Despite some weakness in South Africa’s tooling sector, the industry is preparing for growth, says Toolmakers Association of South Africa (Tasa) Gauteng chairperson Ron MacLarty.
He states that, to ensure growth, the industry must aim to be internationally competitive, adding that a step change is needed to create positive thinking.
MacLarty further points out that local automotive manufacturers are struggling to find toolmakers to produce new moulds or to make modifications and adjustments to newly delivered moulds.
He believes the training of more toolmakers, together with the rejuvenation and modernisation of the country’s toolrooms, would assist in building the capacity of the local sector, enabling toolrooms to competitively make their services available to the country’s automotive sector.
“Training programmes are in place and are showing positive results. We must remember that one toolmaker provides 28 downstream jobs,” he notes.
Meanwhile, MacLarty believes that professional business management and job placement are key to the tooling industry’s growth and suggests that newly trained people should be placed in productive positions.
“Apprentices need more on-the-job training, exposing them to the sharp end of the business at an early stage. This will ensure better trained toolmakers.
“There is a reluctance in the industry to take ‘Mr Average’ from a further education and training college and put him or her on an expensive computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine. “This is one reason why jobs are hard to come by,” he says.
Further, MacLarty says each toolroom needs to target a particular area of specialisation.
Traditional toolmaking companies, of which South Africa still has many, would tackle the complete mould manufacturing process. Today’s modern toolrooms concentrate on cylindrical work and have the mould bases prefabricated by a mould specialist or specialise in sculptured die-sinking, which involves a lot of computing time to get the contours to customer requirements.
He suggests that traditional toolmaking methods be discarded to make the industry more competitive and more efficient. He believes the industry should turn towards making all aspects of business digital.
“Toolmaking must be run as a production, precision machining unit to make it world-class. Costly CNC equipment needs to run on a two- or three-shift basis to be competitive,” MacLarty states.
Tasa hosted this year’s AfriMold conference at the international trade fair exhibition for application development through tooling, engineering, mould-making and design, in Midrand, Gauteng, earlier this month.