Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things continue to impact all industrial sectors. The mining industry in South Africa has been a relatively slow adopter of new digital technologies and in this regard has been surpassed by other industries. Dassault Systèmes, at its 5th annual Natural Resources Forum in Johannesburg, highlighted that the mining industry now has the opportunity to select what is best for it in terms of digital innovation. The company notes a mindshift in the sector, with companies such as Debswana and De Beers embracing the advantages that digitalisation offers.
In this issue we also look at Industry 4.0 and IIoT from a machine engineering perspective. EPlan, a leading provider of CAE software and services, reports on research done by E4TC at RWTH Aachen University, which indicates that partial automation of machine engineering processes delivers an optimal cost/benefit ratio. The study highlights fields of action that advance efficiencies in the engineering process – from standardisation through degrees of automation.
In the feature on Drives, motors + switchgear, Beckhoff Automation presents the case study of its pc-based control and drive technology used in in-mould labelling machinery. The technology provides for exceptional flexibility and precision control – enabling machines to deliver customisable outputs, at speed, in long or short production runs. Beck Automation AG – a pioneer in the field of in-mould labelling systems that makes basic cost-effective machines as well as custom-tailored systems for its customers around the world – uses Beckhoff technology for the advantages it offers.
Looking at Plant maintenance, Marthinusen & Coutts recently solved an unusual fault on a 36 MW motor at Sasol’s Secunda plant. It was M&C that correctly diagnosed the cause of faulty flux shield mountings on the motor stator and subsequently undertook the repairs, which also entailed removing the winding and undertaking a rewind on the stator.
We are also seeing a growing use of drones on industrial sites – for monitoring, inspection and maintenance. Autonomous drones, powered by artificial intelligence, can collect, capture and analyse data widely and fast. They also overcome the personal safety risks typically associated with maintenance inspections or monitoring in hazardous locations. It seems likely that they will continue to be used more widely.
In Temperature measurement + instrumentation R&C Instrumentation explains the use of infrared technology in monitoring temperatures of cement production kilns – to support planned maintenance and extend the life of kiln refractories and, in turn, the kiln itself.
Energy management, the development of renewable energy technologies, the integration of renewable sources into the national supply grid and – at the other end of the spectrum – the use of decentralised mini grids to boost rural economic development, have become a major focus for automated monitoring and control systems. This is in part a result of South Africa’s unstable national grid but also relates to the UN sustainable development goals in respect of climate action and increasing access to affordable, clean energy. In this issue Energy Partners highlights some of the important factors to be considered in private power purchase agreements, and Schneider Electric presents the case study of Onibambu in Nigeria where a trial mini grid in a rural district has created a new business hub.
Considering the changing skills needs of industry in the rapidly evolving 4IR environment, Ian Jandrell, in his comment, highlights some of the significant steps Wits has taken to ease access and increase flexibility in undergraduate engineering courses – which mean more students can take up this study option – and they are.
A Discussion Forum recently hosted by the NSTF also explored various initiatives in industry that are driving skills development for advanced manufacturing and automation. The Intsimbi Future Production Technologies Initiative, a partnership between government, industry and the Production Technologies Association of SA, is a talent-driven model, supported by the manufacturing sector and already showing success. If it is adopted into mainstream technical and vocational training it could achieve greater reach and impact.