The Industrial Automation Industry in South Africa

Industrial Automation entails MANY different aspects: from field devices (instrumentation) to PLC programming; from PLC hardware to enterprise level software and everything in between.  It is a vast value chain and requires skills and understanding of the process being controlled, safety requirements and implications of different types of equipment and how it all fits together.  Mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical and industrial engineering knowledge and skills all play a part in the success of an automation professional.

The Automation Industry is an exciting mix of skills and competencies and there are quite a number of role players (to name a few):

  • Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
  • Society for Automation Instrumentation Measurement and Control (SAIMC)
  • Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Africa (MESA)
  • South African Council for Automation and Control (SACAC)

And then there are the companies that supply automation hardware and solutions.  There are many, but the biggest ones are:

  • Siemens
  • Schneider Electric
  • ABB
  • Rockwell (Alan Bradley)
  • Endress + Hauser (Instrumentation)
  • Adroit Technologies

Manufacturing in South Africa

The manufacturing sector in South Africa are the ‘consumers’ of automation, considered the ‘end users’.   At the 2017 Manufacturing Indaba, Manufacturing Circle chairperson Andre de Ruyter explained that manufacturing’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) had fallen from 24% in 1980 to less than 13% in 2015.  See the full Engineering News article: South Africa’s manufacturing sector ‘woefully underperforming’.

Mining in South Africa

Mining in South Africa ” is responsible for 457 698 direct jobs; makes up 40% of South Africa’s exports and contributes R304 billion to the GDP making it the backbone of the South African economy” – Sietse van der Woude (Chamber of Mines) at the Siemens Mining Technology day in 2017.  Click on the link to see the full Is modernisation a must for South African mines? article.
These two sectors combined can EASILY make a dent in the unemployment crisis in South Africa.  I am currently part of a Industrie 4.0 Task Team that are looking at various factors and how South Africa can prepare to benefit from this growing Industrial Revolution.  So do you prepare yourself for future employment?  HAVE A PLAN!
Here is how I suggest you start: consider the Automation Federation’s Competency model and look at The Future Reimagined.

The future reimagined

In this 15 page brochure THE FUTURE REIMAGINED from the University of Johannesburg, they aim to highlight the need and path(s) of engineering studies you could follow.  See the brochure for full details, but here are two highlights (please note this is merely used as an example):
UJ's Engineering and Built Environment Qualifications

Engineering roles in perspective
This last picture of the ‘engineering roles in perspective’ is a picture that I would’ve loved to have seen when I started my career.  It shows where engineers, technologists and technicians predominantly operate during their careers.


The Automation Federation Competency model

Automation Federation Competency Model
Much has been written on this competency model, so I will not try and top what experts have already said about it.  I will say this: it is a great tool for understanding your career path.  For more in depth details about each level, study this PDF from the Automation Federation.

Sage advice on choosing what you want to do:


Ask yourself: What if money was no object?

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