Editor's Choice


MESA Africa 2022 year-end conference review

January 2023 Editor's Choice

I’ve attended five MESA conferences in my career, each one better than the last. This year, the theme was ‘Successful Manufacturing – The Next Steps’, and it did not disappoint. However, I experienced a funny thing as COVID restrictions disappeared: I have not enjoyed the conferences I’ve attended post-COVID. Maybe I got used to working from home and attending webinars and conferences from home.

So, this year I decided to participate virtually even though most attendees did so in person. The sound and presentations were all excellent on the virtual front, but I should have been there in person. I would have seen the exhibitions by some of the sponsors and enjoyed debates and laughs with old colleagues I have not seen in a while.


Daniel Spies, Chairman of MESA Africa, welcoming everybody.

The event was held over two days at the Black Eagle Hotel and Spa in Johannesburg. Looking through the virtual lens, I could see the event was well attended. The interaction with the various speakers was also a good sign of attendees paying attention and being interested in what was presented.

MESA exco member and master of ceremonies, Nick Stead, kicked off the proceedings on day one. He was followed by Daniel Spies, MESA Africa director and chairman, who thanked and welcomed everyone, especially the sponsors without whom this event would not have been possible: Schneider Electric as a Platinum sponsor, Iritron and Oculus as Gold sponsors, SAIMC as a Bronze sponsor, and MESA Europe chapter as the sponsor for the Best Paper award. These are all heavyweights in industrial automation in one form or another.

The standout presentations all embodied the same themes of sustainability and manufacturing possibility through digital and smart manufacturing. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores are the reality, now and into the future. As Pieter Theron from PWC said, “pretty soon, you might not be able to manufacture because your ESG score is unsustainable.” That made me ponder for a while…no wonder the COP 27 conference was trending high on social media during the MESA conference. There too, the ESG agenda came through powerfully.

As the theme of the conference suggested, the next step for all manufacturers is digital or smart manufacturing. As Walker Reynolds made clear, “you cannot have a sustainability strategy without going digital,” meaning that digital or smart manufacturing must be the foundation of your manufacturing company’s strategy. It must not be a destination but rather a never-ending journey. When we eventually reach 2050’s Net Zero emissions targets through smart manufacturing, there will be the next target to focus on, and digital/smart manufacturing will continue to be the driver.

Speaking of smart manufacturing, that is a perfect segue into the presentation by Uwe Kueppers from Rockwell Automation Europe, who walked the audience through the newly updated MESA Model, which now serves as the framework for smart manufacturing. I haven’t looked at the MESA Model in years, and it was refreshing to see the updates reflect the modern direction the manufacturing IT industry is heading.

An exciting development was the CEO of SAIMC, Johan Maartens’, introduction to the SAIMC and MESA marriage. I’d suggest any MESA and SAIMC members watch the engineering media outlets for this exciting news. Real-life examples pique my interest instead of generalisations and opinions, and Gerhard Greeff from Iritron produced such a presentation. He gave an insightful peek into the control system upgrade myths and misconceptions, and how to mitigate these should you ever embark on a project of that nature. Similarly, the panel discussions were the most entertaining, enlightening, insightful and every other word you can muster up to describe what real value looks and sounds like when industry experts sit down and talk.

Dhevan Pillay, group CEO of LTM Energy, Gina Schroeder from LWS Family, and Lorraine Jenks, a global TEDx speaker, showcased hard-hitting facts about green energy, sustainable manufacturing and our current electricity crisis. Even though there are solutions to our energy problems, the immediate carbon impact starts with all of us. The environmental saviour is not some carbon-heavy company that must change its ways, but us as consumers too.

As usual, Dr Arthie Moore-Robberts pulled at the heartstrings of many of the attendees when she brought the manufacturing world back from ESG-focused discussions to talking about the people. Person-centred leadership resonated with me, and many in attendance, as Dr Moore-Robberts outlined what and how a compassionate leader of influence must look like.

The other honourable mentions go out to all presenters and experts in their fields who took the time to share their insights and knowledge with us. From IoT and digital twins to the never-ending IT vs OT debacle and the concept of the Industrial Internet and cybersecurity in the OT space – these were all presentations and informed opinions I learned a lot from.

The event closed with one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard. If there’s one thing similar conferences can learn from MESA, their guest speaker and motivational speaker calibre is from another planet. In my six years of attendance, I am left inspired after each event. Joey Evans probably has one of the most unbelievable stories ever told – I’d recommend everyone Google him and learn more about self-belief and what to do in times of strife!

All in all, it was once again an epic event. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t attend in person. Next year, don’t be like me – attend in person, stay over and bask in the ambience of knowledge, inspiration, cutting-edge technology displays and demos, and a good mix of professionals and people who inspire.

Well done to Jane Collett from MESA Africa for organising a superb conference, and also the sponsors who contributed to the success of the event. Bring on 2023.


About Lance Turner


Lance Turner.

Lance Turner is an MES/IIT/OT specialist employed at Sasol’s Secunda plant. He has an honours degree in Information Systems and an Adv. Diploma in Industrial Data Communications, Networks and IT. A certified MESA MES/MOM student, his passion is amalgamating general IT across the manufacturing spectrum. Lance’s vision is for a converged IT and manufacturing discipline that will become the reality of Industry 4.0. His team motto is MES services that are always available, always stable, and always dependable.

For more information contact Lance Turner, [email protected], www.lanceturner.co.za


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