Iscar South Africa celebrates golden anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Iscar South Africa, one of the country’s leading suppliers of precision carbide metalworking tools. The company distributes its products from its head office in Longmeadow Business Estate – North, its branch offices situated in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Vereeniging and via a comprehensive network of distributors.

Iscar, a company within the IMC Group that is owned by one of the strongest investment groups in the world – Berkshire Hathaway Inc. – and is headquartered in the Tefen Industrial Zone in Israel’s Western Galilee, opened its South African subsidiary in 1967. Since then the company has remained loyal to the South African metalworking engineering industry, including during the height of sanctions, with a continuous supply of tooling for 50 years.

Iscar is one of the world’s leading producers of metal removal technology and is the largest of the 15 companies comprising the IMC (International Metalworking Companies) Group. Together, they supply a comprehensive line of precision carbide metalworking tools. These companies produce a wide range of carbide inserts, carbide endmills and cutting tools, covering most metal cutting applications. IMC also provides engineering and manufacturing solutions to major industries throughout the world. Many innovative products, designed specially for customer requirements, have made IMC a world leader in the major manufacturing industries such as automotive, aerospace and die and mould production.

Iscar South Africa has launched a mobile van to promote the use of the Matrix industrial vending systems to end-users. The van houses a Matrix vending machine and staff from Iscar South Africa will drive to the customers facility to give a live demonstration of the machine and its advantages. Iscar South Africa has taken this initiative to circumvent time constraints that are placed on customers these days. In future the Matrix van will be able to give live demonstrations to customers situated in all four corners in South Africa and all those in between

Today Iscar is a full line tooling supplier offering a complete product line for all types of machining applications including turning, grooving, parting off, drilling and holemaking, tooling systems, and more.

“Iscar South Africa has benefited enormously from being part of a company that has expanded from a single marketing and manufacturing facility in Israel to a multinational company comprising 140 subsidiaries with representation in 50 countries. Iscar now has 30 highly automated production facilities around the globe including facilities in Israel, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, United States of America and South Korea,” said Gavin Adams Managing Director of the South African subsidiary.

“The company was established in 1952 in Nahariya in northern Israel in a wooden garage behind the home of founder Stef Wertheimer. He began making turning tools in his old garage when powder metallurgy, the technological underpinning for indexable inserts, was little more than a curiosity. Numerical control was at best unproven.”

“Though hard to imagine, tungsten carbide tooling, the very basis for Iscar’s business, was in its infancy back in Stef’s garage days. It was very much a niche material for selected turning operations, mainly finish turning on aluminium and brass. It was available only with square corners and flat tops, as if sliced from a sheet cake, and required costly grinding to create a decent cutting geometry. Dimensional control on pressed inserts was so imprecise that every insert change required time consuming re-checking and resetting the stops. Even then, the cutting action was as much scraping as cleaving. And their very brittle microstructure made the inserts sensitive to even minor shock and impact loads, disqualifying them for milling, with its unavoidable interrupted cuts. Coatings, essential chemical barriers for cutting ferrous metals, were questionable.”

Anticipating change
“But Stef was as much a listener and visionary as toolmaker. He listened to his customers and their need for tooling that was easier to use as well as faster cutting and longer lasting – tooling that would make them money, in short. He saw the potential for indexable tooling in an era of numerical control and the lighter, faster, more versatile machines that would evolve from that technology. And he saw the possibilities for creating insert geometries better suited to cutting and tougher substrate alloys able to handle milling. He also foresaw coatings that would qualify tungsten carbide for machining the mainstay materials in manufacturing – iron, steel and stainless steel.”

“Iscar’s first breakthrough development was Self-Grip, the first parting tool with inserts that could be slid into a blade without the nuisance of screw clamping. Launched in the ‘70s, this simple idea proved to be an enormous time saver. It changed forever the way manufacturers performed cutoff operations on lathes, and is still popular in the marketplace.”

“Then came Cut-Grip, a clamping system for multi-directional turning followed by Do-Grip and Heli-Grip, inserts with a pressed-in “twisted” geometry. Iscar then diversified into milling with Helimill inserts and into holemaking with Chamdrill. The mould and die market benefitted with the introduction of the Multi-Master line of mills and Tangmill tangential milling cutters.”

“Meanwhile, the metalworking market environment was undergoing a considerable change in machine tool design. The trend was toward lighter CNC machines for faster contouring motion with lower inertial forces. Iscar responded with positive-rake cutting tools optimised for high feed rates and lower cutting forces, and pioneered the Heli cutting edge.”

“Key innovations early in the new millennium include Feedmill, Heliturn and Helitang endmills.”

An innovation habit
“Throughout its expansion and even today, Iscar continues the innovation habit. Every year the company introduces more than 1 000 new products and spends over 6% of budget on R&D. More than 80% of Iscar sales are for products developed within the past five years. No wonder the company’s motto is ‘Iscar, where innovation never stops.’”

Breakthrough coating development
“In September 2007 at the EMO exhibition in Germany, Iscar unveiled its Sumo Tec technology, ushering in a new era in cutting tool performance. Iscar added the 3P SUMO TEC enhancement to eleven popular insert grades that cover the gamut of milling, turning and drilling applications. It is part of the company’s 3P initiative – improve Productivity, Profitability and Performance.”

Jacob Harpaz, IMC president and Iscar CEO explains; “The way I see it, we don’t sell tooling we sell better answers sooner. That involves three steps: diagnose the customer’s problem, provide the best available tooling solution, and then make absolutely sure the customer makes the best of it in his shop’s practice. If we do this right, we become the “go-to guy” the next time he has a problem. Selling and shipping the tool is just part of that process.”

“Improving the productivity of its customers is a continuing focus for Iscar. Everyone is looking for productivity improvements and also looking to improve the profitability of their own companies.”

“Today, the direction of both the machine tool builders and the cutting tool manufacturers is looking at how to cut production time,” said Harpaz.

Inside the mobile Matrix van. Industrial vending machines, such as Matrix, bring major mutual benefits to both the cutting tool provider, in particular the distributor or integrator, and the end-user

Harpaz continued; “However, the most important aspect is cost reduction. In terms of cost reduction, Iscar wants to form a partnership (with its customers) working together to solve productivity problems. It’s not only a partnership in terms of cost reduction but also for continuous upgrading.”

“The new High Qline products such as Penta-IQ, Dove IQ Grip, Tang-Grip IQ, Heli IQmill 390, and Dove IQ Turn can be applied to faster metalworking applications and have already proven their ability to cut production costs.”

“That’s what Warren Buffett meant when he said we make money by enabling our customers to make more money. All our innovation aims to benefit the customer’s bottom line. We never lose sight of that.”

Stability within South Africa
Throughout the history of the Iscar brand in South Africa one standout aspect of the subsidiary has been the stability of the company.

“I am only the fourth man at the helm of the company during the 50 years and I have been with the company for 37 years. The previous Managing Director, Hans Rossouw, was with Iscar for 34 years, of which he was Managing Director for 25 years and he still remains within the Group,” said Adams.

Headquarters and showroom
“Another element adding to the stability of the company is that Iscar South Africa has only had four ‘homes’ since it was established. Prior to moving to our current location, where we have been for the last nine years, we were in the same location for 18 years.”

“We moved to our current location in Longmeadow Estate, Modderfontein, Gauteng, which is 15 minutes away from the OR Tambo International Airport, in 2008. This is a very strategic location as we are close to industry and it allows us to provide same-day dispatch for more than 90% of requisitions, and dispatch 100% of requisitions within 24 hours.”

“The 1 600m² South African Headquarters includes office and warehousing space where we stock over 40 000 line items, 150m² of showroom, allowing for two CNC machine tools to operate in a working environment and thus have live demonstrations of the company’s extensive and growing range of affordable tooling.”

“Additionally the facility includes a modern, fully equipped training area and auditorium, where Iscar personnel will instruct customers from all over South Africa on the latest products.”

“Gaining customer loyalty and satisfaction is Iscar’s main objective. We do so by our commitment to our customer’s profitability. During this golden jubilee year, Iscar South Africa is recommitting itself to profound service by strengthening its many teams and channel partners to assure it adapts to the growing changes in this region of the world.”

“This includes smartphones, tablets and the Web 2.0, which provide new platforms, alongside the common use of paper, to convey and implement marketing messages. We invest heavily in these new forms of communication, as our customers gain substantial benefits using these new systems in real-time.”

“We will also be exhibiting at the Machine Tools Africa 2017 exhibition in May 2017 where we will exhibit new innovations that will meet the customer’s needs and strengthen our ties with the local metalworking industry, which forms part of Iscar’s motto ‘Being global is being local’.”

“As both our customer base and our distributor network increases, we intend to offer the best service and support in the industry for the next 50 years and beyond,” concluded Adams.

For further details contact Iscar South Africa on TEL: 011 997 2700 or visit