Date Published: 08-04-2019 | Author: Christian Kohlhaas
Smart technologies such as Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are rapidly becoming a part of modern industrial processes therefore creating more efficient and customized solutions. Considering the competitive nature of industry, South African manufacturers need to adapt to Industry 4.0 technologies and invest into new talents to become a developed nation.
Cyber-Physical Systems are the integration of computing technologies with the surrounding physical world, being designed as a communicating network which controls physical processes and adapts itself to new conditions. The different sub-systems are orchestrated by a central control entity which enables the interaction between humans and machines.
In the future, CPS will be present in all industries. A network of smart, self-adjusting and self-optimizing machines that control all processes along the value chain, will lead to more flexible and cost-effective solutions, enabling businesses to strongly individualize their products and intensive the relationship with customers and suppliers. The exponential growth of technology creates new opportunities for businesses but simultaneously increases global competition.
The Digital Industrial Revolution comes along with many opportunities for the South African industry but also imposes some critical challenges for local businesses. As the current adoption of smart technologies is still relatively low, the key components of Industry 4.0 will put more pressure on areas, in which the African continent is still combating.
According to Coenraad Bezuidenhout, former director at Manufacturing Circle, a majority of South African manufacturers are focused on immediate issues like labour and electricity. He further emphasized that there is a general lack of focus on building for the future, investing in education, training, research & development and innovation.
The strength of South Africa’s position in the Industry 4.0 context lies in the profound integration into global value chains and the accessibility to the African market with more than 1.2 billion people. Through a strong collaboration between government, industry and academia, South Africa has real opportunities to leverage the potential of the fourth industrial revolution by quickly adopting CPS and other Industry 4.0 technologies to create innovative business models and design unique high-tech solutions which will allow local manufacturers to compete with global players.
The digital industrial revolution imposes serious challenges to all industries. As our physical and information worlds are merging, South African manufacturers will have to restructure themselves, train their workforce and cooperate with governmental and educational institutions to recruit new talents.
Adopting Cyber-Physical Systems and automation techniques to produce customer-specific products will guarantee local businesses to run on a global scale and leapfrog their international competitors. Doing so, not only South African businesses will strengthen their position but the whole socio-economic situation of the nation will benefit and move forward.