Since publication of the last issue of African Fusion, Morris Maroga, Jim Guild, Harold Jansen, Herman Potgieter and I have attended a very busy week in Shanghai, China. Several welding related events were staged, starting with the IIW Annual Assembly and International Conference.
Jim Guild ended his term as IAB chairperson and member of the IIW board of directors during this Annual Assembly and, on behalf of SAIW, I extend our gratitude to him for his commitment and dedication, to both SAIW and IIW.
Coinciding with the IIW events, the Beijing Essen Welding Fair was staged, an annual exhibition that has been held in China for 22 years. This year involved 977 exhibitors from 28 countries and regions, housed in seven halls with 100 000 m2 of exhibition space – all dedicated to welding. The magnitude of the event was overwhelming.
What was immediately apparent was the level of automation. Even in China, which has massive numbers of low-cost labourers, manufacturing and fabrication is moving rapidly in the direction of automation. It made me feel that we may be lagging in this regard.
The Arc Cup Welding competition was also held to coincide with these two events in Shanghai. I am thrilled to be able to report that Samukelo Mbambani, our South African contestant, won first prize in the Student Welder Project category. This only goes to show that we do have skilled welders in South Africa. Thanks to merSETA for sponsoring Samukelo’s participation.
Reinforcing the automation theme of the event, the Arc Cup also has a Robotic Welding category. At SAIW, we have already developed a welding automation course and we have been talking to local robotic service providers to support the programme. But we need to establish welding automation as a popular and thriving welding career choice.
The UK chose to adopt a service-based economy many years ago, mostly via financial services. Now they are realising that the economy needs to be more diversified and a strong focus is back on manufacturing again. Here in South Africa, we need to employ far more people. To do that, I believe, we have to ensure that we improve and grow our manufacturing sector.
For growth, manufacturing must be cost efficient and productive, which is where new technologies and automation come in. Superficially, it is believed that automation takes away jobs, but it is a known fact that it creates new opportunities at higher income levels. We should not be frightened about adopting new technologies in welding. Welding is an enabling technology that has the ability to improve quality of life – and the jobs will come.
We are also pleased with the progress Philippus Terblanche is making in preparation for the World Skills Welding contest in Dubai. Welding is not an easy skill. Like golf, it is difficult to master because it involves muscle memory and high levels of consistency and repeatability. Anyone at the top of their golf or welding game has spent hundreds of hours practising and honing their skill. We are sure Philippus will make South Africa proud.
Back at home, we look forward to opening the LIV Village Welding School in Durban next month, which is an Afrox initiative that we are supporting in terms of curriculum development and training solutions.
And please remember our annual dinners: in Johannesburg on October 29th at Emperors Palace and in Cape Town on October 27th.