A niche fabricating powerhouse that designs, builds and installs entire production lines
In the twenty years it’s been in operation, Metal Tank Industries has risen from a respectable refurbisher to the niche fabricating powerhouse it is today. What sets them apart is that, while they do supply tanks, that’s only a small facet of their unique service offering: their true field of expertise is turnkey solutions.
The industry does not lack for vessel fabricators, but where Metal Tank stands alone is in its ability to offer complete end to-end solutions – they design, build, and install entire production lines that simply drop into their clients’ existing processes.
IT STARTS WITH TANKS
In 1996, Rob MacGregor founded Metal Tank Industries, and still serves as its Managing Director. Initially, the company operated as a trading enterprise, purchasing used vessels, refurbishing them, and selling them on to a range of end users. This formula worked well, and
the company prospered, but the path that led them to their current niche dominance began when they decided to begin fabricating vessels from scratch.
FAITH IN STAINLESS
What set Metal Tank apart from other fabricators was a particular belief in the growth potential of the stainless steel industry. This informed the bold decision not only to build new vessels, but to keep large stocks of them on hand.
Vessels are capital items, you don’t generally buy one unless you intend to set up a new plant or a factory, and where a custom fabricator could build a vessel to order in a matter of weeks, Metal Tank now had one to sell you “off the shelf”.
“It had a positive effect on turnaround,” says MacGregor. “If someone wanted to start a small business and needed a 3,500L vessel, they could get going that much quicker because we would actually have that vessel in stock, either refurbished or new.”
ONE STOP SHOP
From the outset, Metal Tank has always had a strong export operation, and does business in most of the Southern African region, as well as West Africa, and even some of the islands like Mauritius and Madagascar. In servicing the export market, Metal Tank noticed what they
perceived as a vacuum where small to medium sized enterprises were having to source plant components from a large number of different suppliers in different countries.
“We saw this as an avenue of growth,” says MacGregor. “That was the start, many years ago, of servicing turnkey solutions, which has grown substantially over the last 10 years to where we are today. We’re able to offer clients the vessel and all the other components that make up a plant.”
One of the unique services that Metal Tank offers is that they can pre-fabricate an entire plant on their 29 000m2 factory floor. This has significant impact in terms of costing controls.
Typically, they send a team to inspect the proposed factory site. Metal Tank’s engineering and draughting departments then work out how to fit the plant into the space. It’s then completely built and assembled on the Metal Tank shop floor, before being broken down, marked,
shipped, and reassembled on site by Metal Tank’s installer crew.
“We call it a knockdown format,” says MacGregor. “Everything we build is designed to come down in pieces that are transportable. It’s really worked to our clients’ advantage because they have quicker turnaround, much less on-site time, and more controlled costing on the
project because the bulk of the work is done in-house.”
Another service that makes Metal Tank unique was the addition of an inhouse process engineering department.
This gives the company the ability to validate manufacturing processes against equipment being supplied.
“It straddles the line of project management, not just manufacturing,” says MacGregor. “Say, hypothetically, a company wanted to build a tomato sauce plant capable of producing a set number of bottles. For a given set of equipment,we can tell them how long it’ll take to heat
up, how many batches they can expect to cook, how much time it’ll take to cool in the cooling tower, and so on.”
“The customer then isn’t just buying equipment. They’re also getting the satisfaction of knowing that the process they want to engage in is actually going to work in the way they expect it to.”
ON A ROLL
Metal Tank has strong experience in designing and implementing solutions not only for the food and drinks industry, but also in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and chemical plants. Their client list is a cross-section of manufacturers from small to medium sized companies in Southern Africa right up to big players like the SAB Miller group, for whom Metal Tank has built several plants in the last few years..
In fact, around 80% of the work Metal Tank does is either from repeat customers or word-of-mouth.
“We appreciate it, because it’s one way to gauge how you’re delivering a service,” says MacGregor. “No organisation is perfect, but when you’re doing a lot of repeat and referral business, it does mean your customers are satisfied, and you’re doing something right.”