Revitalising and growing manufacturers is the theme of this year’s Manufacturing Indaba, which aims to get the South African manufacturing industry stakeholders together to unpack the way forward towards growing their businesses.
This year’s event was originally slated to take place on June 9 and 10, but was rescheduled to take place on December 9 and 10, as a result of the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown measures.
It has also been redesigned as a virtual event, with the virtual conference to feature various panels and networking opportunities, organised and facilitated using the latest information communication technology.
Event organiser Siyenza Events MD Liz Hart says the decision to make the event fully virtual was to ensure the safety of all participants, while providing manufacturers with an opportunity to engage and do business.
“The virtual platform provides for a comprehensive conference and exhibition. A major benefit for all participants is that there is no charge to listen in or join the conference, which previously required a fee.”
This shows how the Indaba is trying to support and assist manufacturers in growing their businesses, with the virtual nature of the experience also serving to make the event even more accessible to various manufacturers at different levels of operation and output, she adds.
In collaboration with strategic partners – the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, The Department of Science and Innovation, as well as the African Union Development Agency – the Manufacturing Indaba aims to provide a platform to engage and discuss the latest global and local manufacturing trends in one forum.
Hart says this year’s event is also geared to empower members of sub-Saharan Africa’s manufacturing community to identify global trends, keep abreast of global competition, embrace digital transformation, cultivate a skilled workforce, allow for black industrialist collaboration and acquire insight into the incentives available to better empower businesses during the pandemic and its aftermath.
She believes that these discussions will pave the way for a more equitable, competitive and successful manufacturing industry.
The event acts as a conduit to allow for the sharing of information and the forging of new business relationships, as well as unpacking the support that government can offer and linking companies to new sources of supply,” Hart tells Engineering News.
What to Expect
One of the highlights of this year’s virtual event will be attendees’ access to the business matchmaking programme, which will enable company representatives to meet and do business, says Hart.
“In this era of the pandemic, it is proving difficult to make new business contacts. The Manufacturing Indaba provides a platform where manufacturers can connect and explore new business deal-flow.”
Hart believes that the Indaba will play a crucial role in addressing some of the challenges that the South African manufacturing sector faces.
“Companies need business and access to deal flow. Through the business matchmaking programme, this event will provide the necessary links to allow for such deal flow for manufacturers.”
Hart notes that the sharing and dissemination of important industry news will help manufacturers to explore how they can learn from one another; they will also be privy to pandemic-affected global manufacturing industry news to enable them to better position themselves and plan ahead.
“Most global and local markets have struggled this year owing to the impact of the lockdown. The gradual restarting of economic activity as the lockdown eases, level by level, and the consistent presence of Covid-19, have created a lot of pressure for manufacturers.”
She adds that, although manufacturing has slowed down significantly, it has resulted in a renewed focus on localisation and has forced manufacturers to rethink their reliance on imported products – especially those from Asia.
“During the lockdown period, many products could not be sourced internationally. Therefore, manufacturers had to develop new product lines locally to meet demand,” she says.
In addition to the challenges created by Covid-19, various socioeconomic challenges remain front of mind for South Africa's manufacturing sector. These include political instability and insecurity; State capture, corruption and political mismanagement; infrastructure constraints; low productivity because of the high cost of manufacturing; a lack of skills development; and negative perceptions of South Africa held by potential investors.
Focus on Industry 4.0
South African manufacturing has accelerated its uptake of Industry 4.0.
“There is a massive increase in Industry 4.0 technology, owing to the impact of Covid-19 and the need to minimise face-to-face engagement. Companies are exploring new technologies to help mitigate the risks of people connecting in person and to keep their workforces safe,” Hart explains.
The Manufacturing Indaba will feature a focused session during which the implementation of Industry 4.0 will be discussed, and how its use can support manufacturing growth and ensure that manufacturers can continue trading in these difficult market conditions.
“Manufacturing activities promote development in that they boost the value generated in an economy by creating activity further along value chains, from raw materials to finished products. The introduction of innovative technologies and methodologies in the manufacturing realm further increases productivity levels,” Hart concludes.