… As Namibia is urged to embrace Industry 4.0
By Hilary Mare
DIGITALISATION collapses borders and time zones, compressing distance and bringing different parties closer to one another.
With new collaboration tools, manufacturing executives can digitally connect designers, engineers, researchers and supply chain partners, and integrate these new networks into the products being developed on the factory floor.
Suddenly, manufacturers can access a wider array of specialist resources from across the globe, creating platforms for enhanced collaboration, communication and real-time decision-making, and Namibia should not be exempted from this process.
In a visit to the cities of Berlin and Munich last week, Confidente established that the digitalization agenda is gaining momentum and that Namibia can borrow a leaf or two from what the Germans have termed Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 is derived from the concept of the fourth industrial revolution, which seeks to move from a reliance on current production methods, by embracing new concepts in the field of data analytics, the internet of things and the full automation of industries, in the application of value-addition.
Dr Tilo Klinner, Director of Foreign Trade, Investment Promotion and Technology Policy in the German Federal Foreign Office, said that countries which were still developing, such as Namibia, needed to prepare for this revolution.
“What I can say is that Industry 4.0 is now inevitable and already in full implementation, and hence the time has come for nations such as Namibia to consider going digital, as the days of mass production are increasingly becoming numbered,” he said.
With Namibia keen on an industrialisation agenda, through its ‘Growth at Home’ initiative and the stated key provisions of its Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), digitalisation presents numerous opportunities to enrich the envisaged processes with new data insights, in order to pool human and artificial intelligence (AI) resources, and evolve Namibia’s classic value chains into more collaborative and digitised networks of specialists.
With the right mix of strategy, culture and technology, manufacturing organisations can shift from their outdated legacy processes, towards more flexible and digitalised platforms, thereby enhancing their competitiveness and positioning themselves for an unpredictable future.
While in Germany, Confidente also attended presentations delivered by Ernst Stockl-Pukall and Alexender Tettenborn, who head up Division IV A 5, responsible for digitalization and industry 4.0, and Division IV B 4, responsible for development of digital technologies, respectively, in Germany’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.
They shared why digitalization is critical and how it is designed to provide maximum efficiencies over the next few years.
“We are trying to implement this agenda in phases, but we also acknowledge that this agenda will seek legislative desire and willingness from governing bodies, as well as partnership between the public and private sector. The rapid development of broadband technology to quicken implementation is also essential to this goal,” Tettenborn said, while urging developing nations to drive the upward trajectory of broadband technology.
While we certainly can’t predict the future direction of manufacturing industries in Namibia, one thing we can be sure of is that digitalisation will play an essential role. By adopting greater levels of digitalization in any value-addition drive, manufacturers position themselves to capitalise on emerging trends for the coming decade, including rapid prototyping, crowdsourcing, augmented reality, increased robotics and artificial intelligence and image-recognising cameras.
From the lessons provided for by big cooperates in the German market, including from the BMW Group, whose headquarters Confidente visited in Germany, Namibia can begin to understand that traditional manufacturing business models are coming under increasing threat, and the pressure to digitise is intensifying.
Today’s leading manufacturers are taking bold steps to reshape their operations, remove the processes hindering transformation and change their company cultures.
For these fast-moving manufacturers, the ability to access the technology and skills needed is being facilitated by digitalisation, which is creating exciting new opportunities in the production and distribution of goods.
In the smart factory vision, almost every piece of equipment and tooling is fitted with sensors that are continually piping information into a nerve-centre – producing the insights that inform resource allocation, while warning of potential machine downtime and quickly revealing any bottlenecks in factory processes.
Interestingly and imperatively, both the Confederation of German employers Association (BDA), as well as the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB) agree that digitalization is inevitable and should be embraced. Although the BDA doesn’t think that labour challenges will ensue, as widely reported, the DGB recommends that the process be shaped in a way that will bring about a smooth transition and implementation of the digitalization agenda. Questions regarding the skills gap that could be created have been addressed by the German tripartite employment system, in which apprenticeship programs have been able to address skills gaps from time memorial, thereby providing better chances to deal with the problems that may arise in the labour market; another process that Namibia can borrow from.
But manufacturing technology isn’t just about new ways of producing goods and materials. We’re starting to see sensors and data being used in interesting and innovative ways, even in the context of traditional manufacturing. For example, some manufacturers are using sensors on smart tools, to help workers drill holes with perfect precision. Tools detect the exact torque required to tighten bolts correctly, for instance, among other tasks. All of this helps to elevate manufacturing excellence to new heights.
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein noted that the way forward for growth depends on manufacturing, while Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister, Tjekero Tweya, said that Namibians should embrace the ICT sector, in order to boost economic development.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015