As South Africa looks to move from raw material export to beneficiation, the country is well placed to leapfrog to an Industry 4.0 environment, says Huawei.
Reporting back from this year's CeBIT international IT industry trade show in Hannover, Germany, Ajay Gupta, director, Global Product Marketing, Enterprise Business Group at Huawei, says the concept of Industry 4.0 featured strongly at the event.
Industry 4.0 is described as the ‘fourth industrial revolution', Gupta explains. Where earlier industrial revolutions were driven by the steam engine, electricity and IT, the fourth will harness integrated, intelligent technologies to allow for improved productivity and cost-effectiveness.
At CeBIT 2015, Huawei announced an Industry 4.0 research partnership with the German government, and showcased its solutions to underpin an Industry 4.0 age. Speaking at the trade fair, Yan Lida, president of Huawei's Enterprise Business Group, said the ‘new industrial revolution' would be supported by smarter and better connected industry networks supported by innovative technologies such as mobile broadband, software-defined networking, cloud, big data and the Internet of things.
"The umbrella term Industry 4.0 emerged from Germany, but there is similar thinking around the world in terms of the future of manufacturing. As you digitise everything, place sensors everywhere and harness high-speed mobile connectivity and M2M technologies, you can realise significantly improved productivity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness," says Gupta.
He says SA, looking to step up manufacturing and beneficiation, may face challenges in terms of its historical digital and connectivity divides, but these challenges should also be seen as opportunities. "In many cases, South Africa's manufacturing industry is not burdened by legacy IT systems investment that could hold it back – the sector can leapfrog directly into an Industry 4.0 scenario," he says.
In a shared economy, the investment, risk and benefits should be shared by both the public and private sector, he says. Investment in 4G and even 5G connectivity stands to fast-track South African industries' ability to harness IOT technologies, so paving the way for Industry 4.0. "In my mind, the private sector needs to take the lead in putting in place the foundations for an Industry 4.0 environment," he says.