With the changing world of work as its central theme, the TRACC & POMS* Conference – held in Cape Town, South Africa from 9-11 April – gave business leaders, CI practitioners and academics the opportunity to explore the impact of Industry 4.0 on the business world, and identify strategies to drive sustainable growth in the digital age.
More than 120 senior business leaders from over 30 companies, including Amazon, Distell, Nampak Bevcan, Aspen Pharmacare, and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, attended the three-day event which included site visits to leading local manufacturers, Indigo Brands and Peninsula Beverage Company, the TRACC & POMS Conference, and the TRACC Alliance best practice sharing session.
Some of the key themes that emerged from the conference included: the impact of technology on the way we work, the evolving relationship between man and machine, and how digital capabilities drive CI success. As automation becomes more prevalent in organisations, low-level jobs will be taken over by machines, with far-reaching implications for HR departments and the labour force. Organisations will need to strategically redeploy resources, create new digital job profiles and continually invest in upskilling employees.
UCT Professor, Dr Hamieda Parker, and Business Analyst, Stephanie Appel, shared a study that was conducted at a financial services organisation: AI was used to automate repetitive tasks, which resulted in greater employee engagement and improved productivity. This is a good example of automation enhancing the lives of employees – and makes the case for going digital more palatable.
Indeed, the ‘fear’ of Industry 4.0 and all it entails was another prevailing theme at the conference. Yanesh Naidoo, Sales and Design Director at Jendamark Automation, suggested reframing the concept of Industry 4.0 and referring to it simply as ‘Efficiency 4.0’. Yanesh said, that, since we are still at threshold of Industry 4.0, we cannot fully understand its implications right now. He believes that the focus should simply be on improving efficiencies and using technology to better the lives of employees. Yanesh gave examples of a selection of digital tools that Jendamark has developed to improve the operator experience and secure greater buy-in, such as augmented reality smart glasses and virtual reality rooms.
In a similar vein, IoTDot4’s Chief Architect, Professor Antonie van Rensburg, looked at the benefits of going digital and examined how IoT will revolutionise the construction, farming and mining industries. Antonie also emphasised the symbiotic relationship between man and machine. “Machines need human thinking, creativity and insight,” he said. “You are the mind behind the machine.”
A number of leading organisations including Distell, Sasol, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, and Illovo Sugar Africa presented compelling case studies documenting their CI journeys and emphasising the importance of empowering people to drive the change. The message was clear: upskilling employees and leveraging technology to improve the worker experience are critical for CI success in the digital age.
The TRACC Alliance, which took place on the third day of the event, gave continuous improvement leaders and practitioners the opportunity to explore best practice in change leadership, rapid deployment, Industry 4.0, blended learning, human capital, and cultural transformation. Six sessions of engaging discussions and presentations centred on the challenges posed by Industry 4.0, key technologies driving digital transformation, and leading-edge solutions for implementing change.
The key takeaway from the event was that Industry 4.0 is here to stay, and businesses that fail to adapt will face obsolescence. By taking a proactive approach to the shifting business landscape, organisations will successfully meet the challenges of the digital age, and keep pace with disruptive change.
To learn more about the TRACC & POMS Conference and to view the speaker presentations click here.
*Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) is an international professional organisation representing the interests of POM professionals from around the world.