Members of the BRICS Skills Development Working Group were part of a panel at the Manufacturing Indaba: Implementation of Industry 4.0 and the implications for South African Manufacturers

Industry 4.0 is also known as the 4th Industrial revolution, and follows from previous industrial revolutions, i.e. 1st – mechanisation, 2nd – mass production, and 3rd computers and automation. Industry 4.0 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. Industry 4.0 will revolutionise manufacturing, allowing better and faster decision-making. 

Panellists included members from Department of Science and Technology (DST), Adcorp, Directech Automotive Distribution, Cyber Security, Baker Baynes and Liquid Telecom

We are experiencing an exponential rate of technological change, with Industry 4.0 estimated to have a potential worth of $5Billion by 2020. In this South Africa has the opportunity to both transform new technologies from other countries and to create new technologies locally. However, skills are key to harnessing these opportunities. 

In all previous industrial revolutions, there was no prearranged plan with adequate skills and staff readiness, and a number of jobs were lost. The 4th Industrial revolution is no different. It is important to realise that skills needed for new jobs build on existing skills and knowledge allowing the development of people to deliver new requirements.  Emerging jobs will probably merge previously separate specialist skills into new combined jobs. These specialist skills must be taught at all education levels and curriculums MUST adapt to these new requirements. However all the emerging jobs will need essential human skills, such as communication, resilience, adaptation and entrepreneurial skills. 

While we focus on the skills of people we need to create work opportunities for people or we will not have any consumers to purchase the goods and services we manufacture. 

Industry 4.0 only works well with connectedness and there are a number of examples in Africa of companies starting to use connectedness to change measuring and reporting as well as production. A recent survey showed 83000 devices online and connected to the internet with at least 5000 of these not secured. As connectedness increases with the internet of things, cyber risks become greater. Current risk estimates place finance institutions as the biggest risk followed by manufacturing, where industrial control systems have become soft targets. This is exacerbated by the lack of digital skills and risk awareness..

Industry 4.0 is affecting the traditional elements of manufacturing:

  • consumer demand is changing production planning, e.g. Nike allowing customisation of shoes prior to manufacture
  • Production is moving more to on demand services
  • Economics of production are adapting  with ideas such as generative design
  • Barriers to manufacturing are reducing with advances in technology

To be successful in Industry 4.0 South Africa needs an enabling environment. This would include amongst others 

  • Funding and providing access to enabling technologies
  • Encouraging adoption of new technologies
  • Developing relevant skills both technical and essential human skills

Bhabhalazi Bulunga

Executive Director:  Adcorp

Chair: BRICS Skills Development Working Group South Africa