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Skills study, awards show need for industry funding, support

SUPPORTING MODERNISATION If funds were available to support local manufacturers, and developers were allowed to experience a learning curve, funds could be channelled into innovative products

LEHLOHONOLO MOLLOYI Memsa is willing to work with any other industry cluster, as long as we have common interests for the mining, manufacturing and construction sectors

3rd March 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

     

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Industry body Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (Memsa) conducted and completed a survey and case study last year on Fourth Industrial Revolution- (4IR-) related skills needed in the local mining-equipment manufacturing industry.

The study – funded by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority – was completed last November, and early findings indicate a gradual deployment of selected 4IR technologies in the industry.

This deployment requires increased access to skills, including data analysis, mechatronics, the Internet of Things, strategic business management and change management.

This study involved examining the capital equipment manufacturing industry.

There are clear signs that universities are stepping up to the challenge, though progress has been slower when it comes to formal training for artisans.

“Considering the amount of automation happening locally, our industry will become irrelevant if manufacturers don’t keep up. The study highlighted the technological advances taking place, as well as the need to have a structured body that focuses on the necessary training and skills development,” explains Memsa CEO Lehlohonolo Molloyi.

He says Memsa members are becoming increasingly prepared for the increased use of automated and 4IR technologies.

Molloyi does, however, point out the need for local companies to gain access to funding necessary for research and development (R&D).

The growth of an industry is linked directly to the rate of innovation in that industry –if there is not enough funding to support this, then the growth of the industry is stifled, he argues.

“Many of our members are conducting in-house R&D using their own capital, which takes longer. If there was a pool of funds to support these local sectors – and developers were allowed to make mistakes and go through a learning curve – we would be able to channel the funds into innovation. With the right support, we can turn these industries around and create more jobs.”

Manufacturing Excellence

Memsa’s inaugural Manufacturing Excellence Awards, held in November last year, gave mining equipment manufacturers the opportunity to showcase achievements in customer service, the strategic use of technology, building their businesses and reindustrialising South Africa.

“There were significant successes from this event, particularly as the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition showcased the winners and participants of the Manufacturing Excellence Awards at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in February. This shows the importance of showcasing the potential South Africa has in mining, construction and manufacturing,” states Molloyi.

The awards were co-hosted with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), as the event coincided with the Seifsa Awards for Excellence 2022.

He stresses the importance of the funding and support that the event received from the South African Mineral Extraction Research, Development and Innovation Committee.

This committee is funded by government, through the Department of Science and Innovation, and Minerals Council South Africa.

Molloyi adds that Memsa is trying to find a venue to host another Manufacturing Excellence Awards event again this year.

Although the Memsa Innovation Awards 2022 were held in April, it is considering combining both events into a larger event in 2023, as funding for the awards comes to an end this financial year.

“Given the success we saw with these events, we’re going to start working on raising more funds with key partners to ensure that this becomes a yearly event. It’s important for Memsa to showcase what the local mining and construction sectors are capable of. Memsa is willing to work with any other industry cluster, as long as we have common interests for the mining, manufacturing and construction sectors.”

Industry Collaboration

Molloyi says the event’s having been co-hosted with Seifsa also shows that there is “unity in the industry”, which can help both associations, as well as other relevant industry associations, to collaborate on common challenges present in local industries and present them to legislators.

These challenges stem from a lack of public-sector infrastructure projects, owing to lack of funding.

This is further hampered by mismanagement at infrastructure-related State-owned companies, such as the South African National Roads Agency and Transnet, he adds.

Consequently, this impacts significantly on the local mining industry, as it struggles to maintain production and manage logistics networks.

This also affects the manufacturing and construction machinery industries, owing to a declining need for inputs from the mining industry.

He emphasises the importance of implementing policies that focus on developing local manufacturing such as designation and supporting the localisation of products.

“As part of our initiative to try to assist our members, we’ve engaged with the likes of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors and other representatives of the construction industry to work on challenges that we experience collectively. Contractors and suppliers suffer if the industry is stifled.”

Government’s investing in local infrastructure projects and emphasising the importance of designating local products for those projects will create demand for and benefit the local construction and manufacturing sectors, Molloyi concludes.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

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