Offering advantages aplenty – from job creation and cost effectiveness to environmental sustainability and foreign exchange conservation – South Africa’s diesel engine component remanufacturing capability is a strategic national asset.
This is the view of Andrew Yorke, operations director at Metric Automotive Engineering, the country’s most comprehensively equipped remanufacturer of large diesel and gas engine components. With over half a century of experience, the company is a benchmark for what can be achieved in local engineering when expertise and innovation are prioritised.
Having kept abreast of leading technology and global trends, Metric Automotive Engineering today boasts one of the leading crankshaft grinding facilities in Africa. Yorke says this equips the firm – which deals with crankshafts from industrial compressors through to locomotive engines – to grind shafts up to 4,7 metres long and weighing up to two tonnes.
Its workshop includes seven state-of-the-art, three-axis CNC machines. These are the only units in Africa of this type, capable of performing line-boring, surfacing and blue-printing of engine blocks up to six metres in length.
“Our customers’ loyalty is based on our assurance of world-class expertise and equipment, applied to meet strict international quality systems,” Yorke says. “The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of these diesel engines expect their components to be remanufactured for long term lowest cost of ownership, and we achieve this by meeting OEM standards.”
He highlights the valuable opportunity that the remanufacturing sector offers for skills development and employment – now required more than ever, in the light of soaring unemployment. The industry could absorb many more skilled employees if there was renewed commitment to policies and practices that supported local procurement.
“The remanufacturing of these components represents an important recycling activity, which helps governments and customers to meet carbon-reduction targets,” Yorke continues. “At the same time, retaining this vital function within the local economy strengthens economic capacity while reducing the country’s need to spend foreign exchange on imports.”
He warns, however, that OEM pricing of aftermarket parts is making remanufacturing less viable, and needs to be addressed. If the skills required for large diesel engine component remanufacture and assembly are lost, engine testing skills would suffer the same fate.
“If we ended up only importing new large diesel engines instead of remanufacturing components, we would soon need to import the skills to maintain them too,” says Yorke. “South Africa must be strategic about our economic choices – for instance, by supporting automotive engineering that focuses on engine component remanufacture.”
Metric Automotive Engineering – with its modern workshop facilities for testing, grinding, reprofiling, reboring, surfacing and other specialised engineering services – is an inspiring example of what local engineering can achieve.