“The reality is that for us to even debate whether we should be considering developing capability for advanced manufacturing means nothing because we know that more and more products are complex integrated systems,” said Technology Innovation Agency industrial sectors group executive, Pontsho Maruping.
“When it comes to jobs, I do agree that when you mechanise existing plants, you’re likely to need fewer people to run the plant but, if we’re being honest, we want people doing better jobs. We want people doing cleaner jobs.”
Advanced manufacturing relies on computers and technology to speed up the production process. However, it is also necessary to have skilled individuals who can run the computers that run the machines.
(READ MORE: Manufacturing in S.Africa remains fragile)
Speaking at the 2014 Manufacturing Indaba in Johannesburg, South Africa, which will take place from 19 to 20 May, Maruping highlighted the change in South African as well as global trends and emphasised the need for advanced manufacturing for a country to remain competitive.
“We need to look at advanced manufacturing as having two components – looking at producing things more efficiently, using new technology to be better at producing the same things, and producing new products,” she said.
“South Africa is not a low labour-cost country so we cannot continue to try and compete on that level. There’s always going to be someone somewhere in the world who can exploit their workers more and therefore produce the same thing much cheaper, we can’t run away from that.”
(READ MORE: S.Africa mining sector could see increased mechanising)
She also stressed the importance of using machinery and technology in the country’s mining sector going forward.
“In the mining sector, there’s clearly jobs there that we shouldn’t allow people to do anymore – our mines have become deeper, it’s a lot more dangerous and no matter what you do, you cannot avoid injury and exposure to hazards,” Maruping said.
“The more we train people, get them to do jobs that are meaningful, the better it would be for our country.”