Industry 4.0 is the confluence of trends and technologies that promises to reshape the way things are made. It is the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, driven by four disruptions: the astonishing rise in data volumes, computational power, and connectivity, especially new low-power wide-area networks; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems; and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3-D printing. McKinsey&Company

This is the fourth major upheaval in modern manufacturing, following the lean revolution of the 1970s, the outsourcing phenomenon of the 1990s, and the automation that took off in the 2000s. Wikipedia

The Brics Business Council Skills Development Working Group (SDWG) conducted research into the status of Industry 4.0 in each of the Brics countries and compared this to Germany where Industry 4.0 or Manufacturing 4.0 is relatively advanced.

In South Africa the status of Industry 4.0 is mixed, with companies in various stages of implementation, ranging from fully implemented, to partial to not begun yet. Whilst most of the fully implemented companies have links with overseas companies a number of companies in South Africa plan to implement variations of Industry 4.0. Research conducted by PWC indicates that:

87% of SA companies plan to introduce new digital products and data based services over the next five years;

83% of SA respondents expect data analytics will have a significant influence on their decision-making processes in five years’ time;

Only 10% of local respondents rate the maturity of their data analytics capabilities as advanced.

Industry 4.0 – PwC

Whilst a number of statistics are quoted about job losses from the impact of technology and automation there are some examples of companies who have implemented Industry 4.0 without job losses. These companies have important learnings for South African manufacturing companies.

The SDWG is developing a white paper on Industry 4.0 in all Brics countries that will be submitted at the Brics summit in India October 2016

Sherrie Donaldson

SA BRICS Business Council Skills Development Working Group