History & Development

The main welding section of TOMCAT Manufacturing at the head office in Worcester, Western Cape

The main welding section of TOMCAT Manufacturing at the head office in Worcester, Western Cape

The Early Years

The idea of a locally manufactured wood chipper range with the capacity of chipping between 100mm and 250mm brush started back in 2008. Proper market research was done and the first ever TOMCAT came to life in a garage at the beginning of 2009. It was a PTO gravity-fed unit with 150mm chipping capacity. This unit was the first and only gravity-feed chipper in TOMCAT’s history with a horizontal in-feed hopper similar to our modern-day hydraulic-feed units. It was welded onto a double axle trailer to make it tow-able. It was taken to a nearby test site where it was hooked behind a Vaaljapie tractor. The first test branch was thrown into the chipper's feed hopper with huge anticipation and mixed emotions. Faces lit up when the wood chips went flying through the air! The pulling power of the chipper was exceptional. The wood chips were collected and inspected to make sure that the dimensions of the wood chips were correct. And so the TOMCAT journey began.

First TOMCAT wood chipper built and tested in 2009

First TOMCAT wood chipper built and tested in 2009

A More Efficient Process

The first 59 TOMCAT wood chippers were manufactured by a local engineering company in town. The assembly was done in the heart of the Boland in a small workshop located in the industrial area of Worcester. 

This was only until 2011, at which point the TOMCAT Manufacturing department was started, taking control over the boiler-making, welding and final assembly of the product at the premises in Worcester where we are today. Most of the production process was still outsourced at this point, such as spray-painting, drum-balancing, hydraulics, trailers and electronics. However, this was extremely time consuming as all the suppliers were located at different locations and some were as far as 100km away from the factory. Quality control was difficult to do and tedious. For example, when a defect was spotted on the spray-painting, the chipper had to be transported back to the spray-painting company in town. We had to wait for a slot to get fit in their production line and then have the machine transported back to our factory. This also contributed to frustrated salesman and many potential deals lost.

The decision was then made to start building the whole product in-house and under one roof, so that we can take complete control of every part of the production process. This was a costly procedure, but by doing so we could track the chippers’ progress, check the quality every step of the way, save costs and honour delivery dates set by ourselves. Today the TOMCAT Manufacturing Plant consists of a boiler maker, 3 full-time welding sections, a drum balancing section, state of the art spray-painting booth, pre-assembly bay, cleaning section, final assembly bay and dedicated chipper workshop. We do our own hydraulics and also have two fully qualified auto-electricians. Each station is responsible for a specific part of the process and the tradesman at that station is qualified in his relevant field. Quality insurance is done throughout the production process, which ensures quality and reduces downtime. The average production time of a new chipper from date of order used to be 16 to 20 weeks. In 2020 we managed to streamline this process to down to 10 working days should all the parts be in stock at the parts store.

The very first trade-show for TOMCAT Chippers

The very first trade-show for TOMCAT Chippers

One of the welding bays in the main welding section

One of the welding bays in the main welding section

Parts Store

A fully-stocked parts store supplies all the parts to the manufacturing department for the production of new units, as well as offering sales to existing customers. When a tradesman runs out of something as small as a washer the whole chippers’ assembly comes to a standstill. It is therefore even more important for us as a manufacturer to keep all the necessary parts in stock in order for the product line to flow and keep producing without unnecessary delays. This is also a direct advantage for our customers as we always have stock, even if the suppliers don’t have. This limits downtime for our clients in the field when they working at full capacity and a breakdown occurs.

All the major TOMCAT wear parts except the chipper blades are locally sourced from local manufacturers. Bearings, pulleys, v-belts, bolts & nuts, gearboxes, clutches and hydraulics are all stocked countrywide at leading retailers.

The parts store to supplies parts directly to clients and the manufacturing plant

The parts store to supplies parts directly to clients and the manufacturing plant

The Growing Market

The first chippers were sold mainly within the borders of the Western Cape. The models included the Model 750 CDT, 1000 Series, 1500 Series and the very popular 2500 Series. The typical industries TOMCAT served were small-holdings, landscapers, garden services, nurseries, housing estates, golf estates and fruit farmers. In 2010 we offered only two different options, while our 2020 range now consists of over 15 different wood chipper models, a log splitter range, a stump grinder, compost turner range, screen chippers and chipper shredders.

Our drum-style wood chippers are available in two styles: gravity-feed and hydraulic-feed. Our chippers can be engine-driven, PTO-driven or electric. Our drum-style wood chippers range from 100mm to 375mm capacity.

Today our chippers are used at municipal waste sites, in forestry, by tree-fellers, for the bio-fuel market, for alien clearing projects in river systems, on compost plants, or for chipping plastic pipes for the recycling industry. As the range expanded we also started selling TOMCAT wood chippers to other provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Today our TOMCAT equipment is sold across South Africa and we export to Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Senegal, Swaziland, Mauritius, Seychelles and even as far as Australia!

And then off course as the sales expand to other countries and the customer base increases, the after-sales service and support becomes extremely important to back your product in the field. We have fully equipped service teams who attend to major services and breakdowns anywhere in South Africa. We can also train the customers' staff while we service their wood chipper on their premises. The product dealer networks of our trusted suppliers such as BMG, Kirloskar, Yamaha, Honda and Perkins Engines also help, as parts are readily available nationwide. Our established dealer network in all the provinces of South Africa assists customers with peace of mind when it comes to service, maintenance and repairs.

Chipping dried reeds for the production of briquettes for biofuel in Tanzania.

Chipping dried reeds for the production of briquettes to be used as biofuel in Tanzania.

Thick logs are chipped with a TOMCAT 250 AFE wood chipper for the production of compost in central Mozambique.

Thick logs are chipped with a TOMCAT 250 AFE wood chipper for the production of compost in central Mozambique.

A TOMCAT 200 AFE Wood Chipper busy chipping palm fronds/palm leaves on Mahe, Seychelles.

A TOMCAT 200 AFE Wood Chipper busy chipping palm fronds/palm leaves on Mahe, Seychelles.

A TOMCAT 375 AFE Wood Chipper processing Agave plants to use as compost in Kenya.

A TOMCAT 375 AFE Wood Chipper processing Agave plants to use as compost in Kenya.

A TOMCAT 150 Screen Chipper making Bos-Tot-Kos in the South of Namibia from Prosopis trees.

A TOMCAT 150 Screen Chipper making Bos-Tot-Kos in the South of Namibia from Prosopis trees.

Swarthaak processed through a TOMCAT 150 AFE Chipper Shredder in Botswana to make animal feed.

Swarthaak processed through a TOMCAT 150 AFE Chipper Shredder in Botswana to make animal feed.

What does the term “locally manufactured” truly mean?

Locally manufactured for us means that the equipment is made using local labour, local raw material and parts suppliers. This means that when you purchase TOMCAT machines you support your local businesses and families.

We manufacture these units in South Africa for South Africa. We built them tough and able to withstand the harshest conditions possible, while also trying to make them as affordable we can.

The fact that we are local also means that the after-sales support is local and is done by people who understand the product and its inner workings 110% and understand that South Africans always need it yesterday and they don’t want to waste time with unnecessary maintenance and funny stuff...

When your chipper has a breakdown and you can’t repair it straight away it is costing you money. The repair itself will cost you money, but the downtime even more so. Now image all you are waiting for is two bolts on the drum/disc assembly... Imported machines without the proper back-up and support are expensive.

We understand that it is important when you require assistance you need it as soon as possible. At TOMCAT we make sure that an expert assists you and we can do it in Afrikaans, English and even in Zulu.

history 5

The Final Assembly section of TOMCAT Manufacturing

What does TOMCAT stand for?

TOMCAT Wood Chippers can basically be summarised as follows:

T  -  TOUGH   (Durable design with the application in mind)

O  -  ORIGINAL   (TOMCAT Wood Chippers are uniquely designed & manufactured in South Africa)

M  -  METICULOUS   (Passionate, precise and careful attention to detail)

C  -  CREATIVE   (Out-of-the-box thinking, coming up with solutions and exploring new possibilities)

A  -  AUTHENTIC   (Not copied, but created through innovation, passion & perseverance)

T  -  TRANSPARENT   (Integrity, honesty & thorough communication from our team)