It is a very hackneyed expression to write that someone or something is on the “cutting edge” – and it usually is not altogether true. However SEC Engineering and Design Limited, is just that.
In the beginning of September, the company became one of two engineering companies in New Zealand to receive “Hardox in My Body” certification. This is a true guarantee of top quality for trucks and trailers made by SEC using Hardox steel from Sweden.
In the 1970s producing bendable wear plates was a ‘mission impossible’ in most steel producers’ minds. Some people at the Swedish steel manufacturer SSAB thought differently and decided to attack the issue head-on.
After a fair share of trial and error, out came Hardox with a unique combination of hardness and toughness. Since its introduction in 1974, the Hardox range has grown to acquire thinner, thicker and harder qualities without sacrificing the all-important toughness. Originally intended as a wear plate, Hardox is tough enough to double as a load carrying part in many applications. It allows for the design of structures that are wear resistant, strong and lightweight at the same time.
SEC managing director Grant Colbran says his company started using Hardox about three years ago and “it is in a league of its own”. In fact SEC is undertaking manufacturing processes that were not possible before it introduced Hardox to its processes.
Mr Colbran says Hardox made by Swedish Steel Inc. is ideal for a wide range of the products manufactured by SEC. The company has long had an excellent reputation as the designer and manufacturer for truck and trailer chassis, decks, bodies and tubs. It also produces a line of waste transfer bins as well as agricultural trailers, hydraulic levellers and various attachments for heavy machinery.
Mr Colbran says his company’s Hardox products have been highly commended by the transport industry in the South. He says over the last three years the company has been using the steel, orders for new equipment have grown significantly and so has SEC. At present it has a 26-strong team at its North Invercargill plant.
Hardox 450 is a much thinner and larger plate than traditional steel. This makes it very suitable for the range of products SEC makes and markets.
The larger plates are especially suited to the construction of truck and trailer bodies. Traditionally, these are built out of eight or more sheets of steel. However, Mr Colbran points out, with Hardox steel, builders use but four sheets. This means less welding in any construction project – and it is accepted generally, that when working with steel, the welded joints are the weakest part of the fabrication.
However, there are other factors which have impressed the southern transport industry. Notably Hardox is calculated to be about five times stronger than traditional mild steel and can therefore stand up to prolonged heavy use.
Mr Colbran says his company saw the advantages of using Hardox as while it costs more than conventional steel, it is tougher and lighter. This last factor is very important in the transport industry. He points to the fact that a truck and trailer unit built from Hardox could weigh about one tonne lighter than a similar unit built with conventional steel. This means the Hardox-manufactured unit can carry another tonne of freight which translates to significant savings for the transport operator.
One of SEC’s customers has estimated that by using Hardox bodies on his truck and trailer units, he is saving about $37,000 annually.
It was not an easy path towards “Hardox in My Body” certification. While SEC had been working with Hardox for three years, it still had to undergo a year-long assessment by the manufacturer’s representatives.
This involved inspection and approval of the company, its work with Hardox and SEC’s design work, and it also involved consideration of the work undertaken by SEC in Hardox steel.
Mr Colbran is grateful for the support they have had from SSAB’s New Zealand distributor Real Steel which has been working really hard to promote the benefits of Hardox nationwide. He is also proud of the fact that his staff have proved equal to the task of working with Hardox steel. He says it is extremely hard and requires top quality workmanship for it to be used satisfactorily.