Fabrication and machining involves numerous steps, ideally accomplished with the goal of cost savings and production efficiency. From product design and material selection to fabrication or machining technique, each step requires choosing the most effective machine to manufacture the components to guarantee a successful outcome.
General Hinges and Aluminium Frames (Pty) Ltd started operations in 1974. It has now grown into one of Southern Africa’s leading suppliers of alumimium windows for caravans, commercial vehicles and buses, as well as all types of hinges and general metal pressings.
The company was formed when three friends – Antonio Barreira, Peter Wade and Victorino Barbosa got together to establish the general engineering company that today has machining, laser cutting, bending, riveting, pressing, welding, Wire EDM, aluminium bending and forming, pipe bending and plastic injection moulding processes at its disposal and carries out most of them on a daily basis.
The introduction of a 3kW Trumpf TruLaser 3030 laser has opened up a new area of metal processing for General Hinges and Aluminium Frames, an area that the company had not been in before. The Trumpf TruLaser has also dramatically increased the company’s ability to enter new markets and manufacture different products
In the beginning the primary focus of the business was to manufacture cab sliders, conversion windows and window components. But as the company progressed the need for other accessories such as brackets, air vent grills, throw over catches and latches, locks, handles, hinges, sliders and other necessary components for the industry became part of the mix that the company manufactured. This included both metal and plastic components.
Unique special purpose machines
Two of the original partners, Antonio Barreira and Victorino Barbosa, were responsible for orchestrating, designing and manufacturing some of the special purpose presses and other equipment that the company still uses today.
Barbosa left the company in 1990. This period coincided with the remaining two partners, Antonio Barreira and Peter Wade, introducing their sons into the business. Today two of Barreira’s sons and two of Wade’s sons run the very successful business, each of them cornering and running an arm of the business.
The first of the 2nd generation family to join was Antonio’s son Tony Barreira, who qualified as a tool and diemaker. He joined the company in 1986 and is today the Technical Director looking after the toolroom and manufacturing of the company’s moulds and dies.
Mike Wade, also a tool and diemaker, joined in 1989 and is today the Production Director. The second of the Barreira sons, Dr José Barreira, who has a PhD in Business Administration and still lectures at Wits Business School, joined in in 1994 and is the Operations Director. Darren Wade joined the company in 1996 and is the Financial Director and has his MBA.
Piano hinges are one the products that General Hinges and Aluminium Frames manufactures and sells
“We have all the important areas of the business covered between the two families. All of us have been in the business 20 years and more and you could say that our respective fathers shared the love of metalworking and manufacturing with us. We all understand each other with regard to the goals of the business and the leadership shifts among the family members, and there’s no overwhelming need for any one person to be in charge. We have clearly defined responsibilities and skill sets and decision-making shifts according to the circumstances. However, we do, as far possible, collectively make the decisions on the bigger issues and the challenges that the business faces as it progresses,” explained José Barreira.
“The business is a family tradition of honour. It’s not motivated by money, but by family tradition and we are very fortunate that we have had the opportunity to carry on something started by our fathers. Succession planning is still in the distance as we are all relatively young.”