Commercial Shearing – putting hydraulic technology together

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Commercial Shearing is based in Jet Park near Johannesburg International Airport and the company specialises in the manufacture and assembly of hydraulic systems, gear pumps, piston pumps, control valves and motors for mobile applications (such as earth moving and mining machinery). Local major OEM clients include many companies involved in the manufacture of mining machinery, and systems are also supplied directly to the end users themselves often as replacement parts. The company exports into the rest of Africa and indirectly via the local machine industry also exports equipment to countries such as Australia. While other larger OEMs often source directly from Commercial Hydraulics in Europe (the principal of the local company), Commercial Shearing has major contracts from mining houses and other companies for maintenance and repair of this equipment as well as the Commercial products sold directly by them. The local products are also exported into Europe usually based on referral from Commercial Hydraulics, and a four-stage hydraulic pump was recently delivered to Romania. While the company executes much of its sales directly it is also represented by trained distributors throughout South Africa and these companies offer the same levels of service.

Commercial Shearing has been in business for more than 25 years and was managed by Ken Beaumont as part of the Fenner Group. After a few years Fenner decided to refocus its business and the company did not see its hydraulics division as being part of its longer term plans. Ken, however, realised the true potential of the company especially when removed from corporate control and after some hard bargaining with Fenner he bought the company out and remains to this day the sole owner. Despite its niche focus the company has been growing over the last few years at between 20 and 25% per annum, and over the last 18 months more than R2,5 million has been spent on new capital equipment. As a niche player with OEMs and with end-users expecting very short lead times a significant investment has also been made in terms of inventory for new units, while Commercial Shearing also holds spares for every product it sells. An idle machine at a mine could cost the company up to R100 000 per hour, but these companies know that if they contact Commercial Shearing their system will be speedily repaired using in-country parts. The current staff complement of the company is 24 people.

The name Commercial Shearing is historical and dates back to the days when this was the name of the then principal. As the ‘Commercial’ brand was so well established in South Africa and has become a virtual standard for the mining industry, Ken decided to keep the name unchanged, merely changing the entity to a (Pty) Limited. Many components are of course still sourced from Commercial Hydraulics in Europe and it still refers clients to the local independent company. The European principal is focused on supplying hundreds of units to OEMs and does not particularly want one-offs, custom designs or small batch runs, these all being core to the South African company’s business. Commercial Hydraulics, by the way, is said to be the largest supplier of cast iron gear pumps in the world. In terms of custom units, Commercial Shearing is able to develop new products for local OEMs according to their exact specification, very important for developers of new machinery. Commercial as a brand is well established worldwide, being renowned for its high-quality hydraulic products.

The manufacturing area of the company encompasses the usual range of engineering tools including conventional lathes, but pride of place goes to two Mazak CNC machining centres, which were acquired in November last year and January this year to replace older systems. As custom components are always being machined, testing of these is critical and the assembly and measuring area of the plant boasts a computer driven 3D measuring machine to check the parts. Just one indicator of the flexibility of the plant is that threading is offered to match any of the world’s various standards.

Commercial Shearing individually tests all of its products before shipping (customers are welcome to witness the tests) and possesses a comprehensive pump and motor test area. This area accommodates two test rigs named Mr and Mrs Mac (Mac being the name of the operator). Mr Mac was built in-house just over a year ago while Mrs Mac, although about 20 years old, was completely refurbished over the last 12 months to be able to cope with the most recent standards and specifications. Mr Mac is rated at 45 kW and has an infinitely variable hydraulically driven motor system that can be operated at up to 3000 rpm in bi-directional modes. Mrs Mac is rated at 90 kW and uses an electrical motor with a thyristor drive providing the variable speed. Use of this type of drive allows constant speed to be maintained irrespective of load. Both systems incorporate computers and parameters such as pump flow, revs per minute, pressure and other parameters are logged and compared with specifications. The open invitation for customers to see their products under test is important and provides confidence for them before the installation on very expensive machinery.

Besides custom manufacture, Commercial Shearing does offer a standard range of products that is covered in its extensive catalogue. In terms of its 300/400 Series of pumps and motors, products offered cover pressures to 24 MPa, pumps with flows up to 340 litres per minute (90 gallons per minute), and motors with outputs up to about 112 kW (150 hp). The P400 Series of high pressure, fixed displacement gear pumps are rated at up to 31 MPa (4500 psi). Motor speeds of up to 3000 rpm are offered while standard threading for the ports (anything is possible) includes metric, UNC, British Standard Pipe Parallel and SAE Straight Thread. Commercial’s pumps work well on most good hydraulic fluids as well as synthetic and fire resistant fluids. While the product range offered may be small in comparison to that of competitors, Commercial Shearing can still claim to offer the largest range of hydraulic gear pumps in South Africa for use in mobile applications. Note that depending on application and customer requirements devices such as the 300 Series pumps can be supplied in single, multiple, piggy-back and through-drive assemblies. Pumps can of course be assembled for rotation in either direction. Stealth Series low noise gear pumps are also available from Commercial.

While Commercial Shearing operates in a highly competitive market, Ken Beaumont believes its strength comes from the company’s core values of flexibility, quality, after sales service and inventory, together with the experience and knowledge of the staff. As he likes to put it, Commercial Shearing is “A company where customers can enjoy solutions and employees enjoy a career”. With its niche product focus it is possible for the company to keep stock of virtually all its requirements whereas competitors often have to wait three to four weeks for deliveries from overseas. While the company is focused on mobile applications Ken is now looking at other complementary markets for hydraulics to broaden the product base and to even out the manufacturing loading. Despite having invested heavily in new capital equipment and inventory Commercial Shearing is in a healthy financial position. Ken Beaumont did however stress that it was really a day-to-day business and the only long terms contracts were for maintenance and repair. Having said this he also commented that the ability to respond rapidly to customers’ requests was critical and “if you do not have the stock in South Africa you do not get the business”. As Commercial Shearing has the stock and does respond rapidly it can only go from strength to strength as evidenced by its performance over the last few years. As for the local industry it enjoys the benefits of high local content combined with the quality and reliability associated with the Commercial brand.

Dr Maurice McDowell has many years’ experience as a technical journalist, editor, business manager and research scientist. His third party analyses of world-class companies and processes, as well as his insight into industry and technology trends are well respected.