The transformers used in power distribution are generally robust and long-lasting devices that last anything from 2 to 4 decades. So one may question the viability of a business that is supposed to service (or manufacture) devices which such extensive lifespans. The truth is that vandalism, lightning storms and power surges across our national power grid—not to mention its steady growth—are all enough to maintain a sizeable market for this kind of business. Also, the technology behind transformers has not changed much in about a century which means that there is no overwhelming demand for the kind of expensive, specialist equipment and machinery that has become necessary in other manufacturing industries.

It all starts with a business plan

Someone wise once said that failing to plan is planning to fail. In business, this is not any less true. A business plan is a tool used by entrepreneurs to record and share their plans for an as-of-yet non-existent venture. Use your research together with some of the considerations suggested below to compile one of these documents. A business plan is useful for communicating your ideas to parties both within and outside the company. Inside the company, it not only keeps you focused on your goals, but it also makes it easier for you to share these with business partners and other stakeholders. A more detailed version of the document can be used to communicate your vision to outsiders e.g. potential funders like banks, investors and providers of small business grants.

Gather the expertise

Since transformers are electrical devices, you need people with relevant expertise as your core workforce. You should look for the right combination of training and experience—manufacturing experience. Holders of Degrees and diplomas in electrical engineering and related fields should be priority hirees during the early days of your company.  The rest of the workforce can then consist of those with basic knowledge of electrical power systems. Their work will be supervised and overseen by their more knowledgeable counterparts.

Find the premises

Transformer repair and manufacturing is a business best conducted in designated industrial areas because it is a generally noisy, dirty and sometimes smelly operation—blame the last two on the copious amounts of oil involved. Besides lower rentals, you should also look for premises with access to a high rating three-phase power supply. This is because in addition to powering your equipment you will also need the electricity to test the newly manufactured and repaired transformers. You do not want to trip breakers every time you switch on your machinery.

Buy the equipment

I am going to assume that your firm will be started with the barest amounts of resources. However, there is some equipment you are unlikely to be able to do without regardless of the initial scale of your operation.

Hydraulic press

This is needed to bend the thick steel sheets and bars which will be used to fabricate the external bodies of your products. You can either buy a new press or a used one to save; after all industrial areas are the primary sites for company collapse in the country. Because metal fabrication is such a widespread activity there most likely will be other businesses in your factory’s vicinity which own these presses. It is then possible to subcontract this part of your manufacturing process.

Coil winding machines

Coils are one of the most important parts of a transformer. These usually consist of a special kind of wire wound onto something called a former. Coil winding machines are used to wind this wire in a specific number of turns. These turns which usually number in the thousands need to be correctly counted as they are being winded. These machines can be bought but there are local companies which can manufacture simple units to your specifications.

Metalworking tools

During the construction of an electrical transformer, there is a lot of welding, drilling and cutting performed particularly in the fabrication of the outer body. Some of the important metalworking equipment you will need includes drills, grinders, cutters and saws. These should be quality, heavy-duty devices suited for an industrial environment. You should also buy enough to suit your production goals.

Crane

Transformers are very heavy and you will need equipment to enable your workers to move them around safely without risk of injury. Cranes are used for everything from loading/offloading to facilitating moving the transformers around on the factory floor. If your choice of a crane is not mobile you will need several of these.

Core cutting and stacking machinery

The coils together with the core comprise the primary functional parts of a transformer. A transformer core is made by stacking together thin plates of a special kind of metal called electrical steel. Before the stacking, these plates—or more appropriately “laminates”—have to be cut to appropriate sizes and shapes which are determined by the design of the transformer. These two processes, stacking and cutting, can either be performed by the same machine or two different ones.

Find customers

Institutional customers for such firms include ZESA subsidiaries like ZETDC and REA. Never underestimate the value of selling your services to these organisations as they (or their employers) are more likely to refer potential customers to you if you have done business with them before. Other possible customers include heavy electricity users like industries, farms and mines.

You can start your customer acquiring process by writing a company profile and sharing it (together with your business cards) with as many engineers—and other potential decision-makers—as possible who work for companies which are possible customers. Remember that word-of-mouth and referrals will play a big role in gaining you business so maintain a great relationship with all your customers, new and old.

As you can see starting a small transformer firm is not that complicated and can be quite lucrative. After testing the market using the smaller operation suggested here, you can then scale up your businesses through further mechanization and automation.