Specialist fabrication powerhouse Efficient Engineering is this year celebrating a momentous 55 years in business. Established in 1968 by Giuseppe Cimato, a young blacksmith from Italy who had arrived in South Africa aged 17, Guiseppe carved a niche for himself in the metal fabrication business, recalls his son Tony, CEO of Efficient Engineering.
“My dad’s first workshop was nine sqm in Ophirton, south of Johannesburg, where he built tipper buckets for Atlas Copco underground equipment,” says Tony. “He also manufactured bulldozer blades, scrapers and backhoe buckets as well as cabs for earthmoving equipment.” Tony wanted to follow in his father’s technical career, but his father wanted him to study law. Tony joined the business in 1982 after starting the degree which he soon decided was not for him.
A test of resolve
After his first year in the workshop sweeping the floor and cleaning machines, Giuseppe saw that his son was going to stay put, so he finally allowed him to start learning a trade. Within seven years, Tony was a qualified boilermaker.
“An important shift for the business was when we started to move away from the lighter work and focus more on heavier components for mining and materials handling,” says Tony. “This delivered more work and better margins.”
Staying the course
By the late 1980s, Efficient Engineering had developed a loyal following of customers in this niche, fabricating components for equipment such as circular stackers, bucket wheel reclaimers and drum reclaimers. Machining was still outsourced, but the focus on quality and accuracy was always paramount; this allowed the company to make a name for itself, fabricating and assembling to the highest standards.
A slow and challenging time was to come in the last years of the 1990s, when the economy had slumped. Tony took over the business from his father in 2000, also buying out his father’s business partner, and began the task of building up the business again. After a few good contracts, the company was back on its way and looking for space to expand premises.
Space to grow
Working with developers Abbeydale Construction, and with the in-principle support of the Industrial Development Corporation, work began in 2006 on the company’s Phase 1 engineering facilities on 28 000 sqm of land in Germiston. They relocated in 2007, and within four months were repaying the developers twice as fast as they needed to. With the added space, machinery and lifting capacity, the company had quadrupled its turnover, and a new era of expansion had begun.
After only a year of continued growth, work started on another building of 4 500 sqm on the same site – to be called Phase 2. Investing in an adjacent plot, Efficient Engineering then created the space for the building of Phase 3, and the Abbeydale Construction team went straight from one to the other.
Heavy engineering in-house
“This gave us the capability, for instance, to build the whole bowl for mining trucks,” Tony explains. “We became a one-stop shop, as we had all the machinery and space we required from large gantry cranes and machining equipment, to shot-blasting, to specialised painting facilities. We didn’t have to outsource anything, so our turnaround was quicker while still closely controlling quality.”
Today, Efficient Engineering is in a class of its own, being one of only a few companies which can still perform this range of heavy engineering in-house. As a black empowered entity since 2010, the company subsequently expanded further into its Phase 4 and Phase 5 premises.
“With the challenge of Covid-19 behind us, we experienced a good recovery in the 2022 financial year with FY2023, in fact, being the best year we’ve had,” says Tony. “Looking at how well we are doing now, we are confident that FY2024 will be as good if not better than last year.”