Changing World of Work

South Africa’s Supply Chain Elite Redefine the Changing World of Work


With the changing world of work as its central theme, the TRACC & POMS* Conference – held in Cape Town, South Africa from 9-11 April – gave business leaders, Continuous Improvement (CI) practitioners and academics the opportunity to explore the impact of Industry 4.0 on the business world, and identify strategies to drive sustainable growth in the digital age.

More than 120 senior business leaders from over 30 supply chain and manufacturing companies, including Amazon, Distell, Nampak Bevcan, Aspen Pharmacare, and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, attended the three-day event which included site visits to leading local manufacturers, Indigo Brands and Peninsula Beverage Company, the TRACC & POMS Conference, and the TRACC Alliance best practice sharing session.

Key themes that emerged from the conference included: the impact of technology on the way we work, the evolving relationship between man and machine, and how digital capabilities drive CI success. As automation becomes more prevalent in organisations, low-level jobs will be replaced by machines, with far-reaching implications for HR departments and the labour force. Organisations shared how they are responding to these trends, scrutinising the way resources are deployed, and assessing the potential to invest in new skills for jobs that currently don’t exist.

UCT Professor Dr Hamieda Parker and Business Analyst Stephanie Appel shared a study that was conducted at a financial services organisation where Artificial Intelligence (AI) was used to automate repetitive tasks, resulting in greater employee engagement and improved productivity. A good example of how automation is enhancing the lives of employees whilst making the case for going digital more palatable.

Indeed, the fear of Industry 4.0 and all it entails was a prevailing theme at the conference. Yanesh Naidoo, Sales and Design Director of Port Elizabeth based Jendamark Automation, suggested reframing the concept of Industry 4.0 and referring to it simply as ‘Efficiency 4.0’. “Since we are still at the threshold of Industry 4.0, we cannot fully understand its implications right now. I believe that the focus should simply be on improving efficiencies and using technology to better the lives of employees,” he commented. Using an example, Naidoo discussed how Jendamark has approached developing digital tools such as their augmented reality smart glasses where machine operators were directly involved in the design process.

In a similar vein, IoTDot4’s Chief Architect, Antonie van Rensburg examined how IoT will revolutionise the construction, farming and mining industries. Van Rensburg emphasised the symbiotic relationship between man and machine. “Machines need human thinking, creativity and insight,” he said. “You are the mind behind the machine”. 

Leading organisations including Distell, Sasol, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, and Illovo Sugar Africa presented case studies documenting their CI journeys, emphasising the importance of empowering people to drive the change. In their drive to create agility, all stressed the importance of building an internal culture that embraced continuous improvement through upskilling and using technology to improve the worker experience.

The TRACC Alliance, which took place on the third day of the event, gave continuous improvement leaders and practitioners the opportunity to explore best practice in change leadership, rapid deployment, Industry 4.0, blended learning, human capital and cultural transformation. Group discussions and presentations centred on the challenges posed by Industry 4.0, the key technologies driving digital transformation, and leading edge solutions for implementing change. 

The event highlighted to delegates that Industry 4.0 is now a reality for most, and businesses should build a culture that enables them to adapt or risk becoming redundant.

To learn more about the speakers and to view presentations from the conference, click here.

*Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) is an international professional organisation representing the interests of POM professionals from around the world.

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