The success story of RSI SmartCanopy is a remarkable one. From a start-up which rubberised pick-up or ‘bakkie’ load bins, within just 11 years, the company has grown into a major manufacturer of various types of canopies for a wide range of pickup trucks.
With an innovative stainless steel patented design – which is modular and requires very little maintenance – the canopies are primarily used as mobile field service workshops and other pick-up-mounted utility applications.
In 2014, Rock Solid Industries (‘RSI’) also began producing stainless steel canopies and modular accessories for the leisure vehicle industry.
From having two employees in 2007, today the company employs 150 people working at their modern facility in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The company exports to 22 countries and has a manufacturing capacity of 2,500 canopies a month – with further expansion expected in 2019.
Innovation has been one of the keys to the success of Rock Solid Industries. “We keep improving our manufacturing efficiencies; and we also learn from the market and adapt our designs accordingly,” says Managing Director Michael Voss.
Recently, to augment and strengthen its manufacturing efficiencies and capabilities, the company purchased two nitrogen generators from leading local manufacturer and supplier of nitrogen generators, NitraLife.
“Two key aspects of the RSI SmartCanopy manufacturing process are the cutting of thin gauge stainless steel up to 2 mm; and the spray painting of their finished units. In keeping with their ethos of continuous improvement and innovation, RSI sought to improve both these processes even further – and is now using our nitrogen generators to enable them to do so,” explains Tom Sowry, Managing Director of NitraLife.
“The one supplies assist gas to the company’s fibre laser cutter; while the other provides clean, dry nitrogen gas for RSI’s spray painting facility,” he explains.
Sowry adds that, with the fibre laser cutting of stainless steel, nitrogen gives a superior quality cut which is clean, with no oxidation.
“Generating nitrogen for laser cutting on-site and on-demand has proven to be a convenient and cost-effective boon for our customers – including Rock Solid Industries. Furthermore, it has another key added advantage over cylinder gas supply – in that customers never run the risk of downtime due to running out of gas,” he points out.
The use of nitrogen also has substantial benefits for RSI’s spray-painting section.
“Overall, our quality has vastly improved. We get fewer runs and sags – and consistently achieve excellent gloss levels – even when the ambient temperature is high,” Voss explains.
Importantly, he also notes that the company has had a 15% reduction in paint consumption since the adoption of nitrogen in their spray painting process.
The issue of quality is very important to RSI.
“Today’s pickup trucks have sophisticated paint finishes which match that of any luxury German sedan. Therefore the quality of our paint finishes has to match these high standards,” Voss elaborates.
When it comes to these high-end paint finishes, RSI’s customer base expects upmarket standards – at an affordable price. The company has taken appropriate measures, one being that the General Manager: Quality Control has had more than 25 years’ experience working in the LEAN division of an automotive OEM.
Furthermore, RSI applies paint finishes to its canopies which exactly match the colour of the vehicle to which the canopy will be fitted. “Keeping up with changing paint colours from OEMs certainly does keep us on our toes,” he explains.
Taking the ongoing demand for quality into account, Voss was quick to see the advantages of having an independent nitrogen supply, both for the laser cutting and spray-painting processes in the business.
“Having NitraLife generators means that we can have a reliable supply of gas on-site and on-demand. We estimate that the purchase of the NitraLife units – in comparison to conventional cylinder supply – paid for itself in about 13 months. Thereafter, the only costs to RSI are maintenance and service – which are minimal.”
Sowry concurs, adding: “We see considerable growth in the supply of NitraLife nitrogen generators to the spray-painting industry in particular – where the benefits of nitrogen over compressed air have been clearly illustrated time and again.”
“For NitraLife, it is been a privilege working with our valued customer Rock Solid Industries, as our companies share a passionate dedication to innovation, service and quality,” says Sowry.
“We look forward to seeing our on-site, on-demand nitrogen playing its part in enabling RSI to continue producing their innovative, premium-quality products going forward,” he concludes.