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Cape Metal Pressings’ 20 years in business

Quality controller doing her pre-delivery check for defects. Quality controller doing her pre-delivery check for defects.

Cape Metal Pressings (CMP) is celebrating its 20th year in business and Cape Business News met up with Gerald Stark, owner and founder, to share the company’s journey.

The Cape Metal Pressings journey began in a shared building in the Retreat industrial area in 1995 where it rented 80m2, and as with most start-up businesses the owner wears many hats and learns to do a bit of everything from sales, design, manufacturing, operating, invoicing, banking, deliveries and bookkeeping.

“It’s a steep learning curve,” assures Stark. “There were many ups and downs to get the company to where it is today and many times that I felt like throwing in the towel and going back to work as an employee. As a qualified press toolmaker it would have been easy to get another job, but pride, passion and persistence forced me to keep going; to try again. More importantly I had a young family that I had to provide for, and my wife and I wanted our kids to have a good education and the opportunity to attend university – something we never had.”

With hard work and the ongoing support of its long-standing customer Gabriel Shock Absorbers, Cape Metal Pressings grew slowly but surely, and progressed first to a 250m2 factory unit then to a 400m2 unit. By now the company had around fifteen employees and a few more machines and more importantly its customer base had also grown. Stark was able to employ toolmakers, press setters and admin staff giving him more time to manage the growing business.

Also at this time – and with pressure from the motor industry – CMP recognised the need to become ISO 9001 compliant. Being ISO 9001 compliant from 2000 opened new doors for CMP, and through Gabriel Shock Absorbers it ventured into the export market and started exporting metal pressings to Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela and importing specialised shock absorber steel from Germany.  

In 2005 – once again needing more space – Stark took the plunge and re-mortgaging his family home, purchased two plots of industrial land at the newly developing Capricorn Business Park near Muizenberg. After negotiation with the bank the company received a loan and built its first factory in June 2006, when the CMP team moved into its brand new 750m2 factory. The company continued to grow steadily and weathered the 2008 downturn. With more work from the motor industry CMP upgraded its Quality Management System to ISO9000 / TS16949 2009.

The internet helped to bring in more customers for CMP and it was fortunate that the company was named ‘Cape Metal Pressings’ as this, combined with an up to date website put it at or near the top of Google and Yahoo when searching for metal pressings in the Cape.

CMP took a hit when it lost its second biggest customer Ziton when it was taken over by a multinational company and later split up and absorbed by subsidiaries in Poland and USA. Although the company still supplies to the new enterprises, the bulk of the work went to China.

However, CMP gained new customers like Bergvik Flooring - which it supplies locally as well as to its US and Swedish plants – as well as Stellenbosch-based Resulta, Lesotho-based African Clean Energy and Paarl-based Betafence – all new enquiries coming via its website.

“We can truly say we are a customer focussed company as we have achieved Supplier of the Year on many occasions from our main customer Gabriel Shock Absorbers and we have glowing Customer Reports from all our customers every year. We strive for long-term sustainable business relationships with our customers and certainly not in it for the ‘Quick Buck,’” says Stark.

In the last few years it received awards from Cape Chamber of Commerce and Productivity SA.

“We were benchmarked through Productivity SA as being just outside a ‘World Class Supplier.’ Areas of concern were sales and financial awareness. To this end we upgraded our website and I attended a nine week course on the basics of Financial Management at UCT scoring an average of 71%,” continues Stark.

The company was involved with Productivity SA in a two year “Workplace Challenge” course that has seen its factory floor split up into mini business units where the employees are empowered to manage their mini business units and interact with their internal “upstream” and “downstream” customers.

CMP is a member of the Western Cape Tooling Initiative that supports SMME’s, and whose primary task is to rehabilitate and grow the Tool, Die and Mould making (TDM) industry in the Western Cape, ultimately growing the manufacturing sector as a whole. 

The company has weekly production meetings, a monthly management meeting and a monthly staff meeting.  At the monthly staff meeting the staff are updated on all that is happening at CMP. Employee involvement is an integral part of the company and it is very “team” orientated. It achieved its level 3 BBBEE status in 2010.

“We have a suggestion scheme where employees are encouraged to put in suggestions for improvements in their areas, an employee of the month for those who go the extra mile and 100% attendance awards – all carrying a monetary reward. The main award is the 5S award that takes place every quarter and also carries a monetary prize for the best performing mini business. The 5S discipline is a Japanese methodology which describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used. We have also adapted the 5S methodology to include many other qualities that we want to promote like timekeeping, document control and many others,” explains Stark.

Running out of space again in 2013, CMP completed a second ±700m2 factory in Jan 2014, directly behind the first one. These are linked for easy access. CMP also made use of the DTI`s Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme to purchase and install four brand new press lines along with new compressor and projection welder to keep up with the demand from its new customers.

“We have a few competitors in Cape Town, however we don’t see them as competitors and in some cases we actually share work with them and we tend to help each other out by passing on jobs best suited to each,” says Stark. “I won’t take on a job if I don’t think I can supply – one of my biggest fears is to let a client down and affect his business. We are committed to long and sustainable business relationships with our customers.”

“Times are tough in the manufacturing sector, but there are opportunities - we just have to work harder to find them. Interestingly we have seen an increase in enquiries from the solar, motor, fencing and security industries.”

“We are a company that is are proud of our achievements and quality standards. Cape Metal pressings management team is a dynamic team with a combined total of 125 years of experience in the tool making and metal pressings industries. We are customer focussed, as our customer reports and supplier awards can testify. Going beyond our customers’ expectations is what we aim for with each of our customers. We enjoy the challenge of a new project and take pleasure in seeing it through from enquiry to delivery. Together with our workforce we aim to make Cape Metal Pressing a “World Class” metal pressings supplier.”

“I would like to thank all our suppliers and our customers for their support over the last twenty years, and also my staff without whom CMP would never survive,” concludes Stark.

Investing in skills

Stark has involved his company with many projects to better the skills development in his company and the surrounding community of Capricorn – formerly known as Vrygrond.

“We have enabled a number of students to qualify as press toolmakers in a four year tool making apprenticeship. We also take students from the Western Cape Tooling Initiative for on-the-job training for periods of three months, and we currently have employed a trainee tool designer who received six months training at the Advanced Institute of Tooling in Stellenbosch. We make use of any training opportunities that arise from first aid, forklift driver training to computer training in MS Word and Excel.”

Q – What are the rewards of this job?

A – “The biggest reward is to be able to give jobs and the proper training to unemployed people and see them grow and prosper. It’s great to see people choose to move up in life and take advantage of what permanent employment can offer them.”

Q – What have you learned over the years?

A – “You can have the best equipment and machines that money can buy, but if you don’t have motivated and trained staff behind you it will always be a struggle. What you invest in your staff in terms of time, effort and caring is what you will get back.”

Investing in the community

Through African Clean Energy (A.C.E) Cape Metal Pressings was involved in a good-will project that saw it manufacturing parts to build small wood burning stoves that are shipped to Maseru for assembly and then distributed into Lesotho, southern Africa and beyond.

“The stoves are very efficient and will reduce the effect that traditional cooking fires have on the environment. It is hoped that these stoves will help prevent the use of paraffin for cooking and heating in the townships which often end in spills and fires,” says Stark.

CMP is involved closely with the Vrygrond community and make use of the “The Link” to employ people from the local community. The link is an NPO set up by residents of the local community of Marina da Gamma to help the people of Vrygrond find employment in Capricorn Business Park.

Stark is also a member of the Vrygrond Community Development Trust whose main aim is to uplift the community by means of education through early childhood development centres to grade 10.

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