Training by the numbers: Ikusasa CNC Training Centre celebrates successful first year of training

For many people in metalworking, the term training evokes an image of a white-haired, pot-bellied old timer showing a young, somewhat attentive apprentice how to run a machine on the production floor. If you are a machine operator, you probably received your training on the job working under the watchful eye of an experienced operator.

That kind of training may have been adequate a few generations ago. However, as machine tools have become more sophisticated (and expensive) and as tolerance for errors of any kind in the machining process approaches zero, more formal training programmes are becoming a more attractive training alternative for small shops as well as large manufacturing concerns.

The founders of Ikusasa CNC Training Centre recognised this fact and launched the company one year ago with a specific aim to train employees in G-Code programming, CNC setting and CNC machine operating. This vision of industry specific training has now expanded to include those that may not have the computer or machine skills required to participate in the above training courses. Training programmes for other areas associated with CNC machining that are necessary for an individual to become a skilled and competent CNC operator are currently being developed.

Candidates at Ikusasa CNC Training Centre complete their training courses with practical experience on a CNC machining center and a CNC lathe

“The company’s immediate goal and vision was to help the Engineering industry fill the skills development void by offering introductory, intermediate and advanced turning and milling courses allowing unskilled individuals the opportunity to become skilled and qualified machinists,” explained Ryan Scott of Ikusasa CNC Training Centre.

“It soon became apparent to us that there were many that did not even have basic computer skills, which is a prerequisite if you are to be tasked with operating an expensive CNC machine. From a number’s standpoint, the position of CNC machine operator tends to be the most difficult for companies to keep fully staffed. A component producing company that has 10 CNC machines and works two shifts may have one or two programmers, three or four setup people, and as many as 15 to 20 operators. For this reason, and because it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire experienced CNC operators, more and more companies are finding it necessary to provide tailor-made training for new employees.”

“A prospective CNC machine operator needs to understand the basics of computer operating, have a grasp of maths, be able to interpret the documentation and be able to identify key dimensions and tolerances prior to CNC machine training and subsequent CNC machine operation.”

“If you expect your CNC operators to make sizing adjustments, they will be performing calculations on a very regular basis. Admittedly, most calculations they make will be simple, involving nothing more than addition and subtraction. But they must be able to make those simple calculations over and over again and understand them, without making mistakes.”

“In almost all companies, documentation includes a blueprint for the workpiece being machined. While they may not be required to visualise a three-dimensional workpiece from a series of two-dimensional views (they will have a finished workpiece to help them), the operators must be able to identify key dimensions and tolerances for the workpieces being machined on the equipment they run.”

“There is also the aspect of tolerance interpretation for the workpiece attributes they will be sizing and machining.”

Ikusasa CNC Training Centre has three training rooms

“We believe that machining “knowledge” consists of a range of general, contextual information. Although the company will be concentrating on upskilling candidates to become skilled in G-Code, CNC setting and machine operating, the company has engaged the services of three cutting tooling companies to train delegates on the importance of tooling when machining. This includes the essential machine operations of cutting speed, the role of the toolholder, the purpose of a cutting tool coating and various other machining-related tasks that a machine shop will require. All of which are areas of machining that influence how quickly an employee can assimilate new tasks and respond to new challenges.”

“Through our courses we can now take an unskilled shopfloor employee, train him or her in these introductory skills and, once they have passed the written exam, continue onto the intermediate training before qualifying on the advanced programmes. Again, written tests will have to be done.”

“Only then will the prospective operator have practical training on our CNC milling machine and CNC lathe that have been installed in the training centre.”

1 250 candidates pass through training centre in first year
“We have employed two full time Merseta moderated trainers to run our courses and have had to call on the services of a further two trainers regularly such has been the demand. 1 250 candidates have passed through our training centre in the first year, which clearly indicates the importance that companies in our industry are placing on training.”

“Our courses have been moderated by Merseta and we should receive our accreditation in the first quarter of 2020. Coupled with our Level 2 B-BBEE rating companies are able to claim back their skills levy if they send employees to us to be trained.”

“I must emphasise that once a candidate reaches the advanced stages of training, which is the practical training on the CNC machines, there are only four per class, so as to get maximum attention from the trainer.”

“We have both Fanuc and Siemens CNC machine controls so a candidate is exposed to more than one brand.”

“The individual stages of the courses are held over two or three days, depending at what stage the candidate is at. The basic and introductory courses are held on a Saturday.”

New courses for 2020 – Measuring devices
“CNC operators must be able to measure the workpiece attributes being machined by the equipment they run. They must be able to accurately determine the current size of a workpiece attribute before any sizing decisions can be made, and you must ensure that they master the use of the measuring devices involved. Most operators are regularly required to use variable gauges like micrometers, verniers, height and bore diameter gauges and callipers.”

“Currently we are developing the course material for a measuring and metrology course and will offer it as another course early in 2020. Again, we will have equipment on hand so that we can take a candidate through the final stage, which is practical use.”

CAD and CAD/CAM courses
“Importing and exporting CAD files is a fundamental function of CAM software. An understanding of this process can help you know what to expect and will aid you when making a CAM purchase. For 2020 we are going to intensify our efforts on CAD and CAD/CAM training as this is another area where the industry is in very short supply.”

The idea of Ikusasa CNC Training Centre – meaning the future in the Zulu language – has been formulated by concerned industry leaders who have vast knowledge in CNC machining, CAD/CAM and the associated software programmes.

Although the courses have been designed and developed by industry personnel, Ikusasa have not neglected the importance of streamlining with the governing requirements and have aligned their courses, which are delivered by industry personnel, with MERSETA and other governing learnership programmes.

For further details contact Ikusasa CNC Training Centre on TEL: 011 663 2600 or visit