SAQA All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.

National Certificate: CNC Production Machining 
58025  National Certificate: CNC Production Machining 
SGB Manufacturing and Assembly Processes 
MERSETA - Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Education and Training Authority  OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
National Certificate  Field 06 - Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology  Manufacturing and Assembly 
Undefined  138  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  Regular-Unit Stds Based 
Passed the End Date -
Status was "Reregistered" 
SAQA 06120/18  2018-07-01  2023-06-30 
2024-06-30   2027-06-30  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 


The purpose of the qualification is to provide learners, education and training providers and employers with the standards and the range of learning required to manage and develop manufacturing capabilities, optimise manufacturing processes and plan and cost production in a CNC production machining environment.

This is the fourth qualification in a series for learners who want to follow a career in the field of CNC production machining, specifically in facilities which use machining and turning centres.

People working in the CNC production machining field require specialised technical skills and knowledge which combine some hand skills and an understanding of machining processes with more intensive production methods, greater control over the accuracy of dimensions and the maintenance of quality standards.

The primary skills that are recognised in this qualification are the ability to manufacture a range of complex new products, manage production and maintain production efficiencies, identify and resolve logistical, technical and human resource bottlenecks and shortcomings, and develop cost estimates, quotations and production schedules. These capabilities require an understanding of advanced CNC programming, the requirements of complex components, continuous improvement, the principles of costing and some manufacturing management principles.

Qualified learners will also understand:
  • How a business functions.
  • Their role in the business, i.e. in production and related activities.
  • How they are affected by legislation, regulations, agreements and policies related to their particular work environment.
    With this understanding learners will be able to participate effectively in workplace activities.

    This qualification is applicable to the following contexts within a CNC environment:
  • Costing and planning.
  • Production management.
  • Technical management/quality assurance.

    This qualification will ensure the development of relevant skills required by an industry sector essential for economic growth and transformation. This qualification will contribute to the social upliftment and development of employees and economic growth by allowing learners who are active in the industry to gain recognition for the skills and knowledge they have acquired without having to go through a formal apprenticeship process.


    The rapid uptake of new technology in the form of computerised numeric control (CNC) systems in South Africa and the emergence of South Africa as a cost-effective supplier to international markets has created a demand for people with the skills to operate, set and programme such equipment. In order to meet this demand in the form of learnerships and skills programmes, the industry needs an engineering machining qualification which focuses on the understanding and use of CNC systems and statistical process control (SPC). This qualification represents a shift away from the traditional field of engineering machining which is characterised by work-to-order, low volume manufacture of components using various machining methods.

    The emerging industry is characterised by greater precision, higher volumes, and higher standards of quality. This qualification spells out the skills needed to operate successfully in this new field.

    This is the last in a series of four qualifications in a learning pathway for CNC production machining which begins with the National Certificate in CNC Production Machining NQF Level 2. The series provides a developmental pathway for the full range of activities required for production machining. The skills and knowledge required are described in a generic manner so that the changing needs of particular worksites can be met without requiring changes to the qualification or the unit standards.

    Further career development after NQF Level 5 would be based on choices relating to the learner's aspirations: Choices include but are not limited to the following:
  • General or technical management.
  • Quality management.
  • Advanced technology.

    Typical learners would have achieved the Further Education and Training Certificate in CNC Production Machining. Once qualified, they would typically be responsible for responding to technical manufacturing challenges, developing programmes for complex components, managing production processes and resources and producing estimates and quotations. They would perform a range of tasks autonomously within the context of an overall team. This role represents a recognised position in the organisation.

    This qualification series recognises skills, knowledge and values relevant to a workplace and requires workplace experience. It is suitable for learners who:
  • Attend courses and then apply the knowledge gained to activities in the workplace (Portfolio to reflect formative assessment).
  • Are already workers and have acquired the skills and knowledge without attending formal courses (RPL can be done through the summative assessment and portfolio of evidence).
  • Participate in skills programmes and have the appropriate work experience.
  • Are part of a learnership programme which integrates structured learning and work experience.
  • Acquire their learning through any combination of the above.

    The outcomes of this qualification combine skills and knowledge in the technical, inter-personal and business spheres, enabling the learner to perform the operational aspects of the work, function within a team context and contribute to value-adding processes within the organisation.

    This qualification provides learners who have gained relevant experience in the workplace with an opportunity to obtain credits through an RPL process.

    The qualification also forms the basis for further learning in the field of production machining where the learner will be able to specialise in general management, further technical development, eg. engineering design or set up a run a business or business unit. The qualification, however, retains sufficient of the general engineering machining and mechanical assembly qualifications so that learners can still articulate into such qualifications.

    Learner achievements will contribute to the ability of South African companies to compete for work in the global economy, thus securing jobs and employment opportunities. 

    The following competencies are assumed for a learner embarking on this qualification:
  • Communication and Literacy, NQF Level 4.
  • Mathematical Literacy, NQF Level 4.

    In addition, learners are assumed to have the following skills at NQF Level 4 in the context of CNC production machining:
  • Interpret drawings and develop CNC machining process plans, programmes and work instructions for new components.
  • Set up and qualify all the processes.
  • Identify and rectify manufacturing problems.
  • Work as part of the manufacturing team and coach and support manufacturing personnel and learners.

    These skills form the basis for determining the credit allocation in this qualification. These skills may be acquired through the Further Education and Training Certificate in CNC Production Machining NQF. If a learner does not have such experience, the learning time will be increased. The allocation of credits is also based on the assumption that the learner will be working towards this qualification as part of a learning programme which integrates the unit standards.

    Recognition of Prior Learning:

    This qualification may be obtained through a process of RPL. The learner should be thoroughly briefed prior to the assessment and support should be provided to assist the learner in the process of developing a portfolio. The guidelines for integrated assessment should be used to develop the RPL assessment process. As with integrated assessment, while this is primarily a workplace-based qualification, evidence from other areas of endeavour may be introduced if pertinent to any of the Exit Level Outcomes.

    Access to the qualification:

    There is open access to this qualification. A workplace is, however, a prerequisite to obtaining the relevant work experience and evidence required for the assessment of the Exit Level Outcomes. 


    The rules of combination for this qualification are reflected in the matrix.

    The total number of credits for this qualification is 138.
    The total number of credits in the Fundamental component is 32.
    The total number of credits in the Core component is 88.
    The minimum number of Elective credits is 18.

    The elective credits should be chosen in accordance with the requirements of the selected context and the interests of the learner. 

    The Exit Level Outcomes for this qualification reflect a combination of Specific Outcomes and Critical Cross-field Education and Training Outcomes. The way in which the Critical Outcomes have been advanced through the learning required for this qualification is embedded in the way in which the unit standards have been constructed. Critical Outcomes form the basis for acquiring the skills and knowledge and values. The application of these in a specific context results in the achievement of Specific Outcomes. The integration of Specific Outcomes from a variety of unit standards results in the ability to achieve the Exit Level Outcomes.

    1. Manufacture a range of complex new products.
    2. Manage production and maintain production efficiencies.
    3. Identify and resolve logistical, technical and human resource bottlenecks and shortcomings.
    4. Develop cost estimates, quotations and production schedules.

    Critical Cross-field Outcomes:

    The Critical Cross-Field Outcomes are supported by the Exit Level Outcomes as follows:
  • Identifying and solving problems in which responses display that responsible decisions using critical thinking have been made.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Working effectively with others as a member of a team, group, organization and community.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Organising and managing oneself and one's activities responsibly and effectively.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Collecting, analyzing, organizing and critically evaluating information.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Communicating effectively using visual, mathematical and/or language skills.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Using science and technology effectively and critically, showing responsibility toward the environment and health of others.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes.
  • Demonstrating an understanding of the world as a set of related systems by recognizing that problem contexts do not exist in isolation.
    > Evident in all Specific Outcomes. 

  • Programmes for a variety of products are produced.
    > Range: Variety includes 4th axis, solid modelling, shading.
  • CAD drawings or models meet requirements of end-product.
  • Tools selected and machining specifications will achieve desired characteristics of component.
  • Data packs for the manufacturing process specify all elements of the manufacturing process and are cost-effective.
  • Explanations and contributions to technical discussion demonstrate an understanding of the principles and theories which underpin CAD, CAM and their relationship to CNC.
    > Range: Principles and theories include knowledge of packages available, drawing conventions, verification methods, calculations.

  • Effectiveness and efficiency of process and the use of resources is tracked and evaluated and changes are responded to.
  • The workplace is clean, safe, ordered and operating without bottlenecks or hazards.
  • Information on all aspects of the manufacturing process is monitored and trends are identified and responded to.

  • Manufacturing capacity is enhanced and developed.
  • Improvements and new settings or procedures are documented and result in products that meet and continue to meet customer needs.
  • Any changes or recommendations are based on systematic analysis and the effects of implementation are recorded and reported.
  • Problems and conflicts are identified, addressed appropriately, resolved and documented.

  • Orders are obtained, implemented and delivered.
  • Design implementation is optimised for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
  • Explanations and discussions related to costing and scheduling demonstrate an understanding of the impact of a broad range of factors.

    Integrated Assessment:

    The integrated assessment should be based on a summative assessment guide. The guide will specify how the assessor will assess different aspects of the performance and will include:
  • Evaluating evidence in a portfolio of evidence, particularly projects which integrate various aspects of the qualification and which demonstrate the integration of all aspects of learning: fundamental and core; knowledge, skills and values; the development of the critical outcomes.
  • Observing and listening to the learner at work, both in primary activities as well as in other interactions, or in relevant simulations.
  • Asking questions and initiating short discussions to test understanding and to verify other evidence.
  • Looking at records and reports.
  • Formative and summative assessment of unit standards.

    Assessment of competence for this qualification is based on experience acquired by the learner in the workplace, within the particular CNC production machining context. The assessment process should cover the explicit tasks required for the qualification as well as the understanding of the underlying concepts and principles. The assessment process should also establish how the learning process has advanced the Critical Cross-field Outcomes.

    The learner may choose in which language he/she wants to be assessed. This should be established as part of a process of preparing the learner for assessment and familiarising the learner with the approach being taken.

    While this is primarily a workplace-based qualification, evidence from other areas of endeavour may be presented if pertinent to any of the Exit Level Outcomes.

    Assessors should also evaluate evidence that the learner has been, and is, able to perform consistently over a period of time. 

    These qualifications represent the learning progression for an occupation which focuses on the machining of precision parts and components using computer numerical control (CNC). The stages of development related to CNC machining equipment are:
  • Operator.
  • Setter, including elements of programming.
  • Programmer, including trouble shooting and management of manufacturing processes.
  • Specialist, including process design, costing, trouble shooting and selection and implementation of new technology.
    Machining includes processes such as cutting, boring, turning, milling and grinding. It may also include punching and nibbling.

    These occupations have evolved from the traditional mechanical engineering trades such as machinist, turner and tool, jig and die maker. CNC has replaced manual operations and the focus has become the repeatable precision machining of components in a production environment, often as mass-production but not excluding small batches of product.

    The standards for the occupation are to a large extent determined by the market for the end-product. The arms, armaments, automotive and machine construction industries are some of the primary markets for machined products. The primary drivers for the requisite knowledge and skills in the occupation are the changing technology inherent in the machinery and the ancillary equipment such as tooling and fixtures. As technology evolves so the demands of the market place increase and practitioners' knowledge and skills sets must adapt in order to achieve effective use of the equipment. The sources of this knowledge and of the training related to it, are the equipment and tooling manufacturers and suppliers. Courses at educational institutions are in general not responsive enough for all the learning needs and can, at best, only provide a broad framework. During the development process one of the participants commented as follows, 'Looking at what other countries include in their courses is fallacious - it is more about what [knowledge and skill] is required to work with the systems and technology to produce products. In the end you [must] meet customer requirements'.

    Furthermore, many CNC courses are not designed for occupational development on a step-by-step basis. Generally the courses assume a general knowledge of machining or engineering and build CNC knowledge and skills specific onto this. One of the participants in the standards development process attended a 450 hour course in Sweden as part of the arms deal offset strategy. The course he attended cuts across 3 NQF levels. Other courses are design to focus on specific pieces of equipment such as a turning centre.

    Training processes for the occupations outlined above are varied. The following encompass some of the options:
  • Skills and knowledge upgrading of qualified tradespersons in the mechanical engineering field.
  • Short courses and on-the-job training.
  • Apprenticeships.
  • Vocational education and training programmes followed by a work experience component.

    The only way to make any meaningful comparisons was to compare occupational profiles in the following way:
  • Occupational role: Exit level outcomes.
  • Occupational activities: Unit standards and specific outcomes.

    This approach can be supported by referring to curriculum contents and course outlines.

    The above occupations and the related career path are similar to descriptions found in various OECD countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), eg the United States of America:

    Before CNC programmers ... machine a part, they must carefully plan and prepare the operation. First, these workers review three-dimensional computer aided/automated design (CAD) blueprints of the part. Next, they calculate where to cut or bore into the workpiece, how fast to feed the metal into the machine, and how much metal to remove. They then select tools and materials for the job and plan the sequence of cutting and finishing operations.

    Next, CNC programmers turn the planned machining operations into a set of instructions. These instructions are translated into a computer aided/automated manufacturing (CAM) program containing a set of commands for the machine to follow. These commands normally are a series of numbers (hence, numerical control) that describes where cuts should occur, what type of cut should be used, and the speed of the cut. CNC programmers and operators check new programs to ensure that the machinery will function properly and that the output will meet specifications. Because a problem with the program could damage costly machinery and cutting tools, computer simulations may be used to check the program instead of a trial run. If errors are found, the program must be changed and retested until the problem is resolved. In addition, growing connectivity between CAD/CAM software and CNC machine tools is raising productivity by automatically translating designs into instructions for the computer controller on the machine tool. These new CAM technologies enable programs to be easily modified for use on other jobs with similar specifications.

    After the programming work is completed, CNC operators perform the necessary machining operations. The CNC operators transfer the commands from the server to the CNC control module using a computer network link or floppy disk. Many advanced control modules are conversational, meaning that they ask the operator a series of questions about the nature of the task. CNC operators position the metal stock on the CNC machine tool-spindle, lathe, milling machine or other-set the controls, and let the computer make the cuts. Heavier objects may be loaded with the assistance of other workers, autoloaders, a crane, or a forklift. During the machining process, computer-control operators constantly monitor the readouts from the CNC control module, checking to see if any problems exist. Machine tools have unique characteristics, which can be problematic. During a machining operation, the operator modifies the cutting program to account for any problems encountered. Unique, modified CNC programs are saved for every different machine that performs a task.

    CNC operators detect some problems by listening for specific sounds-for example, a dull cutting tool or excessive vibration. Dull cutting tools are removed and replaced. Machine tools rotate at high speeds, which can create problems with harmonic vibrations in the workpiece. Vibrations cause the machine tools to make minor cutting errors, hurting the quality of the product. Operators listen for vibrations and then adjust the cutting speed to compensate. In older, slower machine tools, the cutting speed would be reduced to eliminate the vibrations, but the amount of time needed to finish the product would increase as a result. In newer, high-speed CNC machines, increasing the cutting speed normally eliminates the vibrations and reduces production time. CNC operators also ensure that the workpiece is being properly lubricated and cooled, because the machining of metal products generates a significant amount of heat.

    Apart from CNC-specific training, there are a number of common characteristics found in most general education and training programmes. These include:
  • Knowledge and ability to perform manual machining operations in at least one discipline.
  • Ability to read and interpret engineering drawings.
  • Knowledge of and ability to use and apply statistical process control techniques.
  • Principles and application of quality management systems, including customer focus.

    In addition to these occupation-specific requirements, general requirements such as communication, mathematical literacy, safety, health and the environment, risk assessment, team skills, computer literacy and problem solving abilities are also required.

    The German apprenticeship programme Zerspannungsmechaniker (Metal cutting technology mechanician/technician) was selected as representative for this emerging occupation. The new trade was first registered in 2004.

    This qualification was selected because:
  • It is a fairly recent development.
  • It comes from a country with a well-known and effective vocational and occupational education and training system.
  • CNC machinery is manufactured in Germany so the qualification would reflect the latest technology.
  • It is an advanced trade aimed at creating a technical specialist.

    The role and the activities of the mechanician include:
  • Evaluate and analyse production orders for technical feasibility.
  • Select sources of information and technical information for the execution of the manufacturing processes.
  • Select production systems according to requirements.
  • Plan manufacturing processes, develop, optimise and implement programmes for numerically controlled production systems.
  • Use data sheets, descriptions, manuals and other occupation-typical information also in English.
  • Organize the workplace and operational sequences according to schedule and cost-effectively and efficiently.
  • Manufacture components to specification by machine cutting technology and supervise the manufacturing process.
  • Use quality management systems, document and evaluate work and inspection results and derive from it measures for the optimisation of the product and the manufacturing process.
  • Supervise and examine safety measures, care for, maintain and examine production systems, work in the team, install the operation of production systems, co-ordinate their activities with other departments, respond to customer requirements.

    The curriculum content of the three and a half year apprenticeship is as follows:
  • Vocational orientation, basic conditions of employment.
  • Structure and processes of the workplace.
  • Safety and health in the workplace.
  • Environment.
  • Business (office) and technical communication.
  • Planning and organising of work and the evaluation of the work-related results or outcomes.
  • Identification, classification and handling of materials.
  • Manufacturing of components and parts.
  • Care and maintenance of production resources.
  • Application of control systems.
  • Fastening, securing and movement (of components to be machined).
  • Client orientation.
  • Planning of manufacturing (machining) processes.
  • Programming numerically controlled machine tool and finishing systems.
  • Setting of machine tool and manufacturing finishing systems.
  • Manufacture of work pieces.
  • Overseeing and optimising of manufacturing processes.
  • Business- and quality management in operational area.

    Embedded in the curriculum is considerable work experience at different levels of learning.

    Comparison with the South African NQF Level 5 qualification.

    The activities and the role described for the metal cutting mechanician broadly correspond to the Exit Level Outcomes:
  • Manufacture a range of complex new products.
  • Manage production and maintain production efficiencies.
  • Identify and resolve logistical, technical and human resource bottlenecks and shortcomings.
  • Develop cost estimates, quotations and production schedules.

    In addition, activities and curriculum content for the German qualification reflect in the selection of the unit standards and the essential embedded knowledge in the unit standards.

    The duration of the apprenticeship (3.5 years) is less that the nominal 4800 notional hours (ie the total of all four qualifications) reflected in the credits. The addition of fundamental unit standards in the South African qualifications would account for a large part of the difference.


  • McLennan, W (Statistician General) 1997. Australian Standard Classification of Occupations, Second Edition Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics










    Country specific searches were also made for Brazil, Korea, Japan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia. 

    This qualification has been designed and structured so that qualifying learners can move from one context within the CNC production machining environment to another. They would have to acquire the specific knowledge related to the new context and adjust their skills and values accordingly.

    Employers or institutions should be able to evaluate the outcomes of this qualification against the needs of their context and structure top-up learning appropriately. Holders of other qualifications may be evaluated against this qualification for the purpose of RPL and placement in learning programmes.

    This qualification articulates vertically with:
  • ID 49059: National Diploma: Master Craftsmanship: NQF Level 6.

    This qualification articulates horizontally with other engineering qualifications at this level, eg:
  • ID 22425 National Certificate: Engineering and Related Design NQF Level 5.
  • ID 49061 National Certificate: Master Craftsmanship, NQF Level 5.
  • National Diploma: Engineering, NQF Level 5. 

    Moderators for the qualification should be qualified and accredited with an appropriate ETQA:

    To assure the quality of the assessment process, the moderation should cover the following:
  • Assessor credentials.
  • The assessment instrument.
  • The assessment process.

    Moderators should be qualified assessors in their own right. 

    The following criteria should be applied by the relevant ETQA:
  • Appropriate qualification with a minimum of 2 years' experience of a relevant process of CNC production machining. The subject matter expertise of the assessor can also be established by recognition of prior learning.
  • Be active in the industry and be familiar with the particular aspect of the process and technology in which the learner has contextualised his/her skills and knowledge.
  • Appropriate experience and understanding of assessment theory, processes and practices.
  • Good interpersonal skills and ability to balance the conflicting requirements of:
    > Maintaining national standards.
    > The interests of the learner.
    > The need for transformation and redressing the legacies of the past.
    > The cultural background and language of the learner.
  • Registration as an assessor with a relevant ETQA.
  • Any other criteria required by a relevant ETQA. 

    As per the SAQA Board decision/s at that time, this qualification was Reregistered in 2012; 2015. 


    Core  13301  Produce complex engineering drawings  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Core  116783  Analyse trends and implement continuous improvements  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Core  243341  Assess and select CNC machining equipment and technology for acquisition  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Core  243340  Develop cost estimates and quotations  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Core  12458  Develop the skills of a work team  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Core  13237  Optimise the quality assurance system  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Core  243342  Plan and initiate the CNC machining process for complex components  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Core  13333  Write computer numerical controlled (CNC) programmes for CNC machining centres using proprietary software  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  30 
    Fundamental  15225  Identify and interpret related legislation and its impact on the team, department or division and ensure compliance  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Fundamental  12433  Use communication techniques effectively  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Fundamental  12432  Use mathematical and statistical techniques effectively  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  20 
    Elective  116782  Control logistical flow of components and materials  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  9904  Coordinate work group to produce product  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  13203  Counsel workgroup members in respect of HIV/AIDS  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  116793  Determine the viability of a business and monitor its performance  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Elective  116786  Manage the cash flow of a small business or a business unit  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5  10 
    Elective  119168  Order and ensure delivery from external suppliers for plastics manufacturing processes  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  119170  Plan, schedule and monitor plastics production  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  15235  Prepare and conduct staff selection interviews  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Elective  119180  Schedule and arrange maintenance and repairs for manufacturing operations  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 


    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.