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


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Control architecture leads to faster, easier product development for refrigeration
Opto Africa Automation Editor's Choice IT in Manufacturing
What’s the secret to providing superior service and staying competitive in a changing market? You might learn something from ALTA Refrigeration’s experience. Over ten years, it transformed itself from a custom engineering services company into a scalable industrial equipment manufacturer, using an edge-oriented control architecture to manage a growing installed base.

Step into the visual factory
Turck Banner Southern Africa Editor's Choice Electrical Power & Protection
At Banner, the visual factory comprises three key applications for lighting and indication in industrial settings. These applications include the ability to help machines and workstations quickly communicate their status to people nearby, to use light to guide workers to perform certain tasks such as part picking, and to provide illumination for work areas and tasks.

Quality gearboxes for irrigation
SEW-Eurodrive Editor's Choice Motion Control & Drives
SEW-EURODRIVE is offering a complete gear solution for centre pivot irrigation systems as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) closer to South Africa’s farming sector.

AI in manufacturing: a process engineer’s perspective
Editor's Choice IT in Manufacturing
The expert will tell you what to do, the philosopher will tell you why to do it, and the engineer will get on and actually do it. As the hype around AI intensifies, the number of ‘experts’ is increasing exponentially. In contrast, the number of engineers who actually know how to implement AI technology remains small.

Loop signature 22: How cyclical disturbances affect a control loop
Michael Brown Control Engineering Editor's Choice
When tuning noisy loops, we recommend in our courses that one should eliminate the noise by editing it out, so the tuning will be done only on the true process response, free of any noise. The controller is controlling the process, and is not controlling the noise.

High-performance motion control for teabag packaging machine
Beckhoff Automation Editor's Choice
Teepak relies on PC-based control and drive technology from Beckhoff to set new benchmarks for speed and precision in its teabag packaging machines.

VEGA takes the pressure out of water pressure measurement
VEGA Controls SA Editor's Choice
Water treatment systems in metropolitan areas require careful monitoring and management processes across widespread networks. However, process plants choosing VEGA for their process automation know that the company offers more than just precise and reliable pressure sensors and instrumentation.

Advantages of wireless storage tank and container tank level monitoring
Turck Banner Southern Africa Editor's Choice
Implementing a tank monitoring system that utilises ultrasonic or radar sensors in a wireless network has many advantages.

Bringing Industry 4.0 to a castings foundry for heavy industries
Editor's Choice
Moving to Industry 4.0 takes time and determination, especially for an established company in a heavy industry. Castings foundry, POK in Mexico has moved toward Industry 4.0 in a series of steps over several years, changing from manual to automated systems for more available, immediate and reliable data.

SMOM – the future is here now
Iritron Editor's Choice IT in Manufacturing
In his presentation at the recent MESA Africa conference, Neels van der Walt, business development manager at Iritron, revealed the all-encompassing concept of smart mining operations management (SMOM), and why it is inextricably linked to the future of worldwide mining operations.