Opinion piece: Industry 5.0 – making machine into man for the benefit of all

By Johan Potgieter, Cluster Industrial Software Lead and Allaster Sibanda, Sustainability & EcoStruxure Transformation Expert at Schneider Electric

28 November 2023 

Industry 5.0, which represents the next evolutionary iteration of the Industrial Revolution (IR), promises to be a catalyst for improved safety, efficiency, productivity, and decision-making across various industries.

Author, Charles Edward Jerningham said: “Our predecessors endeavoured to make men into machines; we are endeavouring to make machines into man”.  And whilst slightly contentious, it does bring an important point across, machines have the potential to take over that which is strenuous and downright dangerous, freeing man to innovate, design and excel.

Safety and efficiency in manufacturing

Manufacturing is a prime example of machine becoming man; these environments are often physically taxing and involve repetitive tasks, which could lead to human error and exposure to hazardous substances. 

Here, robotics form a vital part of the 5IR equation, taking over tasks that pose significant risks such as handling resources in extreme temperatures, managing toxic materials or even navigating sharp objects, mitigating the risk of accidents and injuries.

Working in tandem with robotics is IoT, allowing for connectivity between devices and machines, facilitating the seamless exchange of data. Again, these interconnected environments contribute to the creation of safer, more productive, and technologically advanced workplaces.

The precision and speed at which automation and robotics perform tasks is undoubtedly remarkable. This not only reduces human error but ensures the production of precise, high-quality products without the risk of defects or issues, thereby enhancing the market value of the products.  Furthermore, it allows people to foster environment where innovation and development enjoy priority and, importantly, time allocated.

The role of data analytics in Industry 5.0 cannot be overstated. With a wealth of data, resource allocation and maintenance planning can be planned accurately. Downtime is minimised or mitigated which leads to a strategic advantage, ensuring continuous operations and heightened productivity. Moreover, tangible cost savings materialise as operational efficiency and resource utilisation are optimised

South Africa and Industry 5.0

In South Africa, we have a hybrid or fusion of Industries 4.0 and 5,0, which are giving way to nuanced and highly innovative adaptations.

Engineers in South Africa are actively addressing some of the country’s most pertinent challenges, particularly in the transformation of water and power distribution.

Here, five key pillars have emerged: renewable energy integration, smart grid technologies, water management and conservation, IoT-driven infrastructure monitoring, and the development of energy storage solutions.

These pillars align with the principles of Industry 5.0, where human workers and robotics collaborate to ensure both safety and compliance in driving transformative changes within South Africa’s power and infrastructure sectors.

Ultimately, the integration of cutting-edge technologies and engineering excellence is not just a response to current challenges but a proactive step towards shaping a more resilient and sustainable future for South Africa.

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