The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), also known as Industry 4.0, has necessitated that countries develop new policies, strategies and innovation plans to enable an inclusive whole-of-society approach with government taking a leadership role. South Africa currently has different elements of the 4IR spread across government, the private sector and civil society, but currently, there is no single blue-print that gives all the key role players a single focus. While the discourse on the 4IR is usually dominated by the role of government, the private sector and other stakeholders in civil society also have a significant role to play. The 4IR manifests itself through technological innovations, while its impact cuts across all levels of society, hence the need for a broader perspective and approach (Government Gazette 4 December 2018).
The SAIMC (Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Measurement and Control) sits at the forefront and is an active participant in the implementation of these new technologies to the benefit of the South African economy and all its people.
Industry 4.0 is about the use of decentralised intelligence to create intelligent networking and independent process management through the interaction of the real and virtual worlds. This represents a paradigm shift from centralised to decentralised production – made possible by technological advances that constitute a reversal of conventional production process logic. Simply put, this means that industrial production machinery no longer simply ‘processes’ the product, but that the product communicates with the machinery to tell it exactly what to do. Industry 4.0 connects embedded system production technologies and smart production processes to pave the way to a new technological age destined to transform industries’ production value chains and business models. The key to attaining the smart factory benefits successfully is a solid wired and wireless Internet infrastructure making use of 5G communication capability.
Political and business leaders are convinced that future economies will be affected by this trend of change. Hence, governments carry the responsibility to provide a plan that can be applied across departments. Recently, president Ramaphosa appointed The Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with 30 representatives from all areas of industry and society as a cross-cutting enabler to work on the country’s blueprint. The Commission will coordinate the development of South Africa’s national response action plan to deal with the 4IR. As part of this effort the commission will identify policies, strategies and plans that are necessary to position South Africa as a leading country in the evolution and development of the 4IR. The prime goal is to set up legal and regulatory frameworks allowing the private sector to achieve easy implementation.
International collaboration is imperative for the success of Industry 4.0 in an emerging market such as South Africa. At the same time, positioning the country as the key technology driver for the African continent is part of the sustainable application of the new technologies. An example of international collaboration is the South Africa – European Union Strategic Partnership Dialogue Facility, which contributes to the strengthening of relations between the EU and South Africa. Its purpose is to facilitate the implementation of priority aspects of the SA-EU Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement, the Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan, and raise awareness of the special relationship between the EU and SA.
In Europe, the leading countries involved are Germany (Plattform Industry 4.0), France (Alliance Industrie du Futur) and Italy (Piano nazionale Impresa 4.0). For many years these countries have invested in measures to guarantee the long-term contribution of Industry 4.0 to future economic growth. Take as example Germany’s Industrie Plattform 4.0, which started in 2011 as the ‘New High-Tech Strategy’. Today, better known as Industry 4.0, it is strategy that should lead to extra economic growth worth €78 billion by 2025.
South Africa can surely benefit from a benchmark exercise with the Europeans; always focusing on the particularities of the country, particularly around poverty and inclusive growth.
The Digital Industrial Revolution offers huge opportunities for South Africa and its people. Globally, the 4IR train has left the station. The question is not whether, but when and how, South Africa will participate in this global paradigm shift.
I hope this industry guide helps you with your plans.
Marc Van Pelt
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