Following recent research of the South African welding market, Afrox has identified four different welding market segments viz: the DIY; the light industrial; SMEs in the general structural engineering and fabrication; and the traditional high-end fabrication segments. To capitalise on the opportunities, Afrox have begun to launch different product packages designed to specifically suit the needs of each identified market segment. African Fusion talks to Dhevan Moodley, business manager for welding equipment, Shaun Christian, product manager for arc equipment and Patrick Kazadi, product manager for carbon steel consumables about the broadened focus.
Afrox, the South African presence of the global Linde group, has long been the market leader in the local welding industry, particularly in the high-end market and the medium to heavy fabrication segments where welding is a critical process and relatively well understood. “Our XMT 350 multi-process machine, for example, is very popular as it is light, flexible and, because of the auto line feature, it can cope with any input supply from 220V single phase to 525 V three phase without power-tapping or input supply setting changes. The machine also automatically compensates for power fluctuations, so it is ideal for repair work at power stations, for example, or for site work in Africa, where the supply voltage is generally unreliable,” says Moodley. “Afrox’s traditional strength lies in the comprehensive range of Miller machines, along with the industrial gases, welding consumables, gas equipment and welding accessories that service this market,” he adds.
“However our research has identified several other market opportunities, which present exciting prospects for the whole Linde group,” he points out. “We are now striving to have an offer to suit each of the different market segments that have been identified.”
As well as the high-end segment, Moodley lifts out three other distinct segments. “In the past, we had limited focused on the consumer or DIY segments of the market, ” he continues, “and all over the world, this segment has been growing. Many people, who are actually professionals, also like to do their own projects at home,” Moodley suggests.
In response, Afrox in South Africa is following other Linde geographies and has launched a comprehensive range of cost effective welding inverters to target the DIY segment, this was done by revitalizing the entire Transarc range (which includes MMA, MIG and TIG products). “The Linde group with strong welding businesses in Australia, South Africa, the UK and Canada have worked with key international suppliers to identify the appropriate product ranges to suit these new market segments. The range has been successfully trialled under the Smootharc brand name in Australia and it is now being introduced into South Africa, Canada and the UK,” Moodley tells African Fusion. The products are not only suitable for home use, but are ideal for light repair work in small workshops.
Immediately above the entry level market segment, Afrox has identified a light fabrication segment populated by small businesses doing light welding work, panel beaters and sheet metal fabricators, for example. “These are traditionally difficult markets to sell into,” says Christian. “They often have no formal training in MIG welding and the environment is dusty due to the fillers being used and the sanding involved in repairing vehicles. This segment needs basic machine with basic functionality. They don’t need machines that have programming capabilities, and because of the wide variety of different work they get in, set and forget features are inappropriate,” he explains. “They want a simple, cost effective range of industrial-quality equipment that allows them to do basic welding, such as our PortaMig machine that offers portability and suitable for use with 0.6 and 0.8 mm wire.”
One step above the light-industrial market segment, are the general engineering, structural and medium fabrication segment doing sub-contract work for the construction industry, for example. “This is the biggest market segment for Afrox Industrial machines,” says Christian. General engineers tend to specialise on certain products and often have to do work on a ‘jobbing’ basis. “They tend to need cost effective machines, but they often fall into the trap of buying underpowered units, which cause problems when welding,” he adds.
The Afrox Industrial range has been launched to cater for both the light and medium fabrication segments. On the MIG machine side, the range includes: the Afrox Industrial 200C single phase inverter for light duty manufacturing; the compact 275C three phase machine with a built-in wire feeder developed for , structural steel welding and general fabrication; and the heavier duty 350R, ideal for fabricating mining and construction equipment and medium to heavy engineering products, features a remote wire-feeder that comes standard with a 10m interconnect cable providing added flexibility.
“In the past, we have mostly focused on the top two segments of the market and have been excluded from the bottom two segments,” continues Moodley. “Now we are positioning ourselves with a premium, tailor-made offering in each identified segment of the market, that is appropriable and cost effective without compromising the quality of the products.”
But it’s not only about machines,” says Kazadi. “Associated with each range and market segment identified , we have an extensive range of welding consumables.” Afrox’s consumable range covers all the different welding processes such as Flux cored , MIG , MMA , TIG and Submerged arc welding. Within each range of welding consumables , we are able to cater for normal carbon steel material to highly specialised type of material such as creep resistant steel , nickel based alloys as well as non ferrous alloys.
Within some of the product group like Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel consumables as an example, we have two different grades of product to cater for the different segments. One of the success stories that can be mentioned is in our Flux cored wire range where we recently launched a cost effective carbon steel flux cored wire (Coremax 71 Plus) that can be used with mixed gas or CO2 targeting mainly medium fabricators. The product has been well received in the market. For the high end fabricators and for those focussing on critical application such as power generation and petrochemical, we are able to offer electrodes that conform to specification such as TUV, Lloyds Register as well as tailored customer testing requirements.
“The idea is that Afrox provides customers with a complete welding solution that includes machines, accessories, gas and consumables as a one stop shop across various segments. This is a market broadening rather than a redirection though. The new ranges will not distract us from our core business at the high-end of the welding industry, where we have always been traditionally strong,” Moodley concludes. “The new DIY and Industrial ranges are simply additions to fill in the newly identified gaps.”