Springing Ahead of the Competition
Project Manager:Kane Weller
Since the Company was formed in 1963, Supreme Spring has undergone a vast array of structural changes to reach the level of respect the name demands today.
From its humble beginnings as a division of the Company then known as Powerlines, its focus adjusted to the automotive market in the early 1970s; before Supreme Spring was purchased by Metair Investments in 1984.
15 years later Metair added another automotive spring manufacturer, viz. National Springs to its portfolio; switching the Company focus once again, this time around wholly to the automotive industry only, with the manufacturing of industrial springs being terminated soon thereafter.
“Refining our processes over the subsequent years to specifically manufacture and supply suspension spring products, we began to identify export markets across the globe to tap into. Shortly after, the manufacture and supply of suspension spring products to a broader selection of customers was also added to the Company’s wider focus and its market penetration strategy,” Christo Hechter, Commercial Director of Supreme Spring explains.
In 2006 Supreme Spring’s development process enhanced with the addition of cold form production facilities for both coil spring and stabiliser bar products to its manufacturing repertoire. The Company’s development into this market enabled Supreme Spring to manufacture and supply an even larger range of products to its growing customer base across the globe.
Situated in Pretoriusstad, an industrial suburb of Nigel in South Africa, where all three of the Company’s manufacturing plants are housed.
The three manufacturing plants are supported by an integral chain of departments, being product and process design and development, process engineering, plant engineering and maintenance, an in-house manufacturing tool room, quality assurance and control, comprehensive supply chain management, as well as management and financial support departments. These manufacturing and support departments continuously work in unison to enable the achievement of Company goals and objectives.
The Company has seen a rapid growth in its turnover during this development process, with the Company’s turnover more than quadrupling between 2002 and 2016. Naturally, with increased capital investments, the growth in turnover would naturally emerge; however, it also comes from the dedication to implementing a marketing strategy focused on a much more diversified customer basis.
Suspension spring development
Focusing firmly on the new wave of market developments in the field of suspension spring products is vitally important at Supreme Spring.
“The real philosophy has been that if someone could make market leading suspension spring products, then surely Supreme Spring could also create such parts, while also making it cost-competitive.
“We continually support this philosophy by proving to emulate such product developments very successfully. Supreme Spring has never really claimed to be the market leaders in suspension spring developments and product manufacturing, however, it has proven itself as a strong and rapidly acting market follower,” continues Hechter.
Furthermore, Supreme Spring is now established as a strong institution of product development where automotive suspension spring products are concerned.
With suspension springs being unique to every customer’s vehicle platform, the Company’s product range hasn’t actually experienced many major changes. Rather, the business still manufactures the same original range of suspension spring products, viz. coil springs, leaf springs, torsion bars and stabiliser bars; then alongside these is the more customer-specific automotive engineering spring solutions.
The main focus in enlarging the Company’s product portfolio across the board though is its investment in the acquisition of cold form manufacturing technology for both coil springs and stabiliser bar products.
Hechter adds: “The acquisition allowed us to widen our portfolio of suspension spring products to enlarge our diversity of customers which we could service by quite a significant amount; this was especially apparent on passenger vehicle applications which were not previously addressed by the hot form technologies that were available to us.”
Technical assistance agreements
Complementing its product range, Supreme Spring has engaged in a number of technical assistance (TA) agreements, taking its footprint to overseas companies such as Chuo Spring (CHKK) in Japan; where the Company is providing support for the main-line Japanese OEM manufacturers. Alongside Japan, Supreme Spring has also ventured into Europe with the Sogefi Group (Allevard), situated in France, which is providing support to main-line German OEM manufacturers; in the main part assisting the manufacturers with customer-specific part development, part testing and assessments.
“With the TA partners, specific cases will involve Supreme Spring engaging the TA partner in assessing the product design and FEM models of a specific suspension spring product, particularly if it was required by a specific customer.
They would also be involved in secondary testing of such suspension spring products to assess and validate our internal test and assessment results,” explains Hechter.
This type of additional involvement is normally required when the head office of the local OEM customer is based in Japan or Europe; therefore, the technical team in the head office would require double or advanced confirmation of the performance of such suspension spring products.
Alongside its TA agreements, Supreme Spring is working to significantly increase its supply relationships with international customers on both existing and new vehicle platforms. By attaining a larger level of both local and international customer diversity. As well as an increased diversification of suspension spring products being manufactured and supplied, the Company aims to gain a significantly enhanced turnover elevating it to a new level and by pushing it into the category of a strong medium-sized South African company within the next three to five years.