Standing outside Envisioneers’ warehouse on a grey Tuesday afternoon, I admit that I was unsure of what to expect from the company. See, I was told to check them out because they were doing all kinds of cool stuff and, as is evident by the name on both our website and magazine, that’s basically what we’re all about.
Having said that, as someone who’s rather uninformed on the processes of designing and manufacturing products, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be walking into an office filled with people crunching numbers at computers or a warehouse stuffed to the brim with wooden planks and sheets of metal. Yet upon sliding open the imposing steel gate, I was greeted by the best parts of both worlds.
Taking a quick look at Envisioneer’s website, you’ll most likely find a slogan, written in bold letters, that reads, “No matter how weird, unusual or strange your request; we can make it.” It’s a bold claim, to be sure, and one that I’m sure will pull all kinds of sceptical threads in some people’s heads. It was with that idea in mind that I went to talk to some of the folks over at Envisioneers and really crack the case of whether or not they could make anything while also learning a bit more about their company.
Now, if it were me, I’d describe Envisioneers as being in the business of making ideas into a reality, an avenue that obviously excites the staff a magazine literally named Stuff. “We’re a team of designers with different backgrounds collaborating together to come up with creative ways to solve manufacturing solutions in South Africa…which is just fancy way of saying we make cool stuff”, laughs Gerard Vermaerke, otherwise known as Gee to the guys in the shop, one of the Chief Envisioneers.
Gee is one of the guys responsible for taking a client’s idea and turning it into a tangible product, a process that’s about as in-depth as one can imagine. “All we require is for the customer to have an idea. Some kind of representation of what they want. Then we start brainstorming ideas as a team, talk with the client about restrictions and possibilities and eventually… a product is built,” said Gee. “It’s a fascinating process, seeing how ideas come in and evolve into something totally different yet better. Being a part of that process… it’s exciting, you know?”
It was a sentiment echoed by
Walking around the Envisioneer’s factory, the amount of expertise and dedication contained within a single building is, in a sense, awesome. I mean that in terms of scale because the amount of services offered by Envisioneers is all-encompassing. I was initially told that 3D-printing was the speciality and while that’s certainly an aspect, it’s so wildly reductive in terms of the sheer magnitude of facilities offered by the company. With dedicated rooms (the size of small halls, it’s worth noting) dedicated to different forms of production, including metalwork, woodwork, vinyl processes, vacuum pressing, painting and the aforementioned 3D-printing, just a quick stroll around the warehouse was more than enough to convince me that yeah, Envisioneers could probably make anything.
Littered about the place were prototype inventions and props for movie sets, tools both high-end and basic and several workers busy building all kind of describable products, bringing life and tangibility to ideas brought in by people who just needed a little help in bringing a vision to life. Yet while that sounds like it could be a rather stressful, pressure-filled environment to work in, there’s also a constant stream of music filling the space with people singing to themselves while welding chunks of metal together. Above the warehouse is an office space with a fully stocked kitchen, lounge area and pool table, evoking a Google-esque aesthetic to help designers relax while thinking up their next major project.
Of course, much like nearly every other business this year, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted some changes to the Envisioneers dynamic that saw the company do what they can to help out. “Luckily, we were in a position where we could jump in and try and come up with some PPE solutions in-house as fast as possible,” said Gee. Looking at some of the face-shields produced by the design team, the level of dedication to the craft for something that, from the outside, looks like a simple build was exceptional. “Obviously we did have to streamline and cut where we could but that we’ve been able to not only survive but help other companies adapt to the times too.”
Which I suppose is one of the pillars of Envisioneers as a company: The ability to look at a problem and build a solution. “We’re a company that provides solutions. Depending on the problem, we look at it through every lens we can and we solve it,” said Coertzen. In some ways, that’s pretty inspiring, right? While so many folks spend too much of their lives looking at problems, worried they’ll never go away, the team at Envisioneers gets to work and fixes problems, all while making loads of stuff along the way.
Of course, us being the cheeky buggers we are, we felt the need to put them to the test. It’s bold to proclaim that you can “Make anything” so we wanted to see just what they could make. Handing the Chief Envisioneers the list of what Stuff wanted to see made, I was shocked to see them smirk. Apparently, our suggestions were way too easy but that was probably just bravado speaking, right? We’ll report back in once they’ve proven us wrong because I have no doubt that they will.
If you want to learn more about Envisioneers, check out their website here. They also have all the relevant social media platforms, so give them a gander on Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube to see what they’re cooking up on their website this week.