From 4-6 June, Africa Automation Fair 2019 attracted some 4500 visitors and 131 exhibitors from seven countries, including Australia, China, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan. As is customary, the biennial event showcased industrial automation and smart control innovations, alongside the high-level Connected Industries Conference focused on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and smarter manufacturing in South Africa.
During the opening presentations, the CSIR’s Dr Daniel Visser explained how 4IR is about a fusion of technologies, rather than a single disruptor like steam or electricity in the eras before it. The implication of this is that a much broader regulatory framework needs to be established in order for countries to achieve a successful implementation.
Some of the more important aspects that these new frameworks will need to address include drone operation, biotechnology (genetic engineering), autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability and skills development. While data is the currency of 4IR, it needs to be applied in different ways to achieve the maximum benefit for any unique population demographic. In Japan, for instance, where the issues are around an ageing workforce, robots are being used to replace human workers, while in Africa’s case, robots must be used to enhance productivity in ways that do not cost humans their jobs.
It was interesting then to listen to the DTI’s Ilse Karg describe how South Africa’s burgeoning youth unemployment problem could be turned into an advantage through the right development strategies. She described how government must create an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and the creation of a much stronger small business component in South Africa’s economy. “Government must use the opportunities that go with 4IR to create a policy framework that addresses the double-edged sword of job losses and deindustrialisation that continue to stifle economic development in our region,” she said.
Karg believes that 4IR is something that needs to be taken seriously. In South Africa’s case this involves an incremental evolution underpinned by a youth development strategy designed to create a competitive advantage through talent development within the country’s large youth group – something the developed world simply does not have.
2019 Industry Guide
Posted with the magazine this month is the 2019 edition of the Technews Industry Guide: Industrial Internet of Things & Industry 4.0. Whether we like it or not, digitalisation is upon us and those that do not embrace the opportunities will likely be left behind. While many companies have by now grasped the basic tenets, very few have access to the variety of skills and resources required to achieve a successful digital transformation. We hope this handbook serves as a useful reference to help you identify the partners you need to take your company forward in the fourth industrial age.
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