Tiagen Industrial takes a slice of component production and consumable market

Although Tiagen Industrial is a relatively new company, history shows that its origins date back to 1983.

“The company was established as a precision engineering company by my father Eric While and was aptly named Profile Tooling as the emphasis was on manufacturing precision tooling for many industries and supplemented with general engineering machining and manufacturing,” said the founder’s son Jevon While, who is the current Managing Director.

“We are a well-established company based in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. By the nature of our proximity to a large chunk of the automotive OEMs in South Africa and their suppliers that are located in this area, we have always had a good relationship with these companies as a supplier to them. The automotive market is an important sector served by us and still remains so today.”


The new Kitamura HX250G Compact horizontal machining center comes with two pallets and Tiagen Industrial have designed and manufactured their own tooling. The blocks that the company is manufacturing are loaded on a tombstone fixture that accommodates 48 blocks at a time – eight rails of six blocks per rail. In two shifts they machine approximately 700 blocks


Jevon While, Managing Director of Tiagen Industrial, in front of his new Kitamura HX250G Compact horizontal machining center purchased from WD Hearn Machine Tools

“Our exposure to the automotive industry was fairly large and mainly involved supplying tooling and fixtures in a variety of configurations and special purpose machines and equipment, but always made to specification. Over the 30-plus years of the company’s existence we have been involved in many different projects and generally always manufactured according to our client’s requirements.”

“Although constantly busy the business was labeled as and acted as a job shop with many of our invoices reflecting the ‘once-off’ syndrome.”

“I joined the company in 1996 and was elevated to the position of Managing Director in 2009. I knew that we needed to free ourselves from the ‘single-customer’ model and the only way we could do that was by adopting new technologies and expanding our customer base to other industries so that we could protect ourselves against economic uncertainties.”

“More importantly we almost had to reinvent ourselves, I believed, so that we could take on and execute production work, which we had only done in a limited way in the past. There is a certain level of security to be found in the captive machine shop business model but I wanted to diversify into keeping our machines busy and not being reliant on one industry.”


Tiagen Industrial has recently won a multi year contract to machine a joint block that is used in the braking system on a vehicle and is 16 x 32 x 46mm in size


Tiagen Industrial have purchased a Chiah Chyun CB 36M Swiss type turning center that features twin spindles, a complete driven tooling system and a bar feeder, also from WD Hearn Machine Tools

“The first step is to evaluate your strengths in terms of capabilities. What is the full range of components you can produce with your current equipment lineup, and is there new business you can pursue based on those capabilities? When considering the products you’re manufacturing for a single customer, are there related markets you can enter with minimal capital investment? If you were to invest in new equipment, how many markets would it launch you into, and what would such an outlay cost? Are there any processes being outsourced that you could bring in-house to build your core competencies? Be sure you understand the latest machining processes and technologies, how they’ve evolved over time, and which would enable you to reach your goal.”

“By taking these steps, a machine shop can limit worries over market fluctuations, since a diversified customer base provides protection against market volatility.”

Name change
“Before embarking on this new strategy it was clear to us that we were ‘labeled’ with the name Profile Tooling. Changing a company’s name after the company has been in business for 30 years is not something you take lightly. The result was that in 2013 we established Tiagen Industrial with big ambitions for the company. Profile Tooling continued to operate as a separate entity until we felt comfortable that we could incorporate Profile Tooling into the new company. This took place in 2014.”

“It is not strictly true to say that the company relied solely on client specification work because over the years Profile Tooling had built a library of equipment, products and components that were manufactured from concept. Besides wanting to diversify into supplying other industries such as food and pharmaceutical and a need for expansion in all areas of our business, I felt we were not making use of the full potential of the engineering skills and know how that was at our disposal.”

Industrial blades and knives
“Industrial blades are used in a wide array of industries, from food processing to tyre and rubber, paper, plastic, metal, wood and just about everything in-between. A vast majority of these are imported cutting, trimming, slitting, slicing, perforating, scoring or creasing operations.”


The new Kitamura HX250G Compact horizontal machining center


Another contract that Tiagen Industrial has recently won is to manufacture a joint bracket for a fuel line on the very popular Ford Ranger pickup truck / rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) that is made locally. The company will be supplying a minimum of 10 000 components a month

“We decided to start importing these products but with a long-term view to start manufacturing locally. While building up a base of clients we looked at the market to see where the biggest potential was before deciding to build a machine that would manufacture the blades. We decided the food processing industry had great potential.”

“Our first attempt at manufacturing a machine to manufacture the blades was not very successful but persistence paid off and we believe that we have now perfected the design and operation of the machine. This included the design and manufacture of the tooling by us. In blade manufacture it is important to get the operational ability of the teeth of the blade correct. We have now patented the design of the machine and the blade and have started production. The potential is huge – one bakery group reportedly uses 500 000 blades a year. Although we import the coil we can still manufacture locally at a substantially better cost as compared to the imported blades.”

“The experience we have gained in this new venture for the company has been invaluable. It is going to open new doors for us in other industries as well as exploring other opportunities to manufacture other products such as knives that are used in the related industries.”

“Part of our strategy to diversify is to offer existing clients more than just a machining and manufacturing service. Again, we had dabbled on this side but now we have rented an extra 1 000m² of space, right next door to our existing facility that is dedicated to fabrication. If we do not have the equipment we will outsource operations such as laser and plasma cutting. But who knows, maybe we will buy our own equipment in the future if orders and that type of business requires us to.”


The company has gained a reputation for manufacturing precision tooling


Tiagen Industrial has 33 machines on the shopfloor of which 15 are CNC milling, turning and EDM wire cutting machines. A number of them are Sure First machines supplied by EDM Shop

“I would walk around the shop floor and the manufacturing and assembly area of existing clients and see many potential products that we could easily manufacture locally that in most cases were being imported. Trolleys, pallets, material storage and handling are all products that we are now manufacturing and supplying to both existing and new clients.”

Automotive component production contracts
“We became very adept at machining precision components for the tooling, jigs and fixtures that we were manufacturing so it made sense to look in this area if we were going to go the production route. We have 33 machines of which 15 are CNC milling, turning and EDM wire cutting machines so we have the capacity.”

“Another big plus for us is that we are well connected in the automotive industry so we already had a pedigree. An open doorway didn’t automatically lead to new business, however. Little did we realise that, despite these advantages, it would take us two and half years to get our first order. Virtually at the same time we received a second order for another component that involves Swiss type machining, welding and plating.”

“There is a definite trend in the automotive component supply market to reshore, as the Americans like to call it, and offer local machining companies the opportunity to supply. This might be because of the weak South African currency or there is an effort to step up local content. Whichever it is it is good for the local industry and our economy.”

“We have now been awarded these two multi year contracts with the prospect of the contracts being extended but it took many hours of testing and a sizeable investment from our side.”


A component being machined on a DMTG CNC flat bed lathe


Tiagen Industrial makes use of Sure First and Accutex EDM machines supplied by EDM Shop

“The one component was actually subjected to a 1 000 hour salt spray test before it was approved but our client is now realising between 20 and 40 per cent cost savings on the two components. Additionally there were also seal, torque and weld penetration tests carried out.”

Dedicated manufacturing area
“To accommodate this new work we have had to alter and refurbish a section of our 1 300m² factory in Lindsay Road, Neave Township. This section is now dedicated to automotive component manufacturing and is virtually self-contained carrying out cut-to-size, deburing, forming, drilling, threading and chamfering operations. A strategically located material handling area and metrology lab are also located in the area.”

“The new machines that we have purchased from WD Hearn Machine Tools include a Kitamura HX250G compact horizontal machining center and a Chiah Chyun CB 36M Swiss type turning center that features twin spindles, a complete driven tooling system and a bar feeder.”

“The one component is a joint bracket for a fuel line on the very popular Ford Ranger pickup truck / rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) that is made locally. We do not supply Ford directly but rather their supplier, who is our client.”

“We have been contracted to supply a minimum of 10 000 components a month and to ramp up if required. The material for the joint bracket is extruded locally before we cut-to-size. It is then welded to a plate and the holes are final machined before being sent for zinc and nickel plating.”


A special purpose machine that Tiagen Industrial has manufactured


Fabricating is now included in Tiagen Industrial’s capabilities

“The second component is a joint block that is used in the braking system and is 16 x 32 x 46mm in size. Here we cut-to-size material before it is sent to the Kitamura for drilling, threading and chamfering operations. Again it is sent for plating and we are machining 10 000 components a month.”

“The Kitamura HX250G Compact horizontal machining center is ideal for simultaneous 4-axis machining of small, detailed, highly accurate parts. Positioning and full stroke repeatability is amazing on this machine and it has a feed rate of 60 mpm and an 11,2kW dual contact spindle. I have never seen a machine move so fast.”

“The machine comes with two pallets and we have designed and manufactured our own tooling. The blocks are loaded on a tombstone fixture that accommodates 48 blocks at a time – eight rails of six blocks per rail. In two shifts we machine approximately 700 blocks.”

“Both of these components are safety critical components so the repeatability has to be less than a micron.”

“I am also proud to say that because of the success of this project we are currently being assessed to machine and supply more safety critical components for fuel and brake lines.”

Core competencies
“Tiagen Industrial has manufactured a wide variety of tooling for a broad spectrum of industries and this will remain our core business. Some examples that we have manufactured include lead moulds, pasting tooling and punch tooling for the battery market, bead tooling, extruder spares such as preforms and die plates and tread tooling such as calendaring rolls and steelastic dies for the tyre industry and tooling, including forming, sealing and cutting tools for the hygiene industry.”


A calendar roll for tyre wire feeding manufactured by Tiagen Industrial


Tiagen Industrial manufactures tooling and components for the automotive, food processing and pharmaceutical industries

“We have a design department that uses SolidWorks as our CAD package so we can design from concept as we did with our blade manufacturing machine and the many other special purpose machines that we have manufactured.”

“The decision to diversify has paid off if you consider that the company has grown 60 per cent in 2015 and we have created more employment opportunities. In the last few months we have employed 13 extra staff and our compliment now stands at 40 people.”


Sanitary tooling – rotary dies


Components that have been manufactured by Tiagen Industrial

“I’ve seen companies that relied too heavily on one market, or one customer, and when the economy faltered, they ended up going out of business because they didn’t have a backup plan. We have put in more than one backup plan. Contract production machining and fabrication, and currently a third one is taking shape. This involves sourcing products and materials that are supplied in bulk. Admittedly a number of these are sourced from off-shore suppliers at this stage because they are not available locally. However, in the future we will definitely consider manufacturing locally if it is viable.”

For further details contact Tiagen Industrial on TEL: 041 451 2838 or visit www.tiagenindustrial.co.za