Yesterday, the Connected Industries conference kicked off at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg with widespread calls for South African companies to speed up and catch up with the rest of the world in adopting Industrie 4.0/IIoT.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution could be described as the new wave of digitised and connected automation technologies now revolutionising industry, business and the lives of ordinary people.
The speakers during the opening, predicted a bleak future for those companies who fail to embrace the next wave of human advancement as their organisation could quickly become obsolete and outdated, just as those who failed to digitally transform their businesses.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Gunther Kegel, board member of the German Electrical & Electronic Association (ZVEI), said Industrie 4.0/IIoT was bringing about radical change in processes and business models. “We have to look to smarter business processes, smarter production processes, smart products and services, smart collaboration and smart standardisation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already happening, and organisations have to start changing now – it’s a question of survival.”
Michael Ziesemer, Chairperson of Germany’s ZVEI, noted that digitisation had already driven fundamental and rapid change across industry and society: “As recently as 15 years ago, nobody wanted to read their newspapers on a screen. Now we have tablets and new digital news models, and traditional media are under pressure. ” he said.
The Industrie 4.0/IIoT era presents both significant opportunities and significant threats, the keynote speakers said. Suppliers and customers were becoming part of a holistic network, within which products could be customised and produced at the same cost as mass produced goods. New opportunities were opening up to offer value-added services; and big data analytics presented infinite ways for organisations to offer innovative products and services more efficiently and at lower cost.
But this connected, fast-moving environment also presents risks to slow-moving traditional organisations, they noted. Digitisation presents a 240 billion euro growth opportunity for Europe alone, Ziesemer said, noting that a significant area of opportunity lay in producing IoT technologies: “IoT needs more than just the internet – it also needs things, the systems and machines. So the race is on to develop them. Speed will drive success. In this new environment, there will be winners and losers.”
Ziesemer added that data protection and cyber security are now crucial issues due cyber crime matching the growth of the latest technologies.
Speaking from a South African perspective Oratile Sematle, President of the SAIMC, noted that, “The hard truth is that most of South African society has not even experienced the benefits of the second Industrial Revolution. In the face of this paradox, we need to confront the challenges we face in this country and address issues like a lack of infrastructure and a lack of appropriate skills. We need to put the infrastructure and platforms in place to cultivate innovative entrepreneurship. Forums such as the Connected Industries conference are necessary platforms for us to reprogramme our minds and seek to advance the automation industry.”
Rob Wright, Chairman of IIG Industrial Information Group (IIG) also highlighted the skills challenge: “If we do not address this challenge, we risk Industrie 4.0/IIoT bypassing us. Industrie 4.0/IIoT is coming whether we like it or not. Change will come and ultimately, analogue will become too expensive to deploy, making South African goods and services less commercially viable for international markets. We need to ask ourselves how – not if – we will adopt and join the revolution.”
It is clear that Industrie 4.0/IIoT is changing the world and South Africa and the rest of Africa in fact will have to develop and adopt strategies to ensure their survival. However their are certain Africa problems that will need African solutions, so the need for dynamic and adaptive thinking within business is more important than ever before.