Industry 4.0 originated in Germany in 2011 from a project of the German government to promote the computerization and innovation of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is also known by a number of other names, including but not limited to, Smart Manufacturing, Advanced Manufacturing and Manufacturing 4.0

The South African Skills Development Working Group participated in an international Skills Development Working Group project on Industry 4.0 and the impact of this on BRICS. The outcome of this project was a whitepaper delivered to the BRICS Business Council.

Industry 4.0 is also known as the 4th Industrial revolution, and follows from previous industrial revolutions as detailed in the diagram below. It is the intersection of manufacturing, automation and data exchange and includes Internet of Things (IOT), data analytics, and secure cyber physical systems. Industry 4.0 results in Smart factories where quantities and quality of information will result in increased levels of automation and digitisation. Additionally machines will use self- optimisation, self-configuration and even artificial intelligence to complete complex tasks in order to deliver vastly superior cost efficiencies and better quality goods or services.

Because of the changes listed above Industry 4.0 will have substantial impacts on traditional ways of doing business across a number of industries, including Agriculture, Automotive, Chemicals, Engineering and ICT. The BRICS Skills Development Working Group has chosen to focus on the impact of Manufacturing for the first Industry 4.0 project but we envisage future projects across other areas. Within the Manufacturing industry processes will move from rigid to agile, products will become personalized and customeized, driven by direct and frequent customer engagement.

Skills readiness for Industry 4.0 will be a key factor in Industry 4.0 as automation and robotics will potentially impact on numbers employed and will also influence levels of skills required creating needs for development of new competencies and skills and requirements for flexibility of labour supply.

The research project and whitepaper produced by Roland Berger looked at a number of key areas:

  • Current adoption of Industry 4.0 in Brics
  • Skills readiness of labour for Industry 4.0 in Brics
  • Recommendations for collaboration of skills

Over the last 10 years, BRICS countries have been driving a large portion of world growth in Manufacturing but our competitiveness in Manufacturing will be challenged by Industry 4.0 and poor skilling could result in BRICS lagging behind. In order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 Brics countries need to focus on the following:

  • Education
  • Skilling for Industry 4.0
  • IT infrastructure
  • Research and development infrastructure
  • Technology absorption
  • Clear and focussed government policies to support Industry 4.0

We believe that Industry 4.0 will require specific skills including

  • Knowledge about ICT,
    • Ability to use and interact with computers and smart machines
    •  Understanding machine to machine communication
    •  Data and IT security
  • Ability to work with data
    • Processing and analysis of data and information
    • Basis statistical know how
  • Technical know-how
    • Inter disciplinary knowledge
    • Specialised knowledge about manufacturing processes
    • Specialist maintenance skills
  • Personal skills
    • Ability to change
    • Ability to learn, unlearn and relearn and lifelong learning
    • Decision making abilities
    • Team skills
    • Communication skills – human and machine

Additionally skills needs require upskilling of existing resources, reskilling of people with irrelevant skills, continuous learning and mind-set change

The Skills Development Working Group has proposed a BRICS qualification for Industry 4.0, which will enable upskilling of existing and development of new skills as well as mobility of resources between BRICS.

The white paper produced by Roland Berger is available on the following link:

Bhabhalazi Bulunga

Executive Director: Adcorp Holdings Ltd

Chair: South African Brics Business Council Skills Development Working Group