Tools of the trade

Welder does the job

SA’s tool, die and mould making industry has been in sharp decline over the past 30 years. To rejuvenate the industry, government and training bodies are creating a more flexible, skilled artisan.

South African Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, recently announced that our tool, die and mould (TDM) making sector has seen a “demise” over the past 30 years, resulting in a loss of more than 80% of TDM manufacturing.

South Africa’s economy utilises on average more than R15 billion per annum of TDM equipment and maintenance services, of which only 20% is provided by the local industry. Given the centrality of the TDM sector, the broader manufacturing sectors’ competitiveness has also been negatively impacted, Davies says.

The National Tooling Initiative (NTI) programme is a strategic growth stimulator for manufacturing and technical skills development initiative put together by government through the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the Toolmaking Association of South Africa (TASA).

In an exclusive interview with Dirk van Dyk, CEO of the National Tooling Initiative Programme, Van Dyk says in South Africa, the direct tooling industry represents a R13-billion market, with added maintenance services contributing another R2 billion. He says that the local TDM industry contributes less than one % of the global tooling market.

“The automotive and packaging sectors represent 90% of the current demand for tooling in South Africa. According to the Fridge Report (R. Tinkler, 2005, Enterplan in Fridge Tooling Report – Blueprint International (Pty) Ltd June 2005), the automotive sector is the largest customer for TDMs and provides for 50 to 55 % of TDM demand, followed by packaging with 30 to 35 %. The rest of the demand mainly comprises electrical components, medical equipment and white goods,” Van Dyk says.

He explains that the Toolmaking Association of South Africa (TASA) was established in 2004 as a representative body for the South African Tool, Die and Mould (TDM) making industry. TASA is constituted as a national body with representation from all provinces that have significant tool, die and mould making activities. Representation is through the TASA provincial structures.

“TASA was a driving force in the mobilisation of the National Tooling Initiative (NTI) and will remain an important and strong stakeholder in the process of the full establishment of the NTI which has as a national objective namely, the revitalisation of the South African Tool, Die and Mould making industry,” he says.

With South Africa experiencing a skills shortage across a wide array of industries, Van Dyk refers the TDM industry as needing what he calls competency-based skills. He says that based on the number one ranked key driver that impacts on a country’s ability to compete in manufacturing, in other words “talent-driven innovation”, the NTI programme has developed an intervention to achieve this objective within the TDM sector.

This intervention is based on the foundation of a new “competency-based system” developed by industry in collaboration with international partners and local skills development stakeholders Van Dyk explains. According to him, this system is aligned to industry needs and standards providing a completely integrated solution to closing the skills gap from artisan to engineering level qualifications for the sector. Therefore the skills needed for the industry are competency-based skills that will enable them to start working once qualified he says.

In terms of what our education departments are doing to assist in ensuring a properly skilled workforce entering the arena, the training of flexible, skilled labour is taking centre stage.

“In 2009 the Department of Higher Education and Training was established and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs) became part of the legislative competence of the DHET as a starting point in changing apprenticeships and learnerships in South Africa, working towards creating a more flexibly skilled worker. The National Qualifications Framework Act replaced the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of 1995 and three Quality Councils were established to replace the previous Education and Training Quality Assurance function.

“The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is now responsible for the quality assurance and certification process of the new trade and occupational qualifications. During the Skills Development Act amendment to strengthen the national policy that governs artisan development in South Africa, one of the critical outcomes of the amendment was the establishment of a National Artisan Moderation Body (NAMB) in the Department of Higher Education and Training to coordinate Artisan development in South Africa. NAMB has a key function to link all quality assurance artisan learning processes with FET colleges and to: develop and moderate artisan trade tests; develop and manage the national database of registered artisan trade assessors and moderators; record artisan achievements and; recommend certification of artisans to the QCTO,” he says.

The NTI programme has been referred to as a turnaround strategy, and as Van Dyk points out, South Africa has lost considerable tooling capacity over the past 25 years. He makes reference to the fact that local companies satisfy less than 15 % of the local and less than one % of global TDM demand as they have failed to adopt the technology and production efficiencies of their developed counterparts.

“Ageing skills capacity in the sector was not replaced timeously, which lead to a serious skills shortage in the TDM industry. The performance of the sector remained curtailed by the low demand in South Africa's main export markets in the developed world. Since its onset about eight years ago, the Intsimbi NTI sought not only to halt the decline of the sector, but to embark on a robust rehabilitation programme. At the core of the initiative are the TDM Powered Skills Development and Enterprise Development Programmes and the upgrading of local tooling companies to world-class competitiveness levels,” he says.

The aerospace, automotive, chemical, electronics, leisure, marine, medical, mining and packaging industries are just a few examples of where TDM skills and products apply. To satisfy the needs across such a wide spectrum, the TDM Powered Programme provides students with the basic and core skills in the TDM disciplines to enable them to qualify as Toolroom Assistants or Toolmakers, Van Dyk says. Once qualified, students can pursue careers in cross-cutting sectors he explains.

In terms of trade in the TDM industry, Van Dyk says that the largest contribution to the quarter-on-quarter growth came from the manufacturing industry which advanced at an annualized 12.3 % due to higher production of food and beverages, petroleum, chemical products, rubber and products relating to motor vehicles, parts and accessories.

“The South African automotive industry accounts for about 10 % of South Africa's manufacturing exports, contributes 7.5 % to the country's GDP and employs around 36 000 people. BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Daimler-Chrysler, General Motors and Toyota all have production plants in South Africa. There are also about 200 automotive component manufacturers in South Africa and more than 150 others that supply the industry on a non-exclusive basis. In the past year, the automotive sector emerged as one of South Africa's strongest manufacturing industries, committing more than R15 billion in recent investments in the country from both assemblers and component suppliers. This has been accompanied by large increases in vehicle assembly volumes, with recent investment interests including a billion-rand joint truck and car assembly facility,” he says.

Van Dyk highlights that the successful implementation of the Intsimbi NTI – a multi-stakeholder initiative initiated by the TASA and the dti – to rehabilitate the local TDM industry in terms of skills and enterprise development as well as recapitalisation, will without a doubt enhance the industry’s competitiveness and enable it to capitalise on the expected growth in the demand for tooling.

“The successful rejuvenation of the industry will empower the South African TDM sector to significantly expand its market share and successfully conclude partnership agreements with global tooling companies. South Africa lacks the ability to produce large tooling with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) having to import heavy tooling for stamping and large-injection moulding. It is within this market that the opportunity exists. Already companies from developed countries are visiting South Africa in search of low-cost partners,” according to Van Dyk.

Government and its partners has also been actively involved in assisting in the recuperation of the industry and as Van Dyk mentions, since 2006 has directly invested R250 million into the Intsimbi NTI, the bulk of it being skills development. He says that more than 950 students are currently enrolled in tool-making courses at several training institutions across the country.

He further points out that tool production occupies a key position in the industrial supply chain as a link between product development and production, in that its proper implementation determines the reliable and cost-effective manufacturing of products. Consequently, he says, the dti has partnered with industry (TASA) to implement the Intsimbi NTI Programme to revive the local tooling industry.

“Tool production occupies a key position in the industrial supply chain as a link between product development and production, in that its proper implementation determines the reliable and cost-effective manufacturing of products. Consequently the dti has partnered with industry (TASA) to implement the Intsimbi NTI Programme to revive the local tooling industry. This revitalisation strategy has culminated in the successful development and implementation of the TDM Powered Skills Development and Enterprise Development programmes,” he concludes.

Michael Meiring


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Issue 58