Automation necessary for Africa’s competitiveness

4th November 2022 By: Sabrina Jardim - Creamer Media Online Writer

Automation necessary for Africa’s competitiveness

DEVAN REDDY To promote automation in the African mining sector, Eaton provides holistic solutions for its clients to make the implementation process more appealing and efficient

With global manufacturers embracing power management automation, the African market needs to follow suit to remain competitive, says power management company Eaton Africa power management and control components field product manager Devan Reddy.

While the manufacturing sector requires labour-intensive mechanisms, automated solutions, particularly for mining, can increase safety and efficiency, as is the case with automated drill rigs.

Power management refers to the distribution of electricity. Reddy explains that distributing electricity correctly requires its being monitored, using equipment, to determine the exact levels of power being consumed.

He adds that power distribution is becoming more automated – Eaton’s NZM digital circuit breaker, for example, has metering functionality built into it to distribute information into system mainframes and redistribute excess power accordingly.

However, while automation is necessary, there is a hesitation to implement solutions owing to a mounting fear that this will lead to unemployment.

Reddy assures that unemployment will not necessarily become a by-product of implementing these solutions, but rather that people who were previously employed to work in labour-intensive industries will need to be upskilled to work with and operate this technology.

“The biggest hesitation we find in South Africa is with regard to labour. This means that companies need to be educated about the long-term benefits of installing the systems – such as increasing safety – for people to see that the value outweighs the risk.”

He notes that, while Eaton has not formally introduced any such education initiatives, it does liaise with companies directly to allay those fears.

Further, to promote the importance of automation in the African mining sector, the company provides holistic solutions for clients to make the implementation process more appealing and efficient.

“It becomes tedious and difficult when clients need to consult with more than one person. As a result, we train our team to provide complete solutions for clients,” says Reddy.

Moreover, Eaton offers its latest solution, Brightlayer digital software technology to aid the shift from a legacy-based operating systems to a cloud-based one through which companies can store the necessary data.

This software can be retrofitted into existing systems, after which the old system can be converted into a new one that can store information on the cloud.

This, consequently, enables cost savings for clients who cannot afford to replace the entire system.

Conducting routine maintenance on plant equipment, particularly for mining operations, is necessary to avoid unnecessary shutdowns and delays in production.