How the EFC is assisting firms to branch into new technologies (CNC Training Programme)


The eThekwini Furniture Cluster’s (EFC) aim is to assist member firms achieve competitiveness through innovation. To do this, one of the EFC’s focus areas is to address the technical skills gap within the furniture sector through the cost-effective mechanism of Clustering. This process is illustrated in the graphic below:

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CNC Machining skills are scarce within South Africa, with little to no formal programmes available to manufacturers to redress this. This is hindering the ability for local manufacturers to become more competitive with cheaper imports due to the inability for existing processes to produce products at customer price points and quality specifications, often because of limited capacity.

CNC machinery is a pre-programmed factory tool utilised for automated cutting of various hard materials within the manufacturing process. The advantage of using this technology is that it increases the productivity of manufacturing processes while enhancing product quality, by minimising opportunities for human error and allowing for a more effective allocation of employee resources to other tasks.

Through the clustering mechanism above, the EFC developed and provided a customised CNC training programme for 10 participants. In order to fully equip firms to utilise CNC machinery, firms required proficiency in AutoCAD/SolidWorks and AlphaCAM. These were also skill areas lacking from the sector and so, were incorporated into the CNC training programme to ensure the most benefit was gained by attendees.

The training programme ran for 10 days over 2 months and culminated in participants receiving accredited certifications in AutoCAD Essentials and AlphaCAM, as well as practical experience on CNC Machinery.

As a business operating in a highly competitive landscape, it is important to invest in technologies which will assist in producing larger volumes of a standardised quality at faster rates. This requires a large financial investment in programming software and the machinery itself. AutoCAD and AlphaCAM are universally accepted programmes for most CNC machines. Before purchasing machinery make sure to scope out all options that are available, and their programme requirements. For SMEs interested in renting machinery and/or workshop space please contact and we will gladly assist with linking you to the appropriate service provider/s.

AutoCAD and AlphaCAM fundamentals are not the only existing technological gaps within the SA furniture sector. Others include the use of Fushion360 and Sketch-up pro. These are examples of underutilised tools available to industry which could provide massive opportunities for firms to be better equipped to meet customer requirements, through capabilities such as virtual prototyping. The EFC is investigating these tools for future training initiatives.

If you would like to share your innovation story, suggest any skill or development areas needed by furniture businesses for the EFC to take into consideration, or would like to find out more about the EFC’s programmes, please contact Paige Jenje on 031 764 6100 or email