Perfection Tool and Die embraces transformation

Now a 51% black women owned company.

“Perfection is a goal every business strives for, but when it’s part of your name, you feel even more responsible for it,” says Filipe dos Santos, one of the members of Perfection Tool and Die, an Anderbolt, Boksburg, Gauteng based general machining shop which over the years has serviced industries such as the armaments, motor, plastic, coal mining and gold mining.

“The company name is a bit misleading in that our primary focus is not on manufacturing tools and dies, although this does make up a certain percentage of the mix, but rather on machining all types of precision small and medium size mass production components,” continued Filipe.

“Equally perfection is a tricky target, always moving just when you think you have it in your sights. But the search goes on in this company to match the word, sometimes looking for greater systemisation where it makes sense, other times looking for the little tricks that end up yielding the process improvements we continuously seek.”


Perfection Tool and Die has 48 CNC lathes and 16 CNC machining centres on the shopfloor. The mix of metal removal machines includes Victors, Leadwells, Tongtais and Doosans


Components that the company has machined for the SKA project

“Without embracing the meaning of the word, there’s no way we could have remained competitive in the market and we would become a standard machine shop just like everyone else.”

“When the company was established in 1974 by Norbert Bohn it might have focused on tool and die manufacture for the first few years that it was in existence, but that soon changed when CNC machines were introduced into the company’s asset register.”

“My father Raul, who had earlier immigrated to South Africa from Portugal once he had qualified as a fitter and turner, joined up with Norbert in the 1980s specifically to run the CNC machines as he had some experience with programming. He was soon offered a partnership and has remained with the company ever since, although both Norbert and Raul take a back seat these days.”

Spreading out
“The core of the business, once it had made the transition into the CNC environment, was machining components for the armaments industry. We are thankful that the disciplines and precision required to operate in this industry, set up a culture in the company that still exists. However, today we do not machine one component for this industry, such has been our diversification.”

“When I joined the company 11 years ago as an apprentice the business had diversified into the mining industry but it was still reliant on a handful of clients.”


Perfection Tool and Die manufactures aluminium extrusion moulds and rolling profiles for polycarbonate roof sheeting for one of its clients


A CNC machine that has been adapted to perform deep hole drilling

“Five years ago we made a concerted effort to spread our wings, and thank goodness we did because although mining components still make up 30% of our business, the numbers have dropped off dramatically due to the state of the mining industry.”

“The rail transport industry now accounts for 30%, and general engineering the balance.”

With 48 CNC lathes, 16 CNC machining centres, three CNC spark eroders, as well as a number of conventional milling and turning machines on the floor of the 4000m² under cover facility, there is a huge amount of machining capacity that the company has to fill every month.

The mix of metal removal machines includes Victors, Leadwells, Tongtais and Doosans, and the three spark eroders are manufactured by Aristech and supplied by EDM Shop.


Perfection Tool and Die can perform many machining operations including turning and threading on shafts. The company also has 5-axis capabilities


Perfection Tool and Die has a close relationship with Kennametal, both as a supplier and as Kennametal’s client for tooling purchases

“The company has always believed in investing in its equipment. When I joined in 2004 we took delivery of 14 CNC machines, such was the demand in the mining industry. The components that we were machining, which we still do today, included drill rods, roof bolts, drill bits and bodies. To give you an example of how this business has declined, at one stage we were machining 45 000 drill bits a week but this has been reduced to 7 500 a week.”

Perfection Tool and Die’s CNC turning capabilities are between 5 and 450mm turning diameter with a maximum length 1.8 between centres. The CNC milling capabilities have a maximum table size of 1450 x 700mm and 750mm high (Z axis). A number of the machines have 4-axis capabilities as well as 5th axis where necessary. Conventional turning can be carried out on components up to three metres between centres with a one metre swing.

“The spark eroders are a recent addition to the shopfloor. Initially we purchased two machines but the increase in orders called for a third machine to be added. We are not using them in the conventional sense in that we are using them as production machines manufacturing broach couplings, which take us on average 30 minutes per component. We used to send this work out but the supplier was taking too long to deliver, hence we invested in the equipment,” explained Filipe.

Adaption of machines
A better machining process is the fundamental tool that underlies Perfection Tool and Die’s ability to perform. But they need more than that to differentiate themselves from the pack.

“Anyone can buy machines and sell labour and capacity. So, what truly matters is how effectively they deploy that labour and capacity to deliver maximum value to their customers. And it is here that Perfection Tool and Die truly excels.”


Perfection Tool and Die has adapted this CNC machine to operate as a high-speed machine specifically used in drilling operations. The turret has been removed from this machine and a base plate with fixtures, and a Kennametal KM 63 quick change-tooling adaptor have been added


In Plant 1 Perfection Tool and Die carries out cutting, fabrication, inspection and turning operations

“There are several important principles in play at the shop. Perhaps foremost among them is how we manage capacity. Rather than placing the emphasis on maximum utilisation of our assets, the key is to maintain capacity that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. This as much as anything allows the shop to remain flexible to customers’ delivery requirements, many of which are difficult or impossible to manage without elaborate planning systems.”

“Does that mean the shop is stocked with idle machines just waiting for a hot order? Not at all. Our approach is to maintain a uniformity and redundancy of production capability across the shop, particularly in milling and turning processes so that we are seldom dependent on a single machine.”

However it is the company’s ability to adapt its machinery to suit its needs that makes it stand out. In one example it has taken a CNC lathe and turned it into a CNC deep hole drilling machine. This has been done by removing the turret off the saddle, adding a self-centering V block as a jig for clamping and a high-pressure pump. The drill in the spindle now runs perfectly in the centre and is used in a production situation.

In another situation the turret has been removed from a machine and a base plate with fixtures, and a Kennametal KM 63 quick change-tooling adaptor added. The machine now operates as a high-speed machine specifically used in drilling operations.

“Finding innovative ways to produce quality parts is what Filipe is about,” quipped brother Miguel who joined the company in 2007, and looks after the administration and sales side of the business.


Perfection Tool and Die has a close relationship with its suppliers. A Matrix vending machine has been supplied by Iscar


The three Aristech spark eroders supplied by EDM Shop are used as production machines manufacturing broach couplings

“Most shops would take the component off the machine after the first machining operation and re-fixture it on a second machine to finish. But Filipe’s fixtures are designed so there is less downtime and more production,” continued Miguel.

“Another example of the company’s ability to meet the process requirements and quality is that we have a dedicated section of machines that only carry out pre-machining operations. Final machining is then done on other machines. We do this because we find we can achieve tighter tolerances on the finished component.”

“Of course, we are always striving for better outcomes, reduced costs and most importantly, customer satisfaction. We have a great asset in our talented, highly productive employees. We look for the same qualities in our suppliers,” said Miguel.

“An illustration of this is when we considered changes in our inventory management by performing a weekly inventory or having our tool crib managed by a supplier. After exploring our options we decided that the only solution was tool vending. That being said we were faced with several vending options. We considered a couple of vending machines before deciding to go with the Matrix by Iscar. The ease at which the Matrix controls and monitors inventory while controlling usage was a key element in selecting the Matrix.”

“We have added to the system with what we call our ‘post box’ system. In many instances the tools are too big for the Matrix to house so we have built a number of ‘post boxes’ and the Matrix houses the key to these ‘post boxes’ without compromising the control.”

“Kennametal is a big supplier of ours and they have helped us tremendously in setting up the various adaptor systems.”

SKA involvement
“As we all know the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a unique instrument, with the detailed design and preparation now well under way. As one of the largest scientific endeavours in history, the SKA will bring together a wealth of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers to bring the project to fruition.”


In Plant 2 chamfering, deburring, milling, drilling and spark eroding operations are performed


A general view of Plant 2

“Local industry is benefitting from the offset or government funding programs, and we can proudly say that we are playing a part. Although we are not supplying directly we are machining shafts, housings, flanges, covers plates, bushings, nuts and drive axis components for Efficient Engineering who are directly involved,” said Miguel.

“There are numerous components – too many to count – but we have to complete the machining within the next three months so it is all systems go.”

“The SKA will eventually use thousands of dishes and up to a million antennas that will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail, and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence. Engineering supply companies will have to ensure that the SKA meets and even exceeds the science requirements. It goes without saying that we will have to supply components that meet the highest quality standards.”

Embracing change and transformation
“One of the pillars of Perfection Tool and Die’s current business approach is ‘deepening transformation’, an imperative that aims not simply to achieve compliance but to lead the industry in transformation.”

“We have put a concerted effort into this and are pleased to announce that as of the beginning of this year we are now a majority black owned business. The main features of the BEE transaction were the sale of 51% of our activities to a black women owned company Leaf Pebble. Lungile Njara, Cynthia Sibeko and Phili Bulunga have joined the management team and will in future play an active part in the running of the business,” explained Miguel.

“This fits in with our strategy to move the company from a general engineering jobshop to one that will be service orientated, while expanding our range of clients and industries we serve. There are great opportunities in the transportation and green energy environments that we want to capitalise on in the future.”


Perfection Tool and Die used to machine 45 000 drill bits a week, but this has been reduced to 7 500 a week due to the downturn in the mining industry


The management team at Pefection Tool and Die: Miguel (seated) and Filipe dos Santos, Cynthia Sibeko, Lungile Njara, Jesse Bohn and Phili Bulunga

Another family member of the original directors has also recently joined the company. Norbert’s grandson Jesse Bohn came on board two years ago, and is currently getting to grips with all aspects of the business while completing a BTech degree.

“With the amount of machines that we have at our disposal we will have capacity available. We want to fill this, and continue to look at adding other metal cutting and forming disciplines to the services we already offer,” said Jesse.

“The company already has a disciplined approach in that we have two separate plants where operations are carried out. In Plant 1 we have cutting, fabrication, inspection and turning, and in Plant 2 we have chamfering, deburring, milling, drilling and spark eroding.”

“With a little bit of rearrangement we can add more equipment.”

Other cost cutting and value-added services that Perfection Tool and Die has incorporated into the company’s production processes to make them more efficient, some out of necessity because of the recent surge in power outages and costs in South Africa, has been the purchase of a generator and the installation of a power correction system.

Additionally the company has installed a coolant recycling plant.

The company machines most materials whether it be castings, forgings or in block. Some of Perfection Tool and Die’s clients include names such as Boart Longyear, Sandvik, OMC, Delfos, Atlas Copco and Secoroc plus many more. The company employs 55 factory staff and 69 in total.

“We know that it is not just about building a good attitude toward customer service. It is also about extending the kind of machining capabilities that would be flexible and efficient enough to deliver the performance that our service-oriented business model demands. We know that we cannot compete with low overhead small machine shops. What we have to offer is the flexibility that those shops deliver when they want to, but with consistently high quality while keeping an ever vigilant handle on cost control,” concluded Filipe.

For further details contact Perfection Tool and Die on TEL: 011 918 3177 or visit