First Cut's Bystronic fibre lasers assist National Stainless Steel Centre in the provision of precision, ‘stainless’ service to customers
23 November 2018

In challenging economic times, entrepreneurial flair, innovative technology investment and optimising productivity ensure ahead-of-the-curve success. This is very much the case with one of South Africa's stainless steel precision technology leaders, National Stainless Steel Centre (NSSC). NSSC Managing Director Mischel Frljak explains that, with a combined background of many years’ experience in the stainless steel sector, he and his business partners started National Stainless Steel Centre in 2008.

Within a year and half, the business premises grew to 6,000 m² under roof due to our investment in equipment that would allow us to provide a one-stop stainless-steel processing facility," explains Frljak. Since then, NSSC's business has expanded exponentially, processing, supplying and trading in stainless steel for a range of customers involved in supplying the mining, petrochemical, automotive, architectural and private sectors. In addition, NSSC has also recently entered the retail sector. "The company carries out pre-fabrication on part assemblies, as and when customers require this,” Frljak advises, adding that within five years, the business had grown to an extent where there was a need to build their own facility in Kempton Park.

A new 'precision powerhouse' was duly constructed, and NSSC has been operating from it for the past five years - during which time the business has continued on a phenomenal growth trajectory - now with 11,000 m² under roof and an expansion of a further 25,000 m² planned. However, this rapid expansion required more advanced cutting capacity and capability. Any new equipment the business purchased would have to be able to keep up with the fast pace and the high quality standards demanded by NSSC. Naturally, Frljak is very well acquainted with all types and brands of steel cutting, processing and finishing technology; but was also looking for sound after-sales service and support, and a technology supplier which would build a synergistic partnership with NSSC, truly seeking to understand their technology requirements and future plans.

First Cut, South Africa's foremost cutting consumable and capital equipment distributor turned out to be that supplier. Having known industry stalwart Gareth Jackson previously, when he joined First Cut, the relationship continued and strengthened. One of First Cut's principals is the Swiss firm Bystronic, the global leader in sheet steel processing equipment. "At the time, I firmly believed that NSSC would find the increased productivity it needed in Bystronic laser equipment," explains Jackson, who is Bystronic’s Sales Director at First Cut.

To fully acquaint Frljak with Bystronic’s fibre laser offerings, First Cut hosted him at EuroBLECH in 2016 where he was able to meet Managing Director Bystronic Sales AG Philippe Burgener. The next step forward took place in 2017 when First Cut exhibited at the local Machine Tools Africa (MTA) Expo. There was a chance for Frljak to meet with Burgener again and to scrutinise the two Bystronic fibre lasers which were on display on First Cut’s stand. The result of this was that NSSC purchased both the Bystronic lasers on the show, a 4 kW BySprint fiber laser and the Bystronic flagship 10 kW ByStar Fiber laser.

First Cut made an excellent effort to understand our requirements, and presented us with an option that was both cutting-edge fibre laser technology, and extremely competitive. Ever since the machines were delivered, we have also been very happy with the excellent technical support and service they have provided," says Frljak. "With the increased cutting efficiency and the reduced time taken for each cut, our capacity has increased between 30 to 40%," he adds. At the time of the Bystronic sale, First Cut also supplied NSSC with Timesavers deburring equipment and a NitraCut nitrogen generator, to feed gas to their new lasers, both value-adds which would further enhance NSSC's efficiency.

Frljak explains that NSSC has always been an early adopter of new technology. "With the new Bystronic fibre laser technology in place, our cutting speeds are up to four times faster than previously. This in turn, has an incremental effect, as we can supply our customers with even better quality, even faster. In turn, our customers can supply their customers more effectively," he adds. Production speed is also essential, as NSSC launched its own range of retail products in 2017. While these domestic accessories have been flying off the shelves of a number of major retail chains, fortunately NSSC now has the capacity to keep up with the increasing demand.

Regarding the future of NSSC, Frljak is keen on future investment, "and with First Cut there is a strong synergy and a productive meeting of minds," he continues. "With Bystronic and First Cut, we can only go from strength to strength. Jackson comments: "For First Cut and our principal Bystronic – as well as our other principals Timesavers and NitraCut - it has been a very rewarding experience supplying National Stainless Steel. The bold step forward which NSSC has taken with its technology investment has placed this visionary company at least two years ahead of the competition - and firmly on the road to prosperity," he concludes.