Roger Kauerauf at the Zarcaplas plant in Blackheath near Somerset West with his bank of Yizumi machines, each fitted with Samfacc pick-and-place robots; the robots help speed up production, especially when operating 24/7

Startup Zarcaplas’s plant running flat-out

ZARCAPLAS, a new injection moulding business operating out of Blackheath in the Western Cape, went into operation in 2019 in most unexpected circumstances, and just in time for the lockdown – which would have killed off most start-up ventures right there.

The fact that Zarcaplas even got off the ground is testament to skills learned at an early age by the proprietor, Roger Kauerauf. After working at his father’s company, Calibre Plastics in Johannesburg, from 1979-2001, which period included an extended toolmaker apprenticeship in Austria, Roger had picked up many of the skills involved in managing an injection moulding and toolmaking business. But by 2001 he felt burned out and exited the industry and worked for a while in the hospitality sector in the KZN Midlands.

After that, well, he still did not want to get reinvolved in the industry and moved to Somerset West, where he dabbled somewhat in the electrical industry, which led him inevitably to doing work mainly for injection moulding companies in the region. Roger began to realize that his skills in plastics manufacturing management were possibly more useful than he had estimated, and that observation was reinforced once he noticed he succeeded at resolving machine and mould issues for several businesses. There was satisfaction at helping to turn around toolrooms and injection moulding plants, but the returns did not merit the responsibilities … at which point he took the plunge in 2019 and started Zarca.

It was originally intended for Zarcaplas to operate as a small toolroom, but the project gained momentum almost immediately. Having prior experience of the Yizumi injection moulding technology, Zarcaplas opted for four of the Chinese machines. Roger is happy with the Yizumi servo hydraulic system, which he believes is energy efficient and quiet, and the plant is humming along at a steady pace. This is what happens when the proprietor is able to anticipate production problems … and sort them out before they become problems.

Challenges lay ahead though: the new business was just gaining momentum when its main customer started production itself, in mid-2021, and it was a tough moment when the moulds left the yard. In a tight spot, Roger and his team were blessed when contracts arrived from other sources, due to business changes elsewhere, with the plus being that the new arrivals brought moulds with them, so the machines were fully occupied very shortly again after the departure of the medical component client.

And with the moulding shop being busy, the Zarca toolroom has also got busier, with its recently appointed toolroom manager David Lewis taking to the job seamlessly.