As we enter the new decade, the only way African manufacturers can stay ahead of competitors and win the market in today’s quickly transforming environment is to embrace change. Those who wish to thrive and not just survive are leveraging the latest in growth-inducing Industry 4.0 technologies.

The answer is simple, leverage new technologies and cater towards changing customer demands. In fact, 66% of South African internet users believe new technologies offer more opportunities than risks, according to a report by We Are Social.

Mark Wilson, MD for SYSPRO Africa, unpacks trends for the decade ahead

  1. Machine learning and AI

Manufacturing is such a massive industry that it can take time for changes to be implemented across the board. The adoption of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will be no different. However, while the progress might be slow within the African manufacturing industry, it is only going in one direction and that is towards the ubiquitous use of these technologies.

AI, machine learning and advanced analytics offer manufactures the opportunity to improve efficiency and increase profit margins. These benefits cannot be ignored as the more complexities manufactures face, the greater the opportunity to use these technologies to get the competitive edge.

These technologies aren’t just limited to one area of your business, they can improve your performance in every area. Whether it is on the factory floor, in your supply chain, or in your customer relations, there are numerous ways machine learning, AI and advanced analytics can improve your business practices.

  1. IoT becoming more prominent

Manufacturers are increasingly leveraging the IoT, which entails the interconnection of unique devices within an existing Internet infrastructure. This can not only achieve cost reduction but increases efficiency, improves safety, meeting compliance requirements and product innovation.

The increased adoption of IoT will also see an increase in the amount of data that manufacturers produce. Data may be the crude oil of the 21st century, but without the ability to analyse and action based on tangible, accurate insights, it is simply taking up space. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning comes in – having the ability to manage volumes of data, generate legible insights and proffer solutions will greatly increase manufacturers’ responsiveness, improving efficiency and helping identify new business opportunities.

Manufacturers are now understanding that IoT empowers them to make informed strategic decisions by providing crucial, real time information.

  1. Connected factories

Smart manufacturing is the development of a connected ecosystem of people and equipment that communicate in real time. The benefits of smart manufacturing range far and wide: optimisation of organisational systems, improved product quality, increased efficiencies in the allocation of resources, and amplified customer satisfaction.

The new factory environment is being advanced by Cloud computing and smart sensors. Smart sensors can convert information into different units of measurements, communicating with multiple machines, while recording statistics and feedback and shutting down devices if a safety or performance issue arises, says World Economic Forum.

  1. Attracting and maintaining tech savvy employees

As manufacturers increasingly rely on technology, their need to hire tech-savvy employees is increasing. The challenge is that there are not enough skilled employees to fill the number of open jobs.

Advocates for the manufacturing industry are educating the next-generation workforce about the exciting opportunities careers in skilled trade can provide, but it will take more than marketing to bring these workers in the door and keep them engaged.

The incoming workforce needs to be part of an organisation that’s innovative, future-proof, and understands the need for a collaborative and flexible work environment.  What keeps the next-gen worker coming back each day is the ability to make a difference and contribute to the bottom line.  If leadership in your organisation acts as a bottleneck by not providing tools to enable efficiency, you will ultimately lose talent.

  1. Advanced food tracking and packaging

The World Health Organisation indicates that around 600 million people suffer food poisoning every year and 420,000 die as a result. When an outbreak occurs, investigators can spend days or weeks tracking its source.

Technology is playing a more pivotal role in risk detection as opposed to disaster recovery. This is known as traceability, where technologies such as ERP allows manufacturers to meet the consumer demands for food transparency while enhancing the ability to identify, respond to and even prevent food safety issues.

While the food and beverage industry in under pressure, changing trends in packaged goods continue to drive growth. The German-based VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association estimates that just over seven million tonnes of packaged food was sold in South Africa last year. It is expected that demand will rise by 6% until 2022.

The hits of 2019

As we enter the new decade, we have the chance to look back at the technologies which after been successfully implemented, have had a positive effect on the African manufacturing industry. The hits of 2019 include:

Future-ready solutions

Advanced technologies, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, hold power to disrupt Africa’s dominant agricultural, extractive and manufacturing industries, offering the continent unparalleled opportunities to transform and ultimately thrive for years to come.

For example, by plugging in artificial intelligence (AI) into ERP reduces inaccuracies commonly felt throughout the supply chain, meaning better outputs for the entire business process.

Manufacturers must be agile to respond to market demands without increasing costs and waste or sacrificing efficiency. To unlock the sector’s potential, manufacturers should seek out an all-in-one solution that provides them with both mobility and constant connectivity.

Adoption of the cloud within South African manufacturers

Mobility is gaining increasing prominence as a concept of Industry 4.0; this is echoed by the fact that 86% of manufacturers rank cloud computing as important for operations. As technology continues to evolve, we will see a rise in adoption rate within crucial industries, as well as in the opportunities that will present themselves for organisations to transform.

While mobile software for information sensitive systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) allow manufacturers and employees to improve quality of service to customers by providing them with access to relevant information while increasing productivity, planning, forecasting and budgeting, all available at a touch of a button.

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