South African industry may well be struggling in the current economic climate, but the time of low growth is the perfect opportunity to focus on ways of identifying how to sweat existing assets and get maximum return on investment, rather than risking greater stress on the company’s bottom line by buying new assets.
Now is also the time to set up scenario planning for future success, for getting the basics right in preparation for future growth, and for finding ways to optimise people and processes to provide strong foundations for future business strategies.
While there’s much hype about the fourth industrial revolution, truly successful use of technology doesn’t necessarily imply that everything in a business needs to be automated, computerised or handed over to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Businesses seeking ways to boost production tend to look to new equipment as the solution when the answer they seek is often right there on their factory floor; they just need the help of someone with an outside perspective to find it.
While there may well be a place to include new technology in a manufacturing or production process, achieving the best potential from current equipment may be as simple as getting everything to work better together.
This is where the strategic use of automation is of greatest benefit. For example, working with a building information modelling (BIM) team can create digital twins of current facilities that use data to predict maintenance requirements or identify more efficient ways of working.
BIM can also be used in more expansive environments, such as public services and infrastructure, to allow for maintenance that makes continued service delivery possible.
Recently, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma emphasised that infrastructure which isn’t maintained will die, and that municipalities do not have the experts on hand to plan for ongoing maintenance effectively.
This is where the true efficiency of BIM, and the scenario planning it enables, can contribute to enhancing society, together with the wide-ranging experience and knowledge of a team of independent specialists – using data to design or redesign production and maintenance processes positions a business to achieve the best possible results for the future, from the assets they have at present.
Kevin Subramani is light industry Africa lead at Royal HaskoningDHV