Whisper’s PhD research could help South African industry embrace digital transformation

Just as offices, shops, classrooms and lecture halls are embracing digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so must the manufacturing industry. Known as Industry 4.0 or I4.0, the transformation is essential for the sustainability of local manufacturing. This prompted a PhD Engineering student at the North-West University (NWU) to help the South African industry develop the skills and competencies needed for a digital future.

For his PhD Engineering research, Whisper Maisiri is conducting a study titled “Developing an Industry 4.0 competency maturity model (I4.0CMM)”. The model he is developing will be used to assess and guide I4.0 competency requirements and development using industrial engineering capability functions.

“Factors that inhibit the sustainable adoption of I4.0 have not been contextualised to the South African manufacturing environment in literature, and I4.0 skills requirements in the engineering profession are not clearly defined,” he explains, adding that there is a lack of tools to assess and align workforce competence with I4.0 requirements.

“Embracing and adopting I4.0 is unavoidable for manufacturing organisations to survive and grow their global competitiveness. However, I4.0 is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’, and exploring ways to achieve the sustainable adoption of I4.0 in developing countries such as South Africa is essential to achieve inclusive and sustainable development growth.”
According to Whisper, a significant amount of research has focused on technological advancement and little attention has been given to human factors. Realising that people are the true authors of the digital story and that successful sustainable adoption of I4.0 depends on technology and people, he decided to focus on the human side. Specifically, he is focusing on competency requirements and development in engineering.

“Competency requirements and competency development are directly linked to the South African National Development Plan and the United Nations 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Both feature and emphasise an end to poverty and protecting the environment, and include prosperity. If people have the right competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities), I4.0 and future developments could be sustainably adopted in developing countries such as South Africa. Therefore, focusing on developing an I4.0CMM was essential to me,” says Whisper.

He notes that the I4.0CMM model could add value in aligning skills development and industry skills requirements. “The industry can use the model to assess the ‘as-is’ I4.0 capabilities of their workforce and provide guidance on the employees’ skills requirements to contribute meaningfully to I4.0 and future requirements. Furthermore, the model could add value in guiding engineering education to develop graduate attributes that will meaningfully contribute to the adoption of I4.0 and future developments in the manufacturing industry.”

He says the next step is the verification and validation of the I4.0CMM. Anyone who has expertise in I4.0 and would like to participate in the expert verification and validation through the Delphi method, can contact him at 25727265@nwu.ac.za or 073 049 7536.

Whisper Maisiri

Whisper’s PhD study is supervised by Prof Liezl van Dyk and co-supervised by Dr Rojanette Coetzee.

So far Whisper has five publications – one in an international journal, three in local journals and one an international conference proceeding – that are available online.

Research output

Maisiri, W. & Van Dyk, L. 2019. Industry 4.0 readiness assessment for South African Industries. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering, 30, 90–105. http://dx.doi.org/10.7166/30-3-2231.

Maisiri, W., Darwish, H. & Van Dyk, L. 2019. An investigation of Industry 4.0 skills requirements. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering, 30, 134–148. http://dx.doi.org/10.7166/30-3-2230.

Maisiri, W. & Van Dyk, L. 2021. Industry 4.0 skills: A perspective of the South African manufacturing industry. SA Journal of Human Resource Management/SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 19(0), a1416. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1416.

Maisiri, W., Van Dyk, L. & Coetzee, R. 2021. Factors that Inhibit Sustainable Adoption of Industry 4.0 in the South African Manufacturing Industry. Sustainability, 13, 1013. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031013.

Maisiri, W. & Van Dyk, L. 2020. Industry 4.0 Competence Maturity Model Design Requirements: A Systematic Mapping Review. 2020 IFEES World Engineering Education Forum – Global Engineering Deans Council (WEEF-GEDC). Cape Town, South Africa. pp. 1–6, doi: https://doi.org/10.1109/WEEF-GEDC49885.2020.9293654.

Submitted on Tue, 03/16/2021 - 15:21