It began in 1919 when the Barron brothers started a small engineering workshop in Johannesburg near the railway line at Denver. The company specialised in re-axling cocopan wheels, then later making machines and tools for sharpening the jumpers or drills used in gold mines. The manufacture of basic, low-pressure valves only began around 1936. At that time, William Ainsworth, with mechanical engineers certificate no. 156 of 1919, served as resident engineer at the Luipaardsvlei Gold Mine.
It was only in 1943 that Ainsworth struck a deal with the Barron brothers to take over their small business and Ainsworth & Sons (Pty) Ltd was born. Both the products and the development of the company began to change. Import replacement has always been the priority of the company, starting with the mining industry.
Virtually all of the high-pressure water valves in the Welkom Gold Fields were manufactured for the first time in South Africa by Ainsworth. Water supply, reticulation and irrigation projects were soon to follow. In the 1960s, the first butterfly valves were added to Ainsworth's product range and were installed in large water pipeline projects throughout the country as well as South West Africa, Angola and Mozambique.
Many of these valves are still in use today, proof of the company's emphasis on quality and reliability.
In 1970, Herbert Stehr and Werner Kienhöfer joined the company and the name charged to Ainsworth Engineering (Pty) Ltd. Sleeve- type control valves were added to the product range and have been installed in most of the dams in South Africa. The largest of its kind in South Africa, 2300mm Sleeve Valve at Van De Kloof Dam (P.K. Le Roux) in 1974 as well as 3 x 1900mm and 3 x 1000 mm Sleeve Valves. Other dams to mention include, Pongola Dam (J.G. Strydom Dam), 2 x 1676mm Sleeve Valves in 1972, Blyderiver Dam, 2 x 1676mm Sleeve valves in 1973 and for Mtata Dam, 2 x 1900mm Sleeve Valves in 1977, all these valves are still in operation today. Ainsworth is currently manufacturing two DN760 Ainsworth Butterfly Valves to replace the original valves installed in 1970, in the North West Province.
Towards the end of the 1970’s Ainsworth Engineering (Pty) Ltd entered the standard waterworks market with a superior Resilient Seal Gate Valve (RSV), the manufacture of these valves commenced in 1978 and was the first valve of its kind to be awarded the SABS mark of approval, replacing most of the conventional Wedge Gate Valves in the market.
In 1984 Ainsworth purchased Apex International Valves. Consolidating the Johannesburg and Vereeniging operations, in Robertsham in 1989, Ainsworth became the largest valve manufacturer under one roof in South Africa at the time, expanding the product range once again to include the manufacture of high pressure regulating valves and systems for water supply schemes and mining operations.
Two Years later Active Foundry joined the Ainsworth group. The foundry produces high quality castings in S.G. Iron, Cast Steel and various alloys for Ainsworth as well as other products for outside customers.
In 2002, Ainsworth Engineering (Pty) Ltd joined forces with another valve company, combining their sales teams, to form the United Valve Company (SA) (Pty) Ltd. In 2004, Ainsworth Engineering acquired the full 100% shares in UVC, providing 26% of shares in UVC to members of staff in support of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment.
Among the many highlights of Ainsworth Engineering is the manufacture of 393, Gate and Multi Door Reflux Valves ranging from 100mm to 1400mm between 2011 – 2013 for one of the Water Boards. All of which were 100% locally manufactured! It is true what they say “At some point every river in South Africa flows through an Ainsworth Valve”
Ainsworth adopts a strict approach to quality control; it is ISO9001 listed and where applicable, the valves bear the SABS mark. Ainsworth Engineering is a member of SAVAMA (South African Valve and Actuator Manufacturers Association) an association within SEIFSA as well as a member of VAMCOSA (Valve and Actuators Manufacturers Cluster of South Africa).
“Our active participation in VAMCOSA is to see the return of what was a thriving industry as a whole. From the perspective of Ainsworth, we are only running at 40% capacity and have gone from a staff compliment of 98 to 56 due to the influx of imports. Designation and the promotion of buying local as a natural mind-set will see not only this industry flourish but also the manufacturing sector as a whole. We look forward to the next 71 years.” Colleen Moir, Director, Ainsworth Engineering (Pty) Ltd.