A Milestone Year
For World-Class Manufacturing Specialists Fabrinox
Diversified South African steel company Fabrinox officially celebrates its 30th anniversary in September. In essence, it is testimony of growth, resilience and innovation. From humble beginnings as a hopeful component manufacturing start-up, the company has become a trusted specialist to international customers across six continents.
Three decades of experience in high-precision metal fabrication and manufacturing has evolved into a multi-faceted enterprise certified with ISO 9001, ISO 3834 and EN 15085. It specialises in amongst others batch manufacturing, under-license manufacturing, components, sub-assemblies as well as end-to-end project management and global installations for OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers).
Today, Fabrinox services customers in over 11 diverse sectors including agriculture, water treatment, food and beverage, railway and mining. Recent capital investments of around R20m and a permanent staff of some 150 are a far cry from its first days of rudimentary equipment and a staff of just five people.
“The journey has been a dream come true,” says Group CEO André Visser, founder of the Paarl-based company.
This special milestone is marked amid many significant happenings at Fabrinox, including a significant partnership with UK-based firm, Eco Clarity, in the development and roll-out of an innovative approach to Grease Trap Waste (GTW) management through a containerised waste treatment system that has been shaped over the past two years.
Fabrinox manufactured the original test unit of this revolutionary system and, in collaboration with the Eco Clarity team, refined the concept and manufacturing techniques. A further two plants are currently in production and will be shipped to sites in the UK where Fabrinox’s experts will assemble, test and commission the units before handover. With the grease traps becoming a legal requirement for businesses in most markets, the units being built and installed through licence to
Fabrinox is proving to be a leader in its class. The competitive export of these completed units to an international market is testimony of Fabrinox’s manufacturing, procurement, project management and installation capabilities for both local and international clients.
In addition, further growth for Fabrinox lies ahead thanks to a new expanded premises and the company’s revitalised management team under new Managing Director Wessel van Zyl.
The expansion began in October 2020 with the consolidation of Fabrinox’s two manufacturing divisions to a company-owned site previously dedicated to project management and installations. Phase 2 was completed in 2021 with the construction of additional roof space that increased the manufacturing division’s capacity. A further 2 500m² of land has since been acquired for additional expansion.
Its location and establishment in Paarl in 1993, is not coincidental. History has seen Paarl become a centre of excellence in the training of artisans, especially where stainless steel is concerned. Along with job creation, Fabrinox also ploughs back into this community through the funding of learnerships and support of selected community NGO. It is also an active member of the SA Stainless Steel Development Association, and the South African steel industry cluster.
The first steps
Fabrinox was originally conceived as a partnership with Paarl packaging enterprise Filmatic, to provide sheet metal manufacturing and development. Andre Visser, a young engineer in the design department, was tasked with its launch and over the years developed Fabrinox into the world-class metal manufacturer it is today.
The name Fabrinox reflected its operation – Fabr from the term fabrication and inox, a trade name for stainless steel.
“Many of the philosophies that are part of Fabrinox today, I learned in those early days,” says Andre.
“This includes looking globally and the importance of building lasting relationships through trust and respect.”
The heart of Fabrinox
An important differentiator for Fabrinox is its business model.
“Relationships are the core focus of our business, which is why our clients trust us with their IP (intellectual property),” says Andre. “This approach has been with us since our days as a startup. We focus on being supportive – a crucial way of extending a customer’s capacity. It’s essential to good and healthy business relationships and cannot survive otherwise.
“Our component environment is a commodity, but it is a partnership with industry. We will supply the commodity to industry. And as we supply, the relationship grows closer. In this way, Fabrinox is
able to remain client-centric, providing complete and flexible manufacturing solutions, superior quality products and services with prompt delivery times at a competitive price.
He adds: “This gives Fabrinox the edge: a reputation as an industry leader, built on experienced experts who provide guidance and technical advice to help customers successfully navigate market conditions and industry challenges.”
Fabrinox’s foray into the international market received its biggest push in the mid-1990s through a partnership with the international process and product technologists’ firm, Heat and Control.
Another partnership that has proved to be equally transformative for Fabrinox is its 25-year relationship with the renowned integrated solution provider to dairy producers worldwide, DeLaval. After coming across products of DeLaval at a show in Johannesburg in the late 1990’s, Andre approached the team regarding manufacturing these components locally.
“It took some time, but Fabrinox eventually got the chance to provide samples,” Andre says. That was the key that unlocked a relationship that has stood the test of time.”
From supplying only replacement parts to a full scope of service supply with the successful implementation of over 160 global installations across 35 countries worldwide. Today Fabrinox’s 8 installation teams are equipped to install 7 different rotary platforms.
The roll-out of the Eco Clarity Grease Trap Waste (GTW) hub is a key project for Fabrinox that has firmly put the spotlight on its capacity for innovation.
Furthermore, Fabrinox is gearing up for even greater business on local shores. “A number of local initiatives are in the pipeline, and we’re excited about the opportunities they bring for South African companies,” Andre says.
It is however Covid that has made the most fundamental changes to the business, as it has around the world. While the consolidation of premises had already been in the pipeline, good practice demanded a strategic review when global conditions were disrupted by the pandemic.
The result at Fabrinox was fast-tracking automation and investment in new laser-cutting technology that increased production capacity. “This has allowed us to unlock greater efficiencies in service delivery,” says André.
The management structure has also been revitalised, allowing teams to play to their strengths. Key to this has been the appointment in July 2023 of Wessel van Zyl as Managing Director. Wessel takes on responsibilities formerly shouldered by Andre, who remains Group CEO of Fabrinox and will focus his attention on business development and opening new markets for Fabrinox.
As a multidisciplinary professional with degrees in law and business, Wessel brings a wealth of expertise and a distinguished track record in leadership, manufacturing and business development, garnered at a range of leading enterprises.
The past three decades at Fabrinox have been a period of remarkable growth and development. Over this time, the company has expanded its manufacturing capacity and enhanced its capabilities, positioning itself as a world-class leader in the industry. As it embarks on the next phase of its journey, the team is confident that the future holds even greater potential.
Says Andre: “Fabrinox is slick, resilient and agile as ever – a great place to start the next 30 plus years!”