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Preparing South African business for the 4IR

September 2020 News

Incorporated into Electra Mining Africa 2020 Connect’s Automation Day theme on 8 September, the SAIMC hosted a well-attended webinar under the title, ‘Preparing South African business for the 4IR, getting the business and technical frameworks right to ensure success’.

Moderated by Dave Wibberley, MD Adroit Technologies, the session addressed the competitive opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), as well as the threats faced by those economies that fall behind in its adoption.

First to speak, Marc Van Pelt, MD of Pepperl+Fuchs in South Africa, highlighted the vision of 4IR in the context of the recent report of the Presidential Advisory Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, delivered to President Cyril Ramaphosa on 6 August. In particular, he stressed the need to invest in upskilling the youth of South Africa to equip them for employment in the new industrial era. Infrastructure was another point he emphasised, in particular, the importance of a 5G network to provide the critical ‘last mile’ of connection needed to complete the digital networks that underpin the 4IR.

Sasol’s Stefan Strydom (head of digital) and Oratile Sematle (digital lead) followed with a presentation on the importance of evaluating the business benefits of a 4IR project before any technology is actually deployed. In Sasol’s case, it was forced into digital transformation as there was just no other way to keep up with the demand for more accurate supply chain information from its customers. Sematle explained how modern customers are demanding a better experience in terms of order placement, product availability, lead times and order tracking, right through to delivery. Sasol risked losing its supplier status if it did not comply and was therefore forced to adopt 4IR technologies as nothing else was sophisticated enough to solve such complex, multi-dimensional business problems.

Analytics and insights specialist at Sasol, Annemarie van Coller, concluded the session with an overview of how the relevance and accuracy of data becomes the most important thing in the design of systems to solve problems similar to those faced by the previous speakers. She stressed the importance of understanding the data requirements within the context of the business problems that need to be solved and the need for multi-skilled professional teams to develop the required implementation models.

The message is clear. South Africa needs a workable 4IR implementation strategy or risk becoming an obsolete supplier in a globally evolving supply chain. Upskilling of people and a reliable 5G infrastructure are prerequisites


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