THE Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the way in which technology is changing our understanding and interaction with the world around us, is transforming the traditional definition of jobs, industries and economies at monumental speed. How can industries playing a critical role in the South African economy, yet evolving amidst this changing climate, ensure their sustainability?
According to Steve Thobela, executive (South) at Novus Print, a division of Novus Holdings – one of South Africa’s leading commercial printers and manufacturers – the answer lies in an industry’s ability to tap into opportunities presented by the 4IR.
‘We can no longer speak about change that’s coming; transformation of industries is already happening,’ Steve insists. ‘If we want to be part of the change, then we must start changing the way we see ourselves. As printers, we’re part of the country’s manufacturing industry. This means we must act on opportunities presented by the 4IR to continue contributing to our economic growth.’
The South African printing sector currently contributes about 2% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and, combined with the packaging industry, is estimated to be worth R56-billion. It directly employs 45 000 people, and indirectly, a further
60 000 people. The printing sector complements the country’s manufacturing industry – the country’s fourth largest industry, contributing 14% to our GDP.
Manufacturing is key to digital transformation
According to the World Economic Forum, the value of digital transformation in the 4IR is estimated to be $100-trillion in the next 10 years, across all sectors, industries and geographies. The manufacturing sector, which has long been a driver of global prosperity and economic growth, is key to this transformation.
‘Having a highly-skilled workforce is one way the manufacturing and printing industries can prepare for the 4IR. Thoughts must be given to tomorrow’s employees and how we prepare them for the future,’ says Steve.
In his view, investment in technology is non-negotiable for those who want to seize the opportunities presented by the 4IR.
‘Processes and systems that enable companies to improve efficiencies and delivery through digital transformation, will result in long-term cost savings, faster turnaround times and, ultimately, better service, enhanced output and value for customers,’ he points out.
Novus Holdings has invested close to R4-billion since 2000 to ensure its facilities are equipped with modern technology. This enables the business to tender for large projects with tight deadlines and complex operating requirements. This technologically-advanced equipment follows international best practice, ensuring a fully-automated production process.
Steve warns, however, that making such investments must be aligned to an overall business strategy, in the context of the 4IR.
‘To us, this means being able to identify niche printing markets and servicing them accordingly. While there’s adequate evidence to suggest that the printing industry will continue to exist, it won’t be in its current form. By changing how we see ourselves and harnessing the evolving environment presented by the 4IR, we can unlock more value for customers, and, in so doing, futureproof the continued economic prosperity of the printing and manufacturing industries,’ Steve sums up.