Introduces a host of innovations

A job shop, based in Vereeniging, Gauteng, is delivering a variety of high accuracy components including (but not limited to) tooling, dies, jigs, impellers and gears to the petrochemical, defence and mining industries.

However, S&D Precision Toolmakers has also been manufacturing gear cutters, with an emphasis on the rack-type (Maag, Sunderland) and disc-type (Fellows) cutters, since the 1990s. The company can manufacture up to 200 cutters a month. The majority are shipped within two business days to clients in South Africa, Australia, Japan, Germany, USA, Canada, Italy and Switzerland.

This year S&D Precision Toolmakers celebrates 40 years in business. Current owner Allan Pace joined the company in 1975 at the age of 21. At the time that he joined the company, which was founded by Joe Schmidt and Cyril Day (hence the S&D), Pace was just completing his toolmaking apprenticeship at Allyn Precision Tools. Schmidt and Day had been Pace’s former journeymen.





Image: A view of the S&D Precision Toolmakers machine shop floor.

S&D Precision Toolmakers has five 5-axis DMG Mori machining centres and two 4-axis DMG Mori machining centres on the machine shop floor, all supplied by Retecon Machine Tools.

Pace’s share of the business grew to 50% when he and Day bought out Schmidt in 1977. Ten years on Pace became the majority shareholder, and ten years following that the sole owner when Day immigrated to the UK.

In the early days the business concentrated on manufacturing a variety of components for the defence industry and this accounted for 90% of the turnover. Although it left the business vulnerable to a handful of clients it also forced the company to operate under a high precision environment. This resulted in the company continually upgrading its equipment, making use of the most modern machines available at the time.

The company client portfolio has changed somewhat since those days and the defence industry now makes up a small percentage of the component portfolio. But the high precision philosophy has remained with the company and Pace ensures that the business is equipped with the latest technology, not just in the machine department.

For example, S&D has recently purchased a Steinbichler Comet L3D 3D scanning system that features innovative blue light technology to quickly produce small and large 3D models of physical parts. The extremely compact high-performance 3D sensor with LED lighting adds a new dimension to efficient 3D data acquisition. Together with Polyworks software, sophisticated reverse engineering, prototyping and quality inspection can be performed to an achievable accuracy of less than 50 micron. Pace is looking to add to this capability by purchasing sophisticated software specifically for Gear inspection.

The Comet is an ultra-compact scanner and because its lightweight it is portable. But in the case of S&D it is set up in a permanent position with a rotary table and a Monfrotto tripod.

Another recent purchase has been an OR Laser permanent marker, which has transformed the company’s marking and traceability requirements.

Knowing that it is key to survival, staff are made to keep abreast of advances in technology. Pace took six staff members to the recent EMO exhibition in Hannover, Germany and let them loose. According to Pace it was a learning curve second to none for them, but the ultimate objective of each individual seeking out new methods or processes to enhance the productivity and quality of components manufactured by the company paid immediate dividends.

Fondly known as Wildebeest, Andre Perry, 5-axis machining specialist working on a DMG Mori Deckel Maho 250 linear CNC 5-axis vertical machining centre supplied by Retecon Machine Tools.



The machine shop includes seven GF Agie Charmilles wire EDMs supplied by Retecon Machine Tools.



The diversification of the client mix at S&D began almost by chance. The company had an association with David Brown Gear Industries and was asked to see if it (S&D) could solve a problematic supply situation. Gear cutters were taking over three months to arrive from Europe and the company needed an alternative supplier. This made Pace realise that gear manufacturers are constantly under competitive pressures and need to employ cutting edge technology, and rely heavily on the manufacturers of the gear cutters.

Mark Albert of MMS confirms this in his elucidation of gears: “Gears are complex. By nature, even the simplest of gears consists of numerous physical features and a pattern of repeated shapes, most notably the teeth.”

“Many mechanical objects that move have gears. Vehicles from automobiles to spacecraft rely on gears for power transmission. Gears link the rotation of an engine or motor shaft to the turning of wheels that propel the vehicle.”

“The science behind gear technology is substantial and well-developed, yet ongoing in its theoretical discoveries and practical applications. Based on the laws of physics and rooted in mathematics, the science of gears is a powerful force driving gear technology forward.”

“Gear manufacturing is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field. Currently, it is undergoing a number of significant transformations. The ‘who, when, where and how’ of gear production is changing. New opportunities and fresh challenges abound.”

“New gear-making processes are emerging as the convergence of innovative tooling designs, five- axis multitasking machines and capable software is revolutionising small and medium batch gear production.”


Production Manager Peter Jackson working on the DEA CMM machine.






Alan Chrich, C+ coding and CAD/CAM programmer and Brian Pace, Electrician, CNC milling and EDM machinist working with some 3D computer models.



It therefore is obvious that as a class of workpieces, gears may be one of the most important, and certainly one of the most interesting, in the manufacturing industry.

Pace has recognised this in his endeavours to manufacture and deliver the finest, most competitive tools and components. He has surrounded himself with an array of high quality machines that includes seven GF Agie Charmilles wire EDMs, five 5-axis DMG machining centres, and two 4-axis machining centres, CNC lathes and grinding machines.

This has enabled S&D Precision Toolmakers to manufacture gear cutters to order and generally dispatch them within two working days. Components are also manufactured to order from draft drawing, a CAD/CAM model or an original part (using the Comet L3D scanning system).

In short the company does not want to compete for ‘rats and mice’ business but rather be looked upon as a high-end precision component manufacturer.

Procedures, processes and cost calculating scenarios

However, S&D Precision Toolmakers has also kept abreast with its procedures, processes and cost calculating scenarios. Besides having a comprehensive range of plant, which is at their disposal to provide a quality product that meets customer expectations, S&D’s staff, whether he be the owner, engineer or machinist has the latest software analysis programs that enable them to disseminate information and have a collective visual management perspective. Pace has employed the QuoteCam cost management software, which easily allows him to see exactly what the real cost of manufacture is and therefore to know precisely how much profit will be generated, in his business for over eight years.

A computer-run electronic board (1.5 x 2 m) is centrally situated in the workshop. Mingle, a visual management system, gives a real time visual of the exact progress of each task.




S&D Precision Toolmakers has recently purchased a Steinbichler Comet L3D 3D scanning system.









Another recent purchase has been an OR Laser permanent marker, which has transformed the company’s marking and traceability requirements.



More recently Pace purchased Iscar’s automated tool dispenser Matrix, which allows operators to run tooling inventories for the machines, thus eliminating wastage and keeping costs down.

Mingle visual management system

However, since the company has installed the Mingle visual management system, Pace now feels comfortable with almost being in control of his shop. Tailored to suit S&D’s environment the company is one of the first to use the agile project management solution in manufacturing.
Developed by ThoughtWorks, Pace has customised Mingle to follow a Kanban process. Kanban is a visual scheduling system particularly used in Lean manufacturing – at the heart of Kanban lays transparency and simplicity. Work is divided up into to-do, doing and done tasks. Every member of the company from the receptionist to the person buying material to the men in the workshop – interact with mingle.

Mingle gives a real time visual of the exact progress of each task. A computer-run electronic board (1.5 x 2 m) is centrally situated in the workshop. The setup is excellent in making visible what was otherwise being swept under the carpet in multiple individually owned excel spreadsheets. Each operator or machinist is now accountable for knowing his next highest priority task and then upon completion moving it to its next destination whether it be milling, heat treatment or delivery.

Mingle has made the macro view of what is going on throughout the company, as well as where each job is allocated, much easier to know and manage. Mingle runs on one computer (“server”) and is accessible from as many other network computers as you wish.

Mingle is not just about the shopfloor and the operators and machinists. Everyone has to use Mingle. The person doing the invoices, the person doing the material purchasing, the guys doing the quotations, the guys doing the CAD/CAM design, even the driver doing deliveries has to use Mingle.

Piepies Maritz, a toolmaker apprentice, working on a grinding machine.




A component that has been machined by S&D Precision Toolmakers.





Basically it is a computer-run electronic board, similar to those used at airport terminals to disseminate flight arrival and departure schedules most effectively but in the case of S&D Precision Toolmakers it is communicating the current work status.

Importantly though the system can be controlled by management with strategic passwords. For example an invoice can only be generated once management has given the go ahead.

The company has also developed its own quality assurance and inspection software package that will take the process through to packaging, which is outsourced.

One aspect that Pace has ensured is that these software programs ‘talk’ to each other so that there is no duplicate data entry as that is tedious, time consuming, and costly.

Pace’s daughter, qualified as a Lean Six Sigma Black belt, is regularly brought into the company to consult on optimising the end to end “order-to-door” process. Whether by introducing various technologies or simplification, S&D strives for small continual improvement.

Power saving

S&D Precision Toolmakers have embraced the green/clean energy revolution to reduce the environmental impact while taking into account the cost savings that the company can achieve. LED lighting has been installed throughout the factory and offices, machines are only powered up when needed and in May 2014 300 solar panels were installed. The system might not be able to run machines at this stage but with all the other savings that are going to be made S&D Engineering are only looking at a 45-month payback period.

Looking ahead, the company has also installed a ‘backward’ running meter so that when it is legislated it can put power back into the national grid, especially on weekends when the shop is not working.

‘Woer–Woer’ – Small wind turbine from Gildemeister

The newest addition to S&D facility in General Smuts Road is a Gildemeister WindCarrier, a small wind turbine that generates power. Fondly named the ‘Woer-Woer’ it caused a traffic jam in Vereeniging when it was erected.
The WindCarrier has a rotor design that is based on the Darrieus principle, with a vertical axis, where the aerodynamic lift is used very effectively to generate electricity. This special shape forces the air on the curved upper surfaces of the blades to flow more quickly than the air on the lower surfaces. Thanks to smart sensor technology, the controller will already start up the turbine when the wind speed reaches a mere 3.5 m/s. The operation is virtually silent; meaning that noise pollution for adjacent buildings is non-existent, which, in turn, allows the system to be used right beside company premises and production sites.

Various components for landing gear machined by S&D Precision Toolmakers.




‘Woer–Woer’ – a small wind turbine from Gildemeister.

The WindCarrier’s stable, space-saving design can be installed within a few hours and can handle any weather situation. For example, in high winds from 16 m/s, the speed of the system will be gradually reduced to guarantee absolute safety.

The WindCarrier installed at S&D Precision Toolmakers is more of a marketing tool than a power generator because of the lack of wind where it is situated.



For further details contact S&D Precision Toolmakers on TEL: 016 421 3093 or visit where a sample portfolio of work is showcased.