The South African tool, die and mould-making (TDM) industry is being revitalised to produce the tools, dies, moulds and fixtures required by the manu-facturing sector locally. Local TDM capability is key to enabling the manufacturing industry to remain competitive, says Toolmaking Association of South Africa (Tasa) regional secretary and Gauteng Tooling Initiative CEO Henk Snyman.
The TDM industry dropped from having 90% of tools made locally in the 1990s to less than 15% currently. This has led to job losses, the skills base vanishing and TDM skills development programmes becoming anachronistic and antiquated.
“Rapid technology change resulted in the local industry becoming uncompetitive. However, to be able to add value to our raw materials, South Africa requires a robust and modern TDM indus-try,” says Snyman.
Tasa and the National Tooling Initiative struc-tures are working with Germany-based industrial technology research organisation the Fraunhofer Institute to develop a roadmap to re-establish and revitalise the local TDM industry. This requires new technology-based artisan training methods to support the complex and technology-intensive modern TDM industry.
Three core metrics are required to re-establish a competitive tooling industry in South Africa.
“The first market requirement for TDM competi- tiveness internationally is due-date reliability. This is the single most important differentiation criterion for the manufacturing industry sector. The speed and quality of toolmaking are the two next most critical demand metrics.
The price at which the tools are made is only the fourth- most important component of success,” he notes.
TDM supports broader industrial activity through the production of specific and often complex tools, which is why it has a multiplier effect on the potential to beneficiate raw materials in many industries, including manufacturing, engineering and related industries, notes Snyman.
Tasa is using US TDM training methods. The TDM artisan graduate’s final exam is accredited with the National Institute of Metalworking Skills based in Washington DC.
“South Africa’s previous TDM training curricu- lum did not contain course material about computer numerically controlled equipment, com-puter-aided design and manufacture or other modern technologies commonly used in the toolmaking industry today.”
The new National Tooling Initiative TDM apprentice programme is a three-year pro-gramme. Each year, the apprentices spend roughly one third of the time learning theory, a third in practical training at the institute and a third working in industry. There is also a foundation phase available for apprentices who have basic challenges with mathematics and science and who would not ordinarily qualify for the programme.
“However, artisan training alone is not sufficient to ensure success. The South Africa TDM industry is now tackling the much more difficult task of enterprise development.”
This development starts on the shop floor with the implementation of the 5S workplace organisation method, process flow analyses, shop floor planning and production control. A standardised methodology is now available to Tasa members to use. Companies that have embarked on this route have achieved remarkable results, while the important metrics of due-date reliability, fast manufacturing and quality are immediately improved, boosting competitiveness and sustainability,” concludes Snyman.