Levelling The Playing Field
If the fourth industrial revolution has taught us anything, it’s that every company in every industry globally needs to keep pace with technology to remain relevant and competitive.
While South Africa is a producer of more basic commodities, it’s important for the country to focus on high-value manufacturing and advanced materials, says Martin Sanne, executive at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
(CSIR). “Manufacturing is a job multiplier: for every manufacturing job you create, you can create between two and 15 additional jobs, so it’s a huge boost to the economy,” says Sanne. “And the big multipliers are in high-value manufacturing and advanced materials.”
A number of key advances in manufacturing are linked to digitalisation of factory processes. Sanne says this involves digital capturing of line processes, starting at the requirement level.
“All process around functional descriptions, CAD designs and so forth are linked to these original requirements, so once a product has been designed it can be verified against the original specs.
“We call this closed-loop manufacturing. As you’re going through the manufacturing process and find changes need to be made, these can be fed directly back to the design level instantaneously.”
The advantage of this in the local context is that manufacturers can produce a product designed anywhere in the world and prove that they’re doing it to the required standard. “In the aerospace industry, for example, this is critical,” says Sanne. “They have clear specifications that must be adhered to. If you’re a manufacturer supplying to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) you have to show your quality control processes. The same applies to medical devices and chemical processes.”
Sanne says the CSIR is driving best practice and that this starts with skills development. “We’re building a smart learning factory. We have a number of advanced manufacturing machines.
We’re supporting companies in additive manufacturing, and our National Centre for Nano-Structured Materials has, over the past 10 years, built up full capability to make virtually any materials, including new plastics and nanoclays.”