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With South Africa having shown growth in the automotive manufacturing sector in the past few years, integrated mould manufacturer CR Moulds laments the shortage of South Africa-based tool-making skills to match the current positive industry growth.

in Engineering News, by Zandile Mavuso, 26-01-2018

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Consequently, CR Moulds, which manufactures automotive component moulds for original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Volkswagen, hopes to provide expertise training for the tool-making industry, which will see some workers from its South Africa-based plant being sent to Portugal for training this year.

Compared with its European counterparts, the South African tool-making industry is a few years behind the current global leaders in terms of skill sets, technology and manufacturing, CR Moulds CEO Joaquim Rodrigues highlights.

He points out that the company’s well-established manufacturing plant, based in Marinha Grande, Portugal, will provide the necessary added-value expertise for the workers going overseas that will come in handy when they return to its two-year-old South Africa plant in Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape.

“Our plant in Portugal has been in operation since 2000 and we have grown from strength to strength in the industry, as we provide turnkey solutions that include the design, management, manufacture and optimisation of moulds for thermoplastic injection and die-casting,” he says.

Acknowledging the efforts made by the National Tooling Initiative Programme, as well as the technical and vocational education and training centres in South Africa, Rodrigues notes that, while these produce artisans ready for work, the training does not equip trainess with many skills on production processes for full plant optimisation.

He says that, in order for South Africa to improve its skill set and establish a toolmaking industry to match its automotive manufacturing capability, there is a need for companies within the automotive industry to form clusters; schools need to change their curriculum to ensure that learners have adequate skills to work in industry; and government needs to become more involved in beneficial initiatives based on market demand.

“OEMs are willing to work with government to ensure that this industry keeps flourishing, but there needs to be as much interest from government for this to work,” Rodrigues says.

Moreover, he notes that, in Portugal, CR Moulds is part of the country’s moulds association, which has proven beneficial for the company, as it has allowed the company to keep abreast of industry trends and share expertise with other companies in the same sector.

Also, the company’s relationship with the Centre of Engineering and Product Development, in Portugal, which develops, implements and operates technological solutions to push innovation in the automotive industry, bolsters the success of the business.

In terms of short-term plans, Rodrigues says the company hopes to expand the workforce at its plant in South Africa from 15 to between 40 and 50 employees in the next two years.

The company is also acquiring its broad-based black economic empowerment certificate and hopes to form part of public–private partnerships in South Africa.

“CR Moulds will continue to serve the automotive tooling sector within South Africa both for all Tier 1 suppliers and the OEM´s through their local and global facilities.”

In July, Engineering News reported that the next-generation Polo would be manufactured completely in South Africa. It is based on the German carmaker’s MQB AO platform architecture, and will be significantly bigger than the current model. The vehicle’s length has increased by 81 mm, its wheelbase by 94 mm and its width by 69 mm. The boot has increased by 25%, from 280 ? to 351 ?.

Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) will ramp up production of the new Polo at the Uitenhage plant, in the Eastern Cape, in the third quarter of this year. The plant currently produces the present Polo model, as well as the Polo Vivo.

Building the new-generation Polo is part of a R4.5-billion investment, announced in 2015, by VWSA’s German parent company in its South African facility.

Rodrigues says that, with BMW having announced that it will begin the manufacturing of its X3 in the first half of 2018 at its Rosslyn plant outside Pretoria, CR Moulds sees further opportunity for growth in South Africa.

“We need the support of all first-tier manufacturers and OEMs . . . to grow our business in South Africa,” he points out.

Meanwhile, CR Moulds was honoured at the Annual Dinner & Business Awards 2017, held in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 27 for its work in South Africa.

The company’s facility in Uitenhage received an award for innovation and people development. Rodrigues received the award on behalf of the company from Portugal Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral and the South African ambassador, Mmamokwena Gaoretelelwe.

 


Zandile Mavuso took part in a media tour of Portugal from November 20 to 24 as a guest of AICEP Portugal Global