Following over 40 years in downtown Johannesburg, Axiom Hydraulics has relocated into an expanded facility in Wadeville, Gauteng. MechTech visits the new premises and talks to company director, Neil Simpson.
Originally founded in Johannesburg 53 years ago, Axiom Hydraulics has been designing and building hydraulic systems, hydraulic drives, integrated circuits, power packs, special cylinders and manifold blocks from its Heidelberg Road, Village Main address in downtown Johannesburg since 1971.
“Axiom’s strength has always been its ability to produce complete hydraulic solutions for general industrial, novel and unusual applications,” says Simpson. “In addition, we offer and support a variety of mechanical solution such as planetary gearboxes and brake systems,” he adds.
Key products supported and distributed by the company include: Black Bruin hydraulic motors; Sun Hydraulics cartridge valves; SAM Hydraulics pumps; Oerlikon Fairfield torque hubs; Zinga filters; Guardex couplings; ASA Coolers; and Ausco Brakes.
Modern hydraulic circuits are designed around the use of custom-designed and machined manifold blocks. The hydraulic equivalent of an electrical distribution board, a manifold block populated with cartridge valves is the central component in a hydraulic circuit. It regulates and controls fluid flow between pumps, motors, cylinders and other actuators in a system.
“We are very good at designing and manufacturing these manifold blocks,” says Simpson, adding that the move to its new premises was largely due to the expanding need for workshop space for manufacturing manifold blocks and assembling and testing the circuits they control.
“We simply ran out of space in Heidelberg Road. The shop floor had become cramped for machine space and we had reached a point where no new machines could be accommodated. We had to customise some of our testing stations to fit into cramped corners, and these were never ideal,” Simpson relates.
Second, though, he says: “while we were happy there, our customers found it increasingly uncomfortable visiting and parking in downtown Johannesburg. Village Main became a little grubby and has moved away from being the industrial area it once was. Our customers are now saying what a pleasure it is coming to the new Wadeville premises, where there is a lot more parking, fewer people on the streets and much better security – even though the journey time is a little longer for most people,” he tells MechTech.
“We think we have moved about 500 t of workshop machinery, equipment and stock into the new premises, most of which was stock from our warehouse valued at some R66-million. We haven’t seen some of the items in our stores for years and we had to bring back some of our past employers for guidance on the older components and spares. We found a spare spindle for our grinding machine, for example, that we have never needed and probably never will,” he says.
Having completed the building of a new office block in March this year, Axiom’s move began in mid-March, while daily operations continued in Johannesburg. “We began to move the workshop equipment, staring with the CNC machining centres for manifold blocks at the beginning of May, and we had all moved over completely by mid May. It took only 10 days for us to move and re-install all of our workshop equipment. But, although we had built up some production stock to cover the move, we still have some catching up to do,” says Simpson.
“We now have room to modernise and expand. Our first intention is to buy a third CNC machine for manifold blocks – and space has already been allocated. Then, we need to modernise our testing stations and facilities, to make testing and collecting and collating data easier.
“Most importantly, though, we need handling machinery to help us to load and unload heavy components into and out of the machines and assembly stations. While we have inherited a 20 t crane from the locomotive-manufacturing predecessor, this is too high and we would prefer to have two 5.0 t cranes,” he points out.
Available floor space has increased from 1 600 m2 in Village Main to 4 000 m2 in the new Wadeville facility. “To take full advantage, we have also taken on board a new staff member on the hydraulic design side, Nick Rebello, who comes with drafting skills and lot of technical experience in hydraulics. We are hoping he will enable us to up our game on the design presentation side, to finish off the excellent functional design work we already do with more professionally finished portfolios and visual presentations that better communicate to customers the unique features and advantages of our systems,” Simpson reveals.
In addition, we are implementing better staff training and moving towards ISO accreditation for the workshop – and in the medium term, we hope to transform the old offices into a demonstration and training facility for our customers,” he says.
When asked about his outlook, Simpson acknowledges that the mining side is “a little down”, but he finds cause for optimism: “Through Elite Mining, we are continuing to supply the hydraulics for chair lift installations for mine shafts and one of these is currently being commissioned.
Several of these are now running successfully and a few more are in the pipeline. Capital investment projects such as these give us hope that the mining sector is seeing see a turnaround point in the not too distant future,” Simpson responds.
“We continue to well in general industry. For the forestry industry, for example we are supplying systems to a company in George that makes cable-logging systems for sale all over the world. On steep terrain that is inaccessible these systems use cables suspended from towers to pull and lift the felled trees to a landing area. Our hydraulic components are used for the winches and grippers,” he explains.
“We are also looking forward to making some systems for salt harvesters for a customer in Port Elizabeth. These are sophisticated tracked vehicles that cut 300 mm deep strips of salt off the pans, harvesting up to 500 tons of salt per hour. The track drives move very slowly and the cutter requires very high torque, so hydraulic drives are ideal. Corrosion due to the salt also makes hydraulics a far better choice for this application.”
Axiom Hydraulics’ new Gauteng facility is on the corner of Bergvlei and Stellenberg roads in Wadeville. “Just look out for the little loco on the corner,” suggests Simpson.
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