Grill or be grilled. One of South Africa’s leading manufacturers of braai’s and fireplaces invests in its equipment and facilities to cut lead times and keep up with overwhelming demand.

Right now, keeping the winter cold and gloom at bay with a warming and welcoming fireplace is a priority. Nothing warms a home, literally and figuratively, quite like a flickering fire. While the flames create physical warmth, their orange glow creates a sense of comfort on a cold winter’s day or night.

But with summer just around the corner, it is just about time to get the coals out, or turn on the gas, and light a match to get ready for our favourite past time – braaiing. Embrace the vleis (meat). Even if you’ve never so much as opened a pack of boerie (sausage) on your own, becoming the coveted tong-master is not as difficult as it once was. While our ancestors had to make do with uneven heat and rusty griddles, nowadays finding the tjop (meat chop) to compliment your dop (alcoholic drink) simply means slapping some spices on a fine piece of meat, sealing in the flavour and cooking it over the coals to one’s taste. Of course it doesn’t end there. In the past a braai was just another way to cook meat. Today a braai is as versatile as a bachelor’s degree that allows you to chop and change depending on your taste and what you want to cook, whether it is meat, chicken, fish or accompanying side dishes and vegetables. And yes, we are all experts.

Our love of fireplaces in winter, and our obsession with braais during our summer weather, has allowed South Africans to live the great outdoors. This has also presented opportunities for a number of South African companies to manufacture and supply products that help to promote a healthier, more pleasant, enjoyable and efficient way of living.

“Life is where you live it. At home, indoors or outside, in your own back yard or on an adventure to discover new and exciting places,” says Magiel de Beer, CEO of Megamaster.

“Megamaster is your lifestyle partner, and through our range of braais, fireplaces and outdoor accessories, we aim to enhance and promote that lifestyle. Megamaster’s mission is to develop even better products and services and to provide ever better answers to the needs of our customers and other stakeholders. Megamaster is a lifestyle brand that plays a vital role in creating and supplying innovative products that help to improve our lives,” continued De Beer.

The MegaGroup was established in 1997 as a local manufacturer of braais and fireplaces under the brand name Megamaster. Two additional Pretoria based factories were added during the first seven years of existence, focusing on storage and fencing products.

The current shareholders acquired the MegaGroup in 2005 and the business model was strategically aligned to become a leader in supplying lifestyle products to mass and independent retailers throughout Southern Africa. Today the MegaGroup’s products are available at almost 1000 retailers in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland.

MegaGroup’s products are manufactured in the group-owned local factory in Pretoria, as well as in strategic factories in South America, India and China.

“Our state-of-the-art lifestyle products bring family and friends together in homes, on patios and on outdoor adventures. We provide a wide range of quality and uniquely designed cooking and heating products to truly enhance the lifestyle experience of our product owners,” says De Beer.

Range extension By 2008 the company that is run by de Beer and his brother Andre had implemented its strategic decision to have its core focus on supplying products to mass and independent retailers. The next step in the development of the company was to broaden its range of product offerings.

“We came to the point that, although we were well-known in the local market for our fireplaces and braais, we felt we needed to offer more than just these products. There are a whole host of accessories, tools and complimentary equipment that are used with our equipment, and of course many variations. Each individual has their own preferences and requirements and we needed to address this.”

“We now offer 600 different products with many of those being added to our range in the last few years.”

A MicroStep MSF 4001 two kilowatt fiber laser cutting machine that has a bed of four by two metres purchased by Megamaster. The machine has been supplied by MicroStep South Africa and is destined to take care of all the company’s laser cutting requirements that used to be outsourced, and then still have spare capacity to offer to outside clients

“In the braai range for example, there are built-in or free standing options, and the sizes can vary. The braai range caters for all tastes and offers the perfect answer for wood and gas braai enthusiasts. Our built-in range is available in a range of sizes and includes wood burning, gas as well as wood and gas combination units finished in either mild or stainless steel. These units complete any entertainment area whether used indoors or outdoors. Our freestanding braai range is available in uniquely designed wood burning units as well as our state-of-the-art patio gas braai range.”

“85 different products and combinations are included in the accessories for the braais such as ash pans, tongs, brushes and grid cleaners. The grid range has 31 different variations.”

“Not all of these products are manufactured locally just because of the economies of scale. Built-in and free standing braais and fireplaces, flue pipes, rotating pipes and ashpans are examples of what can be manufactured locally because they are manufactured from sheet metal and require forming, welding and painting essentially. We have the equipment and processes so it makes sense to manufacture these locally. However the grids will either be sourced locally or internationally as they require a different process when manufacturing, and we cannot justify the investment in this equipment.”

“The freestanding braais come in many different variations including round, barrel and drum. Some are manufactured locally and others are imported, but all under the Megamaster brand as are our pots and cookware. The three legged potjies, which is another popular outdoor cooking experience that South Africans love to enjoy with family and friends, are offered in either cast iron or aluminium, and in various sizes.”

Examples of components that the new MicroStep MSF 4001 two kilowatt fiber laser cutting machine has cut

“Our fireplaces are made using stainless steel and heat resistant paint and are perfectly vented to enhance your fireplace experience. The built-in fireplace range gives the new home owner, renovator and lodging client the chance to enhance an architectural design in their rooms and lifestyles. Included in this range are double-sided and vent-free gas fireplaces. Our freestanding, open wood burning fireplaces were designed to provide the ultimate solution for any home owner as they are available in traditional, modern and multi-sided gas panelled designs.”

“The built-in units have seven different variations and the free standing units have four variations. However we do manufacture to specification.”

Rebranding and growth Not satisfied with what the company had achieved since the new shareholders had acquired MegaGroup six years earlier, in 2011 they decided to rebrand the company.

“We had broadened the base of our customers, outlets and products, but we still needed to show how we had grown by establishing new standards in which we can engage with customers for the best results. This entailed a new vision, new logo, new packaging and an innovative solution to make us stand out amongst the rest,” said De Beer.

The result of this rebranding has shown that the company has grown 100% in the last five years which has led to other areas that the company needs to address.

“We process approximately 200 tons of material locally with braais and fireplaces accounting for most of our production. We work with mild steel and stainless steel makes up about 15% of material processing. We had not addressed the manufacturing side since taking over and we knew this was a problem,” explained de Beer.

“We engaged outside consultants to look at our manufacturing operation with a brief that we needed drastic changes in process flow, quality improvement, cost reduction per component and building capacity. At the same time the solution needed to incorporate that we wanted to manufacture components ourselves that were previously being outsourced, and that our products had to be able to compete against international competitors. In other words, a complete overhaul.”

“Our manufacturing environment consists mainly of forming sheet metal, welding, finishing and then assembly before being shipped. We had hit a point where our growing pains had reached crisis point and we knew we had to address them.”

New manufacturing phase The MegaGroup is spending over R12 million on this new phase in the company’s history. This has begun with the installation in July of a MicroStep MSF 4001 two kilowatt fiber laser cutting machine that has a bed of four by two metres. The machine has been supplied by MicroStep South Africa and is destined to take care of all the company’s laser cutting requirements that used to be outsourced, and then still have spare capacity to offer to outside clients.

“Fortunately for us we are starting off with virtually a clean canvas,” explains Ruan van der Merwe, Production Manager at the MegaGroup.

“A laser machine is a real investment for many businesses. Lasers can perform a wide range of tasks and carry out numerous different functions depending on the needs of your company. This makes a laser machine a highly useful tool, allowing you to save time on processes and cut costs,” continued van der Merwe.

“The benefits of fast cutting speeds on thinner materials, low energy consumption, the simplicity of fiber delivery systems, compared to the mirror systems on CO2 machines, and, in theory at least, low maintenance, seem to have driven the sector.”

“MicroStep introduced the MSF series of machines in 2011 and since then increased the processing speeds and added digital AC drives and precise planetary gears. However, companies which regularly cut sheet steel up to 6mm are likely to be paying too much for their laser cutting. This could be true regardless of using your own laser or outsourcing. This is why we have decided on a 2kW laser power, as the material thickness of our components does not require more power. Most of our material is either 2mm or 3mm.”

The new MicroStep MSF 4001 two kilowatt fiber laser will work in conjunction with two new Vartek AdvanceForm press brakes that are currently being installed.

“Although we already have bending and guillotine equipment on the floor, it is old and tired. The two new Vartek AdvanceForm press brakes, which are also being installed by MicroStep South Africa, have been imported from Bursa, Turkey. The one machine is a 1500mm x 60 ton and the other is a 3000mm x 135 ton,” explained van der Merwe.

Extensions, alterations to manufacturing facility “One of the other considerations the outside consultants had to take into account was our production flow, and that we needed attention in our finishing or painting department. After conducting a site evaluation it was clear that we had to carry out extensive alterations to our manufacturing facility,” explained van der Merwe.

“Currently we have 2500m² under roof. Major changes are taking place so that our material and process flow will be greatly enhanced. More importantly bending and laser cutting, fettling, welding and assembly will all be departmentalised in their own areas,” continued van der Merwe.

Two new Vartek AdvanceForm press brakes, which are also being installed by MicroStep South Africa, have been imported from Bursa, Turkey. The one machine is a 1500mm x 60 ton and the other is a 3000mm x 135 ton

“Additionally, we are adding another 1000m² to accommodate the changes, as well as the introduction of a completely new state-of-the-art painting line that should be operational by November 2016. This will include a fully automatic 100 metre overhead conveyor line that will carry components from pre-treatment such as degreasing and phosphating then onto drying, spraying and baking,” explained van der Merwe.

Office space “We are also increasing the office space so that the individual departments will in future have their own space. This includes the design department that uses SolidWorks to improve current products and introduce new ones. Currently we manufacture between 20 and 30% of our own products, and this whole new phase in the company’s growth is not only geared to increase this percentage dramatically, but also to increase our capacity by at least 100%,” said de Beer.

“We are taking the opportunity to grow by investing. Investing in our people, technology and advanced processes are the pillars on which we intend to grow. The biggest factor in our success is that we never sat still, but constantly evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of the marketplace. We are a business that listened and adapted to our customer needs. Our 100 staff compliment has a strong understanding of these values and works hard to make sure we are meeting client needs.”

“As we say, Megamaster constantly strives to improve your braai experience by ensuring product quality combined with the latest fashionable designs and ease of use. The Megamaster braai range caters for all tastes and offers the perfect answer for the wood and gas braai enthusiast.”

1000w Metal Laser Cutting Machine

“Equally, a true fireplace experience is something that we all treasure, whether it is for heating, a quiet time with the family, or creating an ambience around the dinner table with friends. Our fireplaces are made using stainless steel and heat resistant paint and are perfectly vented to enhance your fireplace experience.”

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