“We ensure that every type of steel that we supply matches the grade that the Mills state. We pride ourselves on ensuring the highest quality standards are maintained. It is vital that the specific quality required for particular applications are controlled. When it comes to specific, safety critical applications, such as the manufacture of pressure vessels, we need to ensure that the steel conforms to the customer and application requirements. For example, the gas trucks you see driving on the highway, the quality of these transport vessels is of the utmost importance. It has to be designed to handle extreme temperatures and pressures, because if it doesn’t, it will cause a gas leak or an explosion and human lives will be lost.”

True to the Macsteel tagline “Pursuing Reinvention”, the VRN-team is constantly looking for ways to better the status quo. Loubser gives the example of using CNC machining when a hole is required in a plate: “Traditionally, the practice was to heat up the plate to drill a hole into it. However, using this method, you sacrifice a measure of structural integrity, seeing as the heat alters the chemical composition of the plate. Using CNC machining, we form the hole in the plate without the heat and we are able to supply the customer with a strong and a safe plate”.

Macsteel VRN employs an MRP system that enables them to optimally use plate by nesting orders for the benefit the customer. The MRP system is fully automated to review all plate in our inventory and select the best size possible for optimal material usage. It uses the smallest plate available to reduce scrap generated from cutting parts, reducing cost and thereby benefiting the customer.

The business unit has also recently added the country’s largest fibre laser to their operation, explains Loubser: “Until now, the largest laser bed in the country was around 2m x 8 - 13m. This new laser of ours, has a 24m x 3m sized bed. And it is a 12kW fibre laser for fast cutting, the only one in the country. This will enable us to laser cut much larger projects and do so at a much faster rate.”

Of course, with a machine like that, cutting at speed, safety must remain top of mind. That is why the machine is fitted with motion sensors which will sense any motion on the bed and will immediately shut down. If someone or something is detected on the bed while the machine is running, it will stop at once to avoid injury.

Macsteel VRN remains committed to providing the best material, ready-made for assembly at the right time, at the right price. That, we can certainly agree with Loubser, is what customer-centricity is all about.

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