Irishmen and Brothers Fred and Frank Thompson, founders of Benoni based Thompson Machine Tools in October 1971, started the company as a two- man enterprise focussing on the buying and selling of used machine tools.
Their youngest brother, Philip, joined the company in 1972 serving his apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, while familiarizing himself with machine tools, after which he took over the position as a sales representative.
With another brother, John Thompson, joining the company as a sales representative in 1974, Thompson Machine Tools developed more and more into a family business and even today in 2021 is still a family business.
Business grew rapidly, and in 1973 a large showroom was built in Elston Avenue, Benoni, with staff numbers jumping to twelve people. Just two years later the company decided to purchase a three acre industrial stand in Apex, on which a 5500 square metre building, with workshop, showroom and offices, was built. It was the most modern and up-to- date machine tool workshop and showroom in southern Africa with a floor space of 2800 square metres. “This was to be the largest machine tool showroom in the southern hemisphere,” reflects Fred Thompson as he recalls the halcyon days of the late Seventies and early Eighties.”
“But sadly, all good things must come to an end and so it was that between 1982 and 1987, the machine tool industry went through what must rank as one of its worst ever recessions.”
“In the spring of 1983, Frank decided to sell his shares to his two younger brothers, John and Philip, both of whom had been involved with the company for many years. With sales at an all-time low and interest rates at an all-time high, the next four years were to be the toughest, but ironically the most rewarding, for the company.” Thompson Machine Tools positioned itself at the top amongst the leading machine tool dealers in South Africa.
While in those days a major part of the company’s used machine tools was imported from Britain and Europe, Thompson Machine Tools not only expanded locally in the former province of South Africa, then called Transvaal but all over the Republic, and exports to neighbouring states were on the increase.
Patrick Zackey subsequently joined the company in 1987 as a shareholder and director when Interprovince Engineering Supplies was formed. Several years later he was also instrumental in the forming of Craft Machine Tools but subsequently retired in 2013 when his son Thomas Zackey took over his shares in the company.
Thompson Machine Tools became a major player in the Used Machine Tool Merchants Association (UMTMA), an organisation of reliable, established machinery dealers working together for the betterment of the industrial body of machine tool users. The association was primarily founded to protect the end user of machine tools from unscrupulous dealers. Both brothers, Fred and Frank Thompson, served as chairman of UMTMA on several occasions.
While over the years Thompson Machine Tools became synonymous with used machine tools, back in the early nineties, the company saw a gap in the new machine tool market and it was then that Craft Machine Tools was born. Craft Machine Tools became the dominant force and ever since has been challenging in a market that is extremely competitive.
The company is southern African sole agent for Craft from Taiwan and China, the Dalian Machine Tool Group from China, Fair Friend (Feeler) and WinHo both from Taiwan.
Craft Machine Tools’ product portfolio includes CNC turning centres, CNC machining centres, guillotines, pressbrakes, centre lathes, turret mills, radial & pedestal drills, slotting machines, sawing machines and universal iron workers.
Philip Thompson, Managing Director 082-493-1981
Fred Thompson, Director 082-903-2509
Gavin Kriek, Director 083 397 8537
Thomas Zackey, Director 083 298 9163