Company approves R3m budget for Artisan 4.0

The Colliery Training College (CTC) board has approved R3-million towards achieving its Artisan 4.0 vision by the end of 2020.

Artisan 4.0 will enable an artisan to know about bearings, gearboxes and sequence starters because the basic principles of mechanics, electricity, forces, and motion have not changed, says CTC Emalahleni MD Johan Venter, adding that it will also enable artisans to communicate with the equipment, through the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Artisan 4.0 will enable the artisan to know everything about Internet protocol addresses, how to set up networks, and how to configure wireless devices. The artisan’s smartphone and tablet will be alongside the Gedore sockets and screwdrivers in the toolbox,” he says.

He explains that, in preparation for participating in Artisan 4.0 training, companies are making investments to cater for Industry 4.0. However, he mentions that formal programs to upgrade existing skills and prepare future artisans are not in place yet.

Much of the training will require the retraining of artisans. However, owing to employers not being able to release artisans for a specific period to attend the training, CTC’s new Artisan 4.0 training will mostly be delivered online.

Venter suggests that human resource (HR) leaders and skills development partners need to assist businesses by being attuned to the needs of a business and the leaders they are partnering with. An example would be, if there is a need for additional digital skills, the HR leaders will identify these skills during regular skills audits.

This will become apparent in an industry’s wireless session protocol, which determines whether a session between the device and the network will be connection-oriented or connectionless, and the advanced real-time in the case of the mining and minerals sector, which was laid out in the Mining Qualifications Authority Sector Skills Plan 2019-20 updated in August 2018.

HR leadership in the mining and minerals sector is seeing the need to use such technologies, says Venter.

He adds that the digital skills required to interact with the technology and other artisans using the same technology will require people skills and thinking skills. Therefore, current employees who are willing and able to be upskilled and retrained will need to be identified.

New talent will also have to be attracted, integrated, and retained. New ways of working will need to be developed and formalized, while the factory floor will need to keep operating and the business will need to keep growing, notes Venter.

“Like the skilled workers of the First Industrial Revolution, today’s factory and back-office workers are seeing tasks once managed by humans handed over to robots and artificial intelligence bots. We are now dealing with smart factories. Nobody is ‘breaking machines’ yet; however, the concern on the factory floor is palpable,” he says.

Venter highlights that there is no substitute as yet for human senses and the feeling, thinking brain behind them, but there is similarly no way that humans can work with the precision and unceasing drive of a robot.

“These technological advancements in the industry are an inevitability and will affect everything, from manufacturing and logistics to product design and marketing,” he concludes.

Article published in Engineering News and Mining Weekly, 22 April 2020

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