Automation, automation, automation!!!

With a large shift towards automation in industrial manufacturing making production more efficient and smarter, an integrated industry approach is not far off. To remain competitive, companies need to make their manufacturing processes more efficient, and that means greater investment in state-of-the-art automation technology. Internationally, companies and executives are taking the steps and the decisions required to develop a smart-factory vision into a real-life solution. There are challenges along the road to achieving this reality as it requires information sharing, investment, and coordination. Their competitiveness also hinges on access to a reliable, sustainable energy supply.

It is therefore sad to see that in the face of this reality, Unions and their members choose to strike. Or should I say they intimidated, threatened and assaulted people who tried to work and shamelessly damaged and vandalised company properties. This is an all too common occurrence in South Africa these days, as is the phenomenon of as one strike ends, another one begins in a different sector of industry. It is commonly referred to as ‘strike season’. The pressure that manufacturers and business in general have been put under over the last decade by these countless strikes resulting in lost production is starting to create anger and forcing companies to relook at their circumstances, which could have far reaching repercussions for the labour force in South Africa.

This is evident in the three Viewpoints that have been published in this issue. The writers have put in black and white what the reality of the situation is. Not many people are prepared to put their views in writing but I believe, like many others, that they have become ‘gatvol’ (fed up).

In the International News section, the IFR President Arturo Baroncelli reports that in 2013, about 179,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide – again an all-time high, and 12 percent more than in 2012. More than 700 industrial robots were sold in Africa, 87% more than in 2012. The metal and machinery industry had an average annual growth rate of 22% in the same period. Does this not say something to the employees?

In Industry News I report on new developments in the marking and authentication industry which includes barcodes that can be identified from any iOS or Android smartphone, and new technology to be introduced that will provide a variety of security solutions for preventing counterfeiting, brand protection, fraud and diversion – copper cable theft could be thwarted.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and barcode technologies are two tools that manufacturers can leverage to establish an effective traceability programme. That’s because they provide direct visibility into the manufacturing process while streamlining data collection and communication.

These three stories all point to the shift towards automation, which is happening worldwide. So why should it not happen in South Africa? We are part of the world stage now and time and again we prove that we are equal to, if not better, than many first world countries. Look at the recent test launch of the Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), a story also included in this issue. If only the Unions and their members would realise this.