Just a few years ago Frantel Holdings’ entire business was focused on aluminium gravity die casting making the company’s success and profitability extremely susceptible to a handful of clients in the petrochemical industry, an area that the company was founded on in 2004. At the time the company cast aluminium components for valves, couplings, nozzles, and pneumatic overfill protection systems. The equipment is used by the major petrochemical and oil companies in underground installations, at filling stations, on road tankers, and at tank farms.
Owners Terry Brooks and Franscois Mulockhouwer could not be more diverse in the skills that they bring to the company, and combined they make a formidable and complimentary partnership.
Brooks arrived in South Africa at the age of 23 in 1984. “I came out on a working holiday and decided to stay. My background is in mechanical engineering. I started my working career off in the automotive industry with Ford UK. I was mainly involved with product development while completing my HNC in mechanical engineering.”
Partners Terry Brooks and Franscois Mulockhouwer
“My first position here in South Africa was with Sigma Motor Corporation, which had come about because of sanctions against South Africa. The company was the distributor for Mazda Japan in South Africa and launched what was to become one of the most popular small cars in the country, the iconic Mazda 323.”
“After spending four years with Sigma I then moved on to Armscor, more specifically Kentron, where I was involved in structural design and FEA. After five years I moved to a component manufacturer and one of my main tasks was to set up an aluminium foundry for the company. I spent 10 years with the company before deciding to set up business with Franscois.”
Mulockhouwer has been involved in the automotive and petrochemical industry all of his working career, starting off at Nissan in Rosslyn, Gauteng. However, his background is in the money, marketing and management side of business and he is proud to say that he obtained a BCom degree through UNISA and then followed it up with an MBA.
Frantel Holdings manufactures 4×4 trailers under the Summit name. The range has three variations: K2, Andes and Everest. The off-road trailers are suitable for two to four all-terrain travellers
After seven years at Nissan, Mulockhouwer joined Dorbyl for nine years where he became one of the youngest Directors. He then moved to the component manufacturer where Brooks was employed, in 1999.
The two partners and friends subsequently set up Alumacast in Silverton, Pretoria in 2004 and 10 years later the aluminium diecasting foundry is still an integral part of the holding company Frantel Holdings.
“The foundry has broadened its scope from those early days. It now specialises in the development of high integrity castings for the electrical, mining, engineering and automotive industries. Casting sizes range from a few grams to 20 kilograms, and additional value added services include heat treatment, machining, finishing and powder coating,” explained Brooks.
The entire kitchen and all food prep surfaces are located on one side, the left
“Alumacast currently produces various engineering parts made in a variety of alloys including LM6, LM9 and LM25. Alumacast prides itself on engineering better solutions to customer casting needs. These solutions have been created through advanced engineering skills combined with more than twenty years of industry experience. Alumacast now has strong synergies with other industries, which enables the company to offer clients, in addition to gravity sand castings and high pressure cast products, CNC machined products and heat treated products. Alumacast currently produces approximately five tons of aluminium castings a month but has a capacity of more than double that figure. This is compared to one ton a month when we started the foundry,” explained Brooks.
Frantel Holdings manufactures its own roller drawer systems
“In addition to the components for valves, couplings, nozzles, and pneumatic overfill protection systems we also have regular clients that require aluminium cast components for gear housings, pneumatic cylinders, covers, rock drill components, sheave rolls for overhead power lines, other road tanker and truck components, solar heating and energy saving and numerous other general engineering components.”
“With our involvement in the petrochemical and oil industry it was not long before we saw opportunities downstream. For example the retail petrol service station industry has numerous products and components that need to be supplied. Our first involvement was to invest in the equipment and design the tooling that manufactured rotomoulded products, big and small. This is also still an integral part of the business and it has led us to manufacture and supply other products such as fill point adaptors and dust caps, updraft vents, containment sumps, UPP mechanical compression fittings, shear-off valves, angle check valves, mechanical overfill valves and dispenser sumps,” explained Mulockhouwer.
This is when Brooks gets agitated and has his gripe about the South African foundry industry. “We are a non ferrous foundry but because of our extended product offering we do require a regular supply of ferrous castings. At the moment we need about 30 tons of castings a year and do you think we can get any of the local foundries to supply good quality castings? Some of them that we have approached don’t even bother to return our calls and others don’t even quote even though we have supplied drawings and followed up with them. As a result we import all our ferrous castings requirements from China.”
Lets go camping
Both Brooks and Mulockhouwer are keen outdoor enthusiasts and their interest in nature led them to become involved in their next venture.
Mulockhouwer takes up the story. “We were supplying a range of components to a manufacturer of 4×4 off-road trailers. The company hit hard times so we purchased the assets and decided to manufacture our own trailers. The rationale behind this almost game changing decision was influenced by a number of factors.”
“South Africa is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world. When you see its exquisite beaches, stunning countryside and rugged mountain backdrop, you can understand why.”
“South Africa is a country where you can experience it all; from the unspoilt beaches along the Wild Coast to the deserts of the Kgalagadi to the lush, green forests of Tsitsikamma, to the mountains of the Drakensberg, to the unforgettable game viewing in our national parks. One moment you can be cage-diving with Great White sharks, the next you’re enjoying a traditional braai and a bottle of Pinotage along the Garden Route.”
Components manufactured in the non ferrous foundry of Frantel Holdings. Alumacast currently produces various engineering parts made in a variety of alloys including LM6, LM9 and LM25
“In short all South Africans love the outdoors but like everything else hotel, B&B and general accommodation is becoming expensive.”
“There has also been an explosion of the mountain bike industry with enthusiasts wanting to explore every corner of our country and those of the neighbouring countries.”
“Coupled with the fact of the cost of caravans and the harrowing experience of towing and housing one, we were confident that we could manufacture a product that would without doubt be worth considering if you’re thinking of buying an off-road trailer.”
“Just recently we acquired the African Outback / Big Country range of products which further enhanced our capabilities to fulfill the keen outdoor and off road traveller. The Outback / Big Country range includes aluminium canopies, roof racks, roof top tents as well as heavy duty drawer systems, which means that we can kit you out for your tour no matter what.”
The complete off road camper
“Our experience with 4×4 trailers was that it was not a complete experience and you would be left wanting. There would always be flaws in the design and production of the end product and you would be left thinking: ‘If only they did this or they added these features.’ The result was that we designed and built the complete off road camper, as we like to call it, that virtually gives you the caravanning comfort, but allows you the freedom and uniqueness of an off road camper when you travel to those out of the way places.”
Manufactured under the Summit name the range has three variations: K2, Andes and Everest. The off-road trailers are suitable for two to four all-terrain travellers. Folded away and closed up it’s relatively compact, but the single most distinctive characteristic, distinguishing it from other off-road trailers is its low height: 1.3 metres at the highest point, ready for easy towing and maneuverability. What this also means is that the extraordinarily large 1.55 x 2.1 metres main bed on top of the trailer, with its 100 mm high-density mattress, requires no ladder to access.
Alumacast’s furnace area
The low height also ensures towing pleasure, ease of set-up and the comfort and safety of being able to monitor traffic in your centre rearview mirror while towing. Hitched behind an SUV or 4×4 bakkie, its low profile offers little wind resistance, thus keeping your towing fuel consumption down. And because all parts of the trailer are within easy reach for people of average height, you don’t have to be a contortionist to deploy it and set up camp. Within half an hour you can extend the tent to the rear, erect the lightweight awning with its accompanying side panels and then you’re ready to commence the important business of relaxing in your camp chair with an Amstel or a glass of your favourite red.
You also have the choice of lightweight awnings and various configurations of side panels with windows or doors to suit your camping preferences. Add-on-room and shower tents can also be made to specification. For example an extra awning could add 30 m² of sheltered living space.
The entire kitchen and all food prep surfaces are located on one side, the left. The main kitchen slide-out unit is at the front and once extended it reveals a two-plate gas hob that has its own windshield. To the left of the stove is a neat stainless steel work surface, and towards the right on the interior front wall of the trailer you’ll find the 220V plug point.
The range of castings that Alumacast has manufactured
Three more individual drawer units open from this main kitchen unit. One contains the washbasin and drip tray, a second contains the glassware drawer (with six wine, six whisky and six beer glasses) and a third contains the cutlery and crockery drawer, inside which is a high-density foam inlay to keep everything safely in place on even the roughest of roads. Here there’s also space for storing larger food preparation utensils, like braai tongs and serving spoons.
Another storage compartment completes the kitchen unit. It’s positioned underneath the stove, and is ideal for pots, pans and your camp kettle. There’s piped running water on the slide-out kitchen unit, providing water on demand from the two belly-mounted 80-litre tanks, via a pressure pump. The optional geyser system supplies piping hot water for washing dishes or for taking a shower. The unique focus tap safely mixes hot and cold water to your satisfaction.
The left-hand main sidewall of the body folds open presenting a convenient work surface for food preparation. Inside this hatch is another slide-out unit housing two plastic bins for storing non-perishable food and drink items. To make packing easier, both of these bins can be removed.
Frantel Holdings has a number of clients in the retail petrol service station industry. The company invested in the equipment and designed the tooling that manufactured rotomoulded products, big and small
To augment the work surface available, a separate camping table has been cleverly included in the trailer’s design. At camp it slots in place on the rear left-hand side of the trailer. The compact slide-mounted kitchen galley contains pretty much everything you’ll need in one place.
The optional 80-litre fridge-freezer is housed in the nose cone on another slide-out unit that extends from the left- hand side. A short walk from the kitchen alcove around the sink/stove slider and you’re at the fridge. It’s conveniently close, but doesn’t get in the way when people are busy in the kitchen area. Two Alva gas cylinders are also included.
The main sleeping area, or tent, deploys above and off the rear of the trailer, revealing the large bed mentioned earlier and a dressing room at ground level. If there are four occupants, the ground-level room is where you’ll set up the camping stretchers or mattresses.
The rotomould division is an integral part of the business and it has led Frantel Holdings to manufacture and supply other products such as fill point adaptors and dust caps, updraft vents, containment sumps, UPP mechanical compression fittings, shear-off valves, angle check valves, mechanical overfill valves and dispenser sumps
The trailer’s tailgate folds down and is held sturdily parallel to the ground by chain side supports. A short three-step ladder, which isn’t entirely necessary considering the height of the trailer, makes climbing up to tailgate level a tad easier. From this landing area, no ladder is required to get in and out of bed.
A cavernous under-bed drawer provides a huge amount of storage space for bedding, clothes, camp chairs and other large items. The living area is great, not only for changing and as additional sleeping quarters, but also for storing gear when you’re away from camp.
Lighting has been carefully considered. The bed boasts gooseneck reading lights, so you don’t have to disturb your partner if you want to do some late-night reading. The main LED light illuminates the entire tent.
Another company owned by the partners, which was only founded 18 months ago, is Tshwane Tanker Repairs
The power management system is housed inside the main drawer unit, making it easily accessible from the rear of the trailer. It distributes power throughout the trailer, and keeps the 102 amp-hour deep-cycle battery charged via the solar panel, the tow vehicle’s alternator or the 220 V power supply, when the trailer is hooked up to mains.
The right-hand or road-side of the trailers contain a side hatch that also folds open, revealing another two plastic bins that can be removed for packing. These bins are quite large and will be able to swallow up plenty of goodies and gear. There’s another hatch towards the front on this side containing the two Alva gas cylinders and the pressurised water pump.
Two 20-litre jerry cans are bracketed onto the sides of the nose cone, which has its own small roof rack for transporting items like firewood, and right at the nose there’s a handy compartment for stowing grimy braai grids or easily misplaced items such as tent pegs.
The 3 mm galvanised mild steel chassis with its bolted cross members has the capacity to flex in extreme off road conditions whereas a welded chassis may break. The 1.2 mm galvanised and powder coated body is glued and riveted together for extreme off road conditions.
Lightweight aluminium and stainless steel is also used where appropriate.
Manufacturing and assembly
“The three variations do have similar basic specifications and what we have described above is virtually giving you the full ‘Monty’. You can choose what you want to have included and depending on what we supply it will affect the end price,” explained Mulockhouwer as he tried to make me his next customer.
Frantel Holdings supplies a number of the OEMS with original components and equipment
“With our in-house capabilities we are able to manufacture most of the structural components that are used. They either come from the foundry or our fabrication department where we have press brakes, a guillotine and extruded aluminium profile equipment,” continued Brooks.
“We have even gone as far as setting up a department to manufacture the roof top tents, trailer tents and rapid awnings whereby we import international standard light weight fabric and design and assemble according to specification.”
“Supplying of materials and laser cutting is outsourced as is the purchasing of consumables such as the glasses, cutlery and crockery and the other optional items. We also have our specified suppliers of the wheels, fridges, stoves and electrical components. However, we will assemble all on site and when you tow away your camper it is a complete product.”
“With our in-house capabilities we are able to manufacture most of the structural components that are used. They either come from the foundry or our fabrication department where we have press brakes, a guillotine and extruded aluminium profile equipment.”
“The layout is ideal for quick roadside stops, brief overnight camping breaks and extended stays at one destination. And you’ll find there’s very little compromise of convenience compared with your home kitchen. Why rough it in the bush, after all?”
Tshwane Tanker Repairs
This is another company owned by the partners, which was only founded 18 months ago. Housed in the same 3 500 m² under roof complex that the company moved to in 2012, Tshwane Tanker Repairs offers a complete refurbishment of the external operations of the tanker shells only, even carrying out panel beating if necessary.
“We are situated in an area where there are a number of companies that make use of tankers as a transport mode for their product. We supply a number of the OEMS with original components and equipment so it made sense to offer a refurbishment, equipment replacement and pressure testing service. The nature of the areas that these tankers visit and the long distances that the tankers travel will lead to natural attrition. The fledgling business is growing rapidly and already we have contracts from Engen, Unitrans and BP to service their tanker shells, from both inside and outside of our borders,” said Brooks.
This new business has led to more manufacturing operations being added such as TIG and MIG welding, which can also be utilised in the other businesses.
Frantel Holdings employs 40 staff and prides itself in that it does not have any 2nd tier management. “We’re a hands-on company,” concluded Mulockhouwer.
For further details contact Frantel Holdings on TEL: 012 803 6535