IIoT Challenges

Is SA ready for Industry 4.0 / IIoT challenges in the automation and control field?

Article Published – February 2018

Is SA ready to meet the IIoT/Industry 4.0 challenges in the automation and control field? This question is being asked in many discussion forums. IIoT and Industry 4.0 will move ahead irrespective of whether technicians and engineers are up-skilled to meet the challenge. The Engineering Council does not support a separate certification as an automation engineer – not yet anyway. This has a negative effect on the training which universities offer. They argue that there is no such job, thus a degree course in automation and control cannot be justified.

‘Industry 4.0’ or ‘Industrial Internet of Things’, IIoT, is the next developmental stage in the organization of the entire value chain process in the manufacturing industry. It is also known as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. The concept Industry 4.0 was first introduced by the German government as a strategy to promote the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. Industrial companies have actually been embracing information technology (IT) since as early as the 1970s.

Moore’s Law states that the speed of computer processors would double every two years. This was the theory of the co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore in 1965. However, technology is now advancing at such a pace that Moore’s law may have finally run out. Technology can no longer get any smaller and innovators will have to figure out a new way to make it better.

Adroit Technologies managing director, Dave Wibberley answered the following questions and expressed his views below.

So with Moore’s law running out should, the Engineering Council of South Africa fast-track the creation of new specialist categories under engineering?

One of the challenges facing the implementation is the big disconnect between the data acquisition side and turning this into business value. IoT / M2M is a complex world and one needs experience in all aspects of engineering and IT to actually navigate and create a reliable, workable architecture to support a project.

“I don’t believe we need another specialist category as the demands of a modern control/automation solution is often demanding of similar skills and a young engineer these days are pretty well versed in IT, programming, the Internet and the engineering aspects so I believe those interested will emerge and be a valuable resource.”

Should it be up to industry or government to drive what courses universities should offer to meet the demand for new skills required for an IoT/Industry 4.0 world?

In my opinion, Government can’t drive anything. That’s not a slight but a reality that they can’t move fast enough and don’t have the ability to deliver at the pace required. Commerce is the real driver here, the biggest challenge is to get customers to buy-in and understand that value of IoT to their businesses, and vendors move extremely quickly to be able to deliver on technology. However that being said, Government needs to embrace the value of IoT in Smart Cities and National imperatives such as water management, energy management etc. Where there is demand there will always be supply, simple.

Can universities of technology play a bigger role in creating training and certification opportunities for the automation and control Industry?

Yes, and IoT needs to be covered and the requisite training offered.

Should accreditation of, for example, an automation engineer be in the domain of institutes or societies such as SAIMC, with the process accredited by ECSA or a new statutory body created for that purpose?

“I believe the SAIMC should be the custodian, but ECSA needs to recognise the accreditation. Automation professionals are often the new “Millwrights” covering mechanical understanding, electrical and IT.”

Should South African industry align itself with the International Society of Automation (ISA) and adapt their training and certification?

This has been a long argument, I believe we need to align ourselves with Global recognition. Europe is probably a better centre of Excellence, but the ISA is a globally recognised organisation and we should simply recognise an ISA or a European or an Asian certification. Don’t re-invent the wheel. The same applies to quality standards, drop the SABS we can’t resource or manage it and accept globally recognised standards as acceptable. The challenge, of course, is supporting local business manufacturing for whom the certification is expensive. Local standards have often been used as protection for local business, sometimes this is imperative but it can still be done through other support mechanisms.

Click here to read more about the panel discussion between other industry leaders and Dave Wibberley (MD of Adroit Technologies). For more information contact Adroit on +27 (0)11 658 8100 or email us.