Nonprofit organisation Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (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.
MESA Africa is part of MESA International, a global nonprofit community of manufacturing companies, information technology hardware and software suppliers, system integrators, consulting service providers, analysts, editors, academics and students working to improve manufacturing and business through optimised information technology and best practice management.
MESA Africa vice chairperson Gerhard Greeff says MESA’s focus sits on the layer above pure industrial and plant automation, extending to the systems that connect, optimise and analyse all aspects of the manufacturing business 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 into the future,” he says.
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 Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) or Business Management system in place, but the factory is being operated manually.”
He adds that, in many facilities, you will 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.
Greeff notes that, unlike certain other first-world countries, South Africa does not have smart factory/Industry 4.0 initiatives driven and funded by government, in which stakeholders collaborate and share best practice to progress industry holistically.
In addition, South Africa is challenged in terms of the skills available to advance Industry 4.0 optimisation. “We do not yet have formal automation degree qualifications at our local universities, although work is being done in this regard. And like many countries around the world, we lack data science and analytics skills, which are going to be crucial in optimising manufacturing in future,” says Greeff.
He explains that analytics will increasingly be used to obtain new insights into manufacturing operations. It will be used to identify and statistically prove correlations between factors – such as between specific raw materials and product defects; or between a number of internal and external factors such as the weather, raw materials, certain machines, throughput and product quality.
“With advanced analytics, we can identify patterns that humans might not perceive, and use this information to improve efficiency, control costs, improve product design and become more competitive globally.”
To advance South Africa’s Industry 4.0 agenda, Greeff believes industry 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 the Africa Automation Fair to showcase its membership benefits and the information resources it has available to the sector.
Africa Automation Fair presenters Reed Exhibitions event organiser Marius Smit says the partnership with MESA is in line with the event’s efforts to bring Industry 4.0 solutions, information, skills development, enhanced education and best practice knowledge sharing to the event.
The Connected Industries Conference at Africa Automation Fair 2019 will focus on the economic impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on sub-Saharan Africa, and how to bring this technology shift to South Africa.
The Africa Automation Fair 2019 exhibition and conference will illustrate ways to overcome manufacturing stagnation and fast-track growth, by showcasing the latest technologies, solutions and models for next-generation manufacturing.