MESA Africa has aligned with Africa Automation Fair for the first time this year, to help drive the next level of industry automation in South Africa. Vice chairman, Gerhard Greeff, explains that MESA’s focus is on the layer above plant automation, extending to the systems that connect, optimise and analyse all aspects of manufacturing, such as production, inventory, maintenance, and quality operations. “We have aligned with Africa Automation Fair 2019 because of its focus on Industry 4.0, which encompasses more of the base technologies and models we believe to be crucial for manufacturers today, and in the future,” he adds.
Greeff says South African industry and manufacturers are generally on par with those in Europe and the US in that some are at the ‘bleeding edge’ and some lag: “There is a great deal of automation in place in African manufacturing plants, but you may find that while the plant is automated, the manufacturer is still managing the books on Excel spreadsheets, or there is an ERP system in place, but the factory is being operated manually. In many, you’ll find that they are unable to track and analyse the factors that impact on production throughput and product quality. In next generation industry automation, all stakeholders, departments and processes are connected and automated to optimise operations across the entire production ecosystem.”
Unlike certain other first-world countries, South Africa does not have Industry 4.0 initiatives driven and funded by government, in which stakeholders collaborate and share best practice to progress industry as a whole. In addition, South Africa is challenged in terms of the skills available to advance Industry 4.0 optimisation. “We don’t yet have formal automation degree qualifications at our local universities, although work is being done in this regard,” says Greeff. “And like many countries around the world, we lack data science and analytics skills, which are crucial to optimising manufacturing in the future.”
To advance South Africa’s Industry 4.0 agenda, Greeff believes stakeholders should begin actively sharing knowledge and upskilling their workforces now. MESA, which works to educate and share knowledge on operations excellence, will participate in Africa Automation Fair to showcase its membership benefits and the information resources it has available to the sector.
Marius Smit, event organiser at Africa Automation Fair presenters, Reed Exhibitions, says the partnership with MESA is in line with the efforts to bring Industry 4.0 solutions, information, skills development, enhanced education and best practice knowledge sharing to the event.
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