The South African Institute of Measurement and Control (SAIMC) president Paulo Da Silva is positive about the state of the automation industry, and reports that manufacturers and suppliers are reaping the benefits from impending power generation projects across the country.
Da Silva states that the power generation projects being carried out by state-owned power utility Eskom, as well as petrochemical firm Sasol, and exploration and gas company PetroSA, are contributing to the massive demand for automation and instrumentation, which will ensure progressive growth.
Concerning technological advances in the industry, he states that global developments such as wireless technology is filtering through to the processing and manufacturing industry.
"From the growing interest in electrical instrumentation in 1978, manufacturing and processing plants have shifted from pneumatic devices to electronic signal devices, and with the global boom of wireless technology, these plants might be controlled wirelessly in the next five to ten years," he predicts.
He adds that the automation and control industry on the African continent has grown about 10% a year, from $621,7-million in 2006 to about $752-million in 2008, and that the market share for automation systems and services continues to grow exponentially.
Meanwhile, the shortage of resources and skills have presented the industry with a number of challenges. Engineering News reported in May this year that the SAIMC has initiated its own skills development programme to confront the skills deficiency, and that the SAIMC is in the process of developing mentorship programmes for students that place them with companies to meet demand for growth.
Da Silva adds that several instrumentation and control companies offer in-house training programmes, and that industry members are working together to tackle this concern.
The SAIMC also has accreditation from the Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa), which enables them to certify and award continuous professional development (CPD) points for specialised courses on instrumentation and control, and Da Silva states that the two bodies work together to identify potential skills development programmes that will contribute to the industry.
Furthermore, the SAIMC is working with government departments to try and influence general standards and regulations, which will hopefully assist the body in becoming a voice for the process control industry.
Da Silva also reiterates the importance of black economic-empowerment (BEE) in the industry, and states that the SAIMC is investigating ways to assist requests from members to run BEE compliance programmes.
The SAIMC, which has about 900 members, was established in 1957 and has several branches across the country.
"The interaction with instrumentation and control bodies, such as manufacturers, suppliers, similar institutes, as well as educational institutions, is an ongoing initiative for the SAIMC," he concludes.